Eat This, Taking Your Gardening Dollar

Speaking of Tomatoes…

P1060640

I am not a fan of plastic tomato supports, and this proves the point.  I was sent this to try out a few years ago, and I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the company that makes it.  Anyway, I think I did give it a try the year it arrives, but given how tomatoes tend to fail in my climate, it didn't get much of a workout.  So I got it out in hopes of using it to support this year's tomatoes–and look what happened.  One firm shove into the soil (not into rock, just into firm soil) and it broke.

So much for that.  What are you people using for tomato supports?

Posted by on July 6, 2011 at 7:55 pm, in the category Eat This, Taking Your Gardening Dollar.
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34 Responses to “Speaking of Tomatoes…”

  1. I use the cheapo wire cages from discount stores. I generally don’t get enough sun for my tomato plants to get out of control. The few times that they have, I just stuck a wooden stake in the ground and used velcro ties to affix the cage to it for better support.

  2. Regina says:

    Galvanized fence panels are the best. Used to just run a fence of them and tie the tomatoes to them. Now that we’re in the city I brought one panel and hung it against the brick wall my containers are against, with the bottom row bent inward, so there’s enough space to tuck the plants in, and weave ‘em through. Wooden trellises with a stake at the bottoe are nice too.

  3. I finally bought some overpriced metal cages, not the little wimpy ones that bend and fall over, but the brightly colored heavy duty ones. So far they are lasting and not falling over, this is my second summer using them and they look like new. I brought them to our new house when we moved and I am pretty sure it was totally worth the annoyance to keep them around.

  4. Genevieve says:

    I got some of those irritating galvanized tomato cages, because my favorite nursery was out of the sturdier colored cages, but I picked up some violet spray paint, so I think I’m going to disentangle my tomatoes and spraypaint the cages this weekend so they’re cuter. I hate touching galvanized anything. Makes my fingers smell funny, and the texture is like touching a chalkboard. Abhorrent.

  5. Patti Race says:

    Tired of the cheap and worthless store-bought cages, this year my husband went out and bought panels of cement reinforcer (there’s probably a technical term I’m not remembering) that comes in 4′x8′ panels. He cut each down into 3 pieces and formed circles. Best tomato cages ever. Our neighbor saw them and copies his technique.

  6. Brightly colored tomato cages. Most held up for two seasons, but they are now starting to show their wear. I still like them because they are as attractive as tomato cages can be.~~Dee

  7. Li'l Ned says:

    Foldable galvanized metal cages from Gardeners’ Supply. In our short growing season, even the stroppiest tomato varieties never get big enough to knock them over. I add a stake and tie the bigger branches. I have bought a few each year but still don’t have enough for all my plants. This year I’m thinking concrete reinforcing wire for tomato cages, pole beans and chicken containment. A friend has made a 8 ft fence out of this stuff to keep the *&^^%$$ bambis out of her beautiful front yard perennial garden, which works beautifully for that purpose, while allowing the garden to be seen. The wire rusts and virtually disappears against the background foliage.

  8. cellbioprof says:

    6′ – 7′ long branches of white pine. I use a handsaw to cut the thicker end at an angle to make it easy to drive into the soil of my raised beds. Each tomato gets its own upright branch, and the uprights are joined together by crosspieces so that I create two rows of 3 tomatoes each in my 4′ x 6′ raised beds. All connections are with baling twine (the “string” used for hay bales). To make it even more sturdy I tied the 4 corner branches to the 4 corner uprights of my raised beds (I have 4′ tall 2x4s at the corners to which I’ve attached 1″ chicken wire to keep out deer and my almost-tame wild rabbits).

    Oh, this sounds complicated, but it actually wasn’t. It took maybe an hour to tie all the branches together in each bed. And it has a lovely rustic look. Best of all, it was FREE. The pine branches were saved from my neighbor’s tree, which was damaged in a heavy snow storm last year – “Whaddya gonna do wid them?” “I dunno, I’ll think of something.”

  9. Laura says:

    I make teepees out of 1 x 2′s and then run a central string of twine to encircle the main stem (training it around this center) and then keep stray branches in by twining horizontally around the outside of the teepee. I usually squeeze 3- 4 plants under 1 teepee of 3 -,4 1 x 2′s. Works for me.

  10. Sandra Knauf says:

    I use the cheap, crapola, bent and pulled-apart-from-the-solder-in-places tomato cages. The concrete reinforcement sounds great, but my favorite suggestion is using the pine branches. I have used branches, too, but have never had a “system.” Rustic is cool!

  11. JamieOber says:

    Cheap 2×2 furring strips from the lumber yard. I have four of them across a 16-foot row. Run cheap clothes line at about 6 feet. Use twine to tie up the branches to the clothes line. The best and most economical I have found.

  12. Leslie says:

    I bought some very heavy duty cages about 6 years ago. They are wider at the bottom, not the top as most are and are heavier gauge than any others I’ve ever seen. Never tip over and have held up like new. I wish they were a bit taller and wish I remembered the name, but they are great.

  13. Michele Owens says:

    I use an actual fence! And failing that, I get out the post-hole digger and dig deep holes to support two inch by two inch posts for each tomato.

    In my experience, anything flimsier keels over.

  14. MaryContrary says:

    Concrete reinforcing wire cages tied down to at least 3 well-sunk stakes. Nothing else works for me. Most of my tomatoes have already reach 2-3′ beyond the 5′ cages. Those little tomato cages? Ha! They are barely adequate for peppers and eggplant.

  15. Laura Bell says:

    PVC ! I cut PVC irrigation pipe into 6″ & 18″ pieces, bought elbows, Xs & Ts & made square cages that completely disassemble & store easily in the off-season. The longer pieces form the legs of the cage; the short pieces with elbows & Xs (for the first level) or Ts (for the top level) form the square that holds in all of the vegetation. It’s totally customizable. I usually just put together two levels and let the plants spill over the top once they reach that point, but you could add multiple levels & have tomato cages as high as you wish. I’ve also re-configured the pipes & elbows to make a pea fence (with string trellis) for the winter garden.

    When the plants need a little more help staying upright against/within the cages I use strips of worn-out T-shirts for support.

  16. Susan says:

    I have decorative wire trellises from the craft store- about 5 feet tall, with fleurs de lis and what-not. I tie twine to them and wrap the tomato stem around the twine. They’re pretty, but I only have 4 plants this year, it would be prohibitively expensive to get these trellises for many more plants than that.

  17. Jenn says:

    I just use the cheapo three rings with three legs number.

    Looks like you can still salvage some use out of you spiral, tho – hit a builder’s supply and get a piece of rebar to fit inside that sleeve, peg the bottom of the spiral with a tent stake, and plant it up.

    I hate plastic waste. Best, in my thinking, to get every last scrap of life out of plastic.

  18. Jen says:

    Bamboo grows in my backyard so I cut it at an angle, then cut it into 6′ lengths for stakes. It’s straight and strong and also free! They usually last about 2 seasons. Someday I’d like to try a “Florida trellis” but I have to get better at building stuff.

  19. Andy says:

    I built a cage out of 2×2 furring strips 8 feet tall and 4 foot square after my mortgage lifter plant outgrew the cage I made out of concrete reinforcement wire. the plant has grown up to 9 and a half feet tall and is starting to fall out of the sides.I should have made it 5 feet square.

  20. tibs says:

    When someone on my walk route re-plumbs their home and has all the old galvanized pipe on the curb I ask if I can have it and bring back the spouse’s old pick- up and load them up. (Much to the embarassment of spouse and daughter.) They make very sturdy poles, plenty long. Tomato stakes sold in stores are too short and too flimsy. The feel of galvanized metal doesn’t bother me.

    I have always used cut up old nylon panty hose for ties. But now that bare legs in an office are acceptable, I no longer have any. And I am not going back to panty hose just to get tomato ties!

  21. PermieWriter says:

    We’ve been using those upside-down planters, which means no fussing with supports at all. As long as you don’t overwater (summoning mildew-of-death), it works great.

  22. Laura Bell says:

    tibs – old t-shirts, cut into strips work just as well as nylons !

  23. Michelle says:

    This year I’ve decided to forgo stakes or cages and let my vines flow and creep along the ground. They take up more space, but the vines are healthy and happy. I’ll have to be vigilant in slug hunting, though, since the little buggers have easier access, since the tomatoes are closer to the ground.

  24. Gail says:

    I have inherited by fathers tomato cages that he constructed over 25-30 years ago out of field fence. Alas I have no where near enough.
    I priced this type of fencing at the only place I could find -Tractor Supply and it runs way over $100/roll. I can only get about 5 cages out of roll. Those would be $$$ cages.
    I like them at you can reach inside to pick the tomatoes. I pound 2-3 rebar stakes to hold them vertical for my heirloom tomatoes.

  25. Susan says:

    Last year I bought and used “Texas Tomato Cages” (sold on-line by the Texas Tomato Company). They are very heavy duty and have extensions so together each is nearly 6′ tall. I tie each to a t-post rammed into the ground. And they fold flat. I found them just perfect for my tomatoes that easily got over 6′ tall.

  26. Frank Hyman says:

    I’ve been using the same 4 cages (5′ tall x 18″ diameter) for about 15 years and have been storing them outside all that time.

    The cages don’t need to be staked (read my blog to find out why) and the ‘mater plants don’t need to be tied up ever and the openings are 6″x6″ so I can still (barely) pull a Mortgage LIfter or Gold Medal, or Brandywine fruit out of them with my hand.

    I use concrete reinforcing wire from a building supply house and have written about the cages on my (dormant and ad-free) blog, http://www.liberatedgardener.net (click on “Tomatoes” under the Categories).

    Joe Lamp’l endorses them in his comment on that post.

    Every spring I buy a few rolls and cut them into cages and sell about 100 cages to gardeners at $12 a pop and give a few away too. Put the money in our Travel Fund.

    And it doesn’t matter if the maters grow taller than the cage–the vines just hang down outside the cage, which is fine–the point is to keep the fruit off the ground.

    For Romas and San Marzano paste tomatoes, which are shorter, we use the Florida Weave to hold them up with a minimum amount of foolin’ around. a super-fast and attractive technique.

    As for the crappy stake that company sent you–there’s really not much of a place for plastic crap in the garden. I put items like that in a category I call “the victory of marketing over utility.”

  27. tropaeolum says:

    I use rebar for both tomatoes and dahlias. Rebar is really cheap from a local cement company. I think we bought 12 or 14ft long bars. I use a hand saw to cut them in half. I hammer one in next to each plant when I put the plant in the ground. I tie the tomatoes or dahlias to the bar as they grow.

    I also make my own tomato cages with cage wire (I think that’s what it’s called) from Tractor Supply. We bought a big roll of it a year or two ago. I cut a length of it and then bend it into a circle (very easy to do). I then attach it to the rebar with wires so that the indeterminate tomatoes have a tall cage to grow in. You can re-use the cages each year and for different plants.

    The cage wire is also great for making large cages for shrubs and small trees that are getting munched on by deer or woodchucks. Just cut a long section and bend it into a circle. Lift it over the top of the tree or shrub. Or you can use it to make a trellis by cutting a length and attaching it to rebar. It’s very cheap and so versatile.

  28. Tangled Gardens says:

    I asked my husband to build a variation of a tomato cage I saw on Martha Stewart Living many years ago. Mine is made of 1×1 cedar constructed into one large unit that goes into my raised beds once the tomato plants are about 1 ft. high. It houses up to 9 plants, but I keep the plants on the perimeter only now as sunlight proved to be an issue in the middle of the support. I have been using this for many years now and it is still going strong and works like a charm.

  29. Harriette says:

    I use the steel wire concrete reinforcing panels also. I bend them to form a large tube and tie them in 3-4 places. The ones I have are a little rusty now (they’re 3 years old), so I think the next time I add to my collection, I will paint them. The truly great thing about these panels is that the openings are large enough to reach through to pick a really large tomato.

  30. Laura says:

    I try my best not to buy anything made of plastic, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. My experience has been that when it comes to plastic, whether it’s tomato cages, chairs, or spray nozzles, if it’s made of plastic, it usually breaks sooner rather than later.

  31. Jenn says:

    I use the Italian method, with great success! I pound in a stake at the base of each plant with a string tied to it, then run the string up about 5 feet and tie to the cross bars I’ve installed. As the vine grows, I pinch off all runners and wind the plant around the string. Basically Trellising, but without using any runners – great early yeild and little to no fungal issues.

  32. James Mayer says:

    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=182052858506433&set=a.164137736964612.38964.100001051618337&type=1&theater

    My homemade cedar tomato cage. The initial cost was a bit high (I made six of these), but they should give me years of service.

  33. laura banana says:

    I use 2 long 10 ft pieces of rebar. I bend them around a tree so they look like a huge hairpin. Then I put the first one in the ground as far as you want. I live in FL so they go in pretty far. The second one goes on top of the first (forms an X looking down on it) Then I wrap string around the outside. I paint the rebar after bending it. They will last forever. Gourds grow well on them also.

  34. I use stakes cut from wood. Just sucker and tie up the tomatoes with twine.

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