There are lots of different ways to support tomatoes. You can leave them free form, grow them up trellises or in cages. Last year mine were free form with only one stake and it was a mess, not just to look at but to manage and harvest. Trellising is a big investment so, this year, I built cages.
The cages from big box stores are a waste of money. Tomato plants will usually grow over 6 ft tall (and up to 12 ft) and they just aren’t big enough. Here’s what you’ll need to build stronger, stable 7ft x 1.5ft triangular tomato cages. Each cage will cost about 13 bucks and should last for a very long time. And the great thing about these cages is that they will fold away.
- concrete mesh and some way to cut it.
- a screwdriver
I got my mesh from Home Depot. I wish it had been a little wider, which would have made the trellises wider, but I liked these flat sheets better than a roll as they kept their shape. 3 sheets will make 2 cages, so that’s what we will be working with.
Firstly, cut 2 of the sheets longways in half. Cut the third sheet into 2 panels so you don’t have any extra mesh in the middle.
We are going to use sheets 1 and 2 first. Using a screwdriver, bend up the extra mesh (1,2) and then place the second half on top (3).
Still using the screwdriver, continue to bend the mesh down (4) and tighten up with pliers (5). You’ll have the bend the final piece back on itself so it attaches to the frame (6).
Note: If you don’t use a screwdriver and put the two sheets together, bending the mesh around itself, the joints might be too tight for the sheets to easily move. That gets frustrating to work with so you really will want to bend it around something wider than itself.
The two pieces should now easily move without coming apart (7).
Repeat picture 2 and then place one of the pieces from sheet 3 on top, as in picture 3. Repeat 4 – 7.
Bring the edges together and tie with twine (8). Every year when it’s time to put the cages away, you can easily untie the twine and fold them flat.
If I find these cages are too narrow for my plants, I’ll just add an extra panel and turn them into squares. But for now, I think the size will encourage me to prune more which might lead to a better harvest. We’ll have to see.
Tomato cages do have a habit of blowing over in really bad weather and that will damage your plants. So, I found it useful to dig a trench for the cages to sit in, using bricks to help weigh them down before covering in earth.
My tomatoes now have their own little kingdom.