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Tomato Cages

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by LandOfOz on June 30, 2006 08:46 AM
What is the least expensive way to support an indeterminate tomato? I know some people like cages, but how tall do they need to be and what wire do you use? I've heard some people just stake theirs--does that really provide enough support? I have already discovered that premade "cages" are not particularly helpful when it comes to a vigorous tomato plant.

Thanks,
Sarah

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by Danno on June 30, 2006 11:51 AM
i'm finding out for myself that cages really do suck for tomatoes. they get the job done i guess, but i think that staking it would have been so much nicer way to go! Better plans for next year i guess [Smile] However the cages seem to fit perfectly for peppers!
by Deborah L. on June 30, 2006 12:00 PM
I hated the cages too and gave them to a neighbor.
They always fell to one side, and what a mess and hassle pulling the dead plants out of the cages.
Never again.
Now I use a pretty cedar stake and tie my tomatoes with twine.
In the fall I merely cut the twine, pull up the stake, dig up the plant and drag it to the green trash.
Easy !

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by Sorellina on June 30, 2006 12:16 PM
Ciao all,

I do what Deborah does...I use 2"x8' cedar stakes driven into the ground a good 1'. They're sturdy enough for the biggest monster indeterminates, but sometimes the plants grow over the top of them. They don't blink during thunderstorms, though, and really the 2 biggest challenges for a stake here are the weight of the plant at full growth stage and the wind associated with thunderstorms. I use velcro strips to tie up the plants at the beginning, until the side shoots get really big and obnoxious..then I switch to twine and just give the entire girth of the plant a big twiney hug. Some people get really adventurous and make these monster cages out of concrete reinforcing wire and rebar. If you have a handy muscle man who's sympathetic to your plight, try that route. Those things take bolt cutters to make. Or you could invite JohnCT over and cook for him. He's a happy, eager guy..just make him something with ripe, juicy heirloom tomatoes to entice him, lol.

Cheers,
Julianna, who knows John's got a good sense of humour...

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by johnCT on July 01, 2006 01:45 AM
Mmmmmmmm.....Italian food! My favorite!!! [thumb]

Boy, it sounds like some of you guys are just using the wrong cages. Those chincey store-bought cages are just not meant for anything but dwarf or small determinate varieties. I use them now for my pepper plants. They are the perfect size for them.

I'll take some pictures this weekend of the cages I make out of concrete wire mesh. You can buy it at lowes in 50' and 150' rolls that are 5' tall in the building materials section for $45 and $80 respectively. Fortunately I get it for free at work. A 50' roll will make you 8 21" dia 5' tall cages that will last for the rest of your life. That comes to about $6/cage. Last I checked, those large flimsy cages at lowes were about $5 each. You could also make a few 6' cages for some of the monster indeterminates like I did.

I've done the staking thing. It's more work IMO(especially if you don't prune to one central stem). One tip I did learn last year for you staking guys is to cut plastic grocery bags into strips with a razor blade, twist them up and use those to tie your plant stems to the stakes. Works great and it's cheaper than twine! I've also cut down small trees on my property to about 9' and used them as stakes. This year they are supporting my pole beans.

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John - Zone 6
by LandOfOz on July 01, 2006 02:24 AM
Last night, I picked up some redwood stakes (7 footers) and pounded them in a good 18"--just because the soil is so sandy and it is always so windy. Then I bought this stretchy-plasticy "tape" to wrap around the plant/stakes. I don't mind if it takes forever to get all my plants done. I've got children that need to burn off excess energy so I'm usually outside for a good 2 hours in the morning and another 2 in the evening; that's not including all the times I sneak out to see if that darn tomato has turned yet!

JohnCT, I'd really like to make the metal cages but they seem a little pricey. Although in the long run they will probably outlast a great many stakes. Just curious, how do you store them?

Sarah

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by johnCT on July 01, 2006 03:06 AM
quote:
Originally posted by LandOfOz:
Just curious, how do you store them?
Well, that is certainly one of the drawbacks of them. They need plenty of room to be stacked and could be considered an eyesore. I have a fence bordering my backyard which I stored them behind to lessen the sight. It is nice to look out and see visions of tomato growing when we are buried in snow midwinter. Worth it imo though...... [nutz] [nutz]

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John - Zone 6
by LandOfOz on July 01, 2006 03:52 AM
I don't think we'd have the space to store them! Although now I might not mind my hubby getting one of those shed/barn things he's always pining over. And then I'd have a goodplace to put my compost bin--next to the shed! I'm going to have to keep that in mind...probably print it then put it with all my other gardening info--just for when I get enough space...

Sarah

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by Deborah L. on July 01, 2006 07:17 AM
I loved the idea of using small cut down trees for stakes.
I like the natural look. Neat idea !

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by johnCT on July 02, 2006 07:08 AM
OK, here's those pics I promised of how I make my cages...Here's the leftover roll I got. The square holes in it are 6"x6". Perfect size for reaching through to pick fruit...
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I cut a piece 12 squares long...
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...the 12th square will be the tabs that are bent around the other end of the cage to connect the two ends like so. This makes the final size of 11 squares or 66" in circumference, divided by Pi(3.1416) gives you about 21" diameter...
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...then I just clip off the tab with the bolt cutters...
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...and viola...a 5 foot tall, 21" diameter tomato cage that I stake in the ground with a couple pieces of 4' rebar. This one is destined for Heidi. A paste tomato originally from Cameroon in West Africa.
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John - Zone 6
by Greenthumb newbee on July 02, 2006 06:16 PM
Although I don`t have a pic this will work as well especially if you only grow a few tomato plants. Buy those tomato fencing at Farm and Home approx 4 feet by 8 feet. The spacing and the gauge wire is about the same as that rebar is. Anyway bent it in half length wise and cut the straight ends off so as to have it pointed at the ends. you can then Wrap it around the tomato plants and then firmly push it into the ground.

My 8 tomato plants filled in all the spaces and the fencing did not at all fall down. BTW... Other then having Small stakes to hold up the plants when young I did`nt need the stakes.

Fencing is about $5-6 a piece.
by elkwc36 on July 03, 2006 03:44 PM
I build mine like John's. The only tip I might add is if building several you can cut you a piece of stainless or steel tubing that will fit over the end of the wire and makes it easy to bend. Works on the heavier cattle panels some use also. JD
by LandOfOz on July 04, 2006 04:40 AM
I'm definately going to have to try that. You were right, John, the stakes are a pain in the butt. I really don't mind, but, hopefully I'll have a job by next year, and don't think I'll have the time/patience to spend tying up a million stalks to the stakes then.

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by johnCT on July 04, 2006 06:23 AM
Yeah, it is more work with stakes IMO. There is still work to do with cages like tucking a couple branches here and there, but no buying twine, cutting it, tying it, etc. Plus, you don't have to prune at all with cages. With the stakes I always found it was easier to prune all of the suckers to get the vine to one central leader. That way there is only one stem to tie up.

[dunno]

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John - Zone 6

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