Building Your Own Tomato Cages.
I have been known to complain about building tomato cages. It’s not my favorite farm activity. I’d rather can tomatoes than stake them.
Building tomato cages is not necessarily too bad, depending on how many you’re making. If you need 10 – you’ll have it knocked out in no time & be glad you did. If you need 45 you won’t know your name by the end of the day. And your hands will hurt.
Why you should build your own tomato cages:
- They are sturdier than the ones from the store. Even the “nicer” version of tomato cages sold in store are inferior. I have some of the expensive, heavy gauge, tall, fancy tomato cages from the big box stores & they break. They fall over. They don’t last for too many gardening seasons. My homemade cages can stand up to the heaviest, largest, healthiest tomatoes.
- They last longer. Tomato cages you build yourself are some hard-core, long-living, practically indestructible structures.
- They cost less. If you don’t mind putting in a bit of labor, building your own tomato cages will save you a bundle. Especially if you need 45 cages. Free is better.
Let’s build some cages!
What you’ll need:
- Wire cutters
- Tobacco Stakes for installing
This is pretty simple. Here’s the overview:
- Cut a piece of wire fencing
- Twist the wire ends together to make the cylinder
- Stake on your tomato plants
Step 1 to Build Tomato Cages: Cut Fencing
Get yourself some basic, cattle fencing. We have the remnants of 4 rolls of cattle fencing in our barn. Whenever we build a pasture or repair a pasture there is always some fence left over. We never throw anything away on the farm because you never know when you’ll be able to use it. If you don’t have cattle fencing – just find someone with some cows and ask them if they have any left over fencing. If you were my neighbor and you asked me I would give you some!
There are other fencing options available, chicken wire, sheep & goat fencing, construction fencing, or basic galvanized fence – the problems with all of these is that the grid is too stinking small. How am I supposed to get my tomatoes out of a 2″ wide hole?
Cattle fencing has HUGE holes. All my tomatoes fit through it and I can easily get my hands in the grid to prune, weed or work.
The nice thing about this cattle fencing is that it’s strong enough to support the plants, and the holes in the fencing are big enough to get your hand into and work. It will be a cinch to work on your tomato plants with cattle fencing.
I use about 6-7 squares per tomato cage. It’s probably 5 feet long. Use the heaviest thing you can find to hold down the fence so you can cut it. This fencing does not want to lay flat. It wants to be in a circle. I am using a post-hole-jammer. I am pretty sure “post-hole-jammer” is not the correct term for this mechanism. It weighs almost as much as I do and is fabulous for pounding metal fence posts into the ground. It is also good at holding curly fencing flat on the ground.
Grab some heavy-duty wire cutters & snip the fencing. I cut in the center of the square so I have some “ends” to work with….
Step 2 to Build Tomato Cages: Make Cylinder & Secure
Now that you have your piece of fencing cut, just wrap it back into a circle (this is easy since it wants to be a circle).
This is when you are glad you have some wire ends sticking out. I use needle nose pliers to wrap the loose wire around the opposite end of the cage. Twist it around to lock in place and it will hold for years.
One down… 40 to go! Just kidding. I only had to build a couple this year. I’ve been making these & saving them for a while.
Step 3 to Build Tomato Cages: Installation
Shove the homemade tomato cage over the tomato plant…
Weave a tobacco stake in and out of the cattle fencing (moving down toward the ground) to attach securely. Use a mallet to hammer that stake half way to China. The farther you bang this stake into the ground the better it will support the plant.
Your tomatoes will be able to grow, bloom and be fruitful without flopping all over the ground.