There is nothing quite like the sun-kissed flavor of a home-grown tomato! This delightful fruit (or vegetable, depending on whom you ask) comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors, from juicy deep red beefsteaks to the sweetest golden cherry tomatoes.
Although tomatoes are one of the easier garden crops to grow, keeping these tall plants upright can be challenging.
If they don’t get enough support, your carefully nurtured tomato plants will flop over like a sad puppy! This can permanently damage the stems, putting your precious crop at risk.
Are you struggling to provide your tomato plants with adequate support? This is where tomato cages come to the rescue!
Think of them as the superhero sidekick to your tomato plant – a well-designed tomato cage will provide the much-needed support your plant craves, helping it grow tall and strong.
Most importantly, your plants will no longer buckle and break under the weight of their heavy crop, ensuring you get a bountiful tomato harvest year after year.
Today, we’re going to take a look at why you should use tomato cages, the best types to use, and even how to make your own. So, buckle up, grab your gardening gloves, and let’s get started!
Why Use Tomato Cages To Support Tomato Plants?
I absolutely love growing tomatoes, and they are one of the first plants I recommend to any novice vegetable gardener. With plenty of warmth and water, just a few tomato plants can provide fresh tomatoes all summer.
However, some varieties of tomatoes are tall, heavy plants that need sturdy support as they grow. Without proper support, the stems of the plant may topple over or break, causing damage to the fruit or loss of the crop.
This is where tomato cages come in. Tomato cages are a simple and effective way to keep your tomato plants upright and healthy. They provide support to the stem and branches of the plant, while also keeping the fruit off the ground, reducing the risk of rot and pests.
The basic design of a tomato cage is a structure that surrounds the plant with upright vertical poles, often linked together by a horizontal support system.
By enveloping the entire plant in this way, it can be supported throughout the growing season. However, not all the tomato cages you come across are fit for purpose, so let’s take a look at the best types to choose!
Things To Consider When Choosing A Tomato Cage
When choosing a tomato cage, the size and height of your tomato plants will determine the size and strength of the cage you need.
Indeterminate tomato plants can reach heights of up to 6 feet or more, so you’ll need a cage that is tall enough to support them. Determinate tomato plants don’t grow as tall but can sprawl outwards, so you will need a shorter but wider cage.
Different tomato varieties can also have different growth habits, so it’s important to choose a cage that is appropriate for the variety you’re growing. Cherry tomato plants tend to be compact and bushy, while beefsteak and salad tomato plants are taller and more sprawling.
Tomato cages can be made from various materials, including metal wire, PVC pipe, or bamboo.
Metal wire cages are sturdy and durable but can be expensive and difficult to store when not in use. PVC pipe cages are more affordable and long-lasting, but may not withstand the weight of heavy plants in high winds. Bamboo cages are eco-friendly and natural-looking but can be time-consuming to erect.
Tomato cages can range in price from a few dollars to over $50, so it is important to consider how much you’re willing to spend and how long you want the cage to last. A more expensive cage may last for several seasons, while a cheaper one could need to be replaced every year.
What Are The Best Types Of Tomato Cages To Use?
There are several types of tomato cages available in the market. The best ones to use should be sturdy, durable, and able to withstand the weight of a mature tomato plant laden with ripening fruit.
It is also vital that the tomato cage provides enough room for the plant to grow to its full potential, and you need to be able to access ripe tomatoes easily when the time comes for harvesting them.
Here are my top 3 types of tomato cages.
1. Wire Tomato Cages
These are the most common and widely used tomato cages. They are made of heavy-gauge galvanized wire and can support plants up to 6 feet tall.
They can be square, round, or oval, and come in a range of widths and heights to support different types of tomato plants.
When choosing wire tomato cages, make sure that they have at least three vertical supports, with long feet that can be pushed securely into the ground.
My favorite type is square tomato cages with hinged joints, as they fold flat for easy storage through the winter months.
2. Bamboo Wigwam Tomato Cages
Bamboo wigwam tomato cages are eco-friendly and biodegradable, and can often be constructed from old canes that you have lying around your garden. They are made of vertical bamboo poles pushed into the ground to form a circle, then tied together at the top with twine or wire.
The great advantage of this system is that bamboo tomato cages can be as tall or short as you need them to be. For extra strength, twine can be used to add a horizontal support layer as the plants grow upwards.
Bamboo wigwams are not as sturdy as metal tomato cages, but they are a good option for smaller plants.
3. Wooden A-Frame Tomato Cages
Building a wooden A-frame tomato cage is a great option if you want a permanent structure to support your tomato plants. They are relatively simple and inexpensive to build and should last for several years before they need to be replaced.
If you are following a crop rotation plan, it pays to erect these frames at several sites around the garden.
They can also be used to grow other climbing crops such as cucumbers, zucchini, squashes, peas, and pole beans, making them highly versatile and incredibly useful.
Tomato Cages To Avoid: What To Look Out For
Not all tomato cages are created equal – many are too flimsy and will not provide enough support for the weight of your tomato crop.
Avoid tomato cages that are made of thin wire or plastic, which can easily break under the weight of the plant. Make sure the tomato cage is tall enough to support the plant at its mature height.
Failing to support the top of your plant may cause it to snap, resulting in a significant reduction in your overall crop.
A particular bugbear of mine is short, cone-shaped tomato cages – they may look nice when you plant your baby tomato plants, but within a few weeks, the plant will have outgrown them and you’ll be searching for new ways to provide support for your vigorous tomato plants!
How To Use A Tomato Cage For Maximum Effectiveness
Using a tomato cage is easy. Simply place the cage over the tomato plant when it is young, and gently guide the branches through the openings as the plant grows.
This saves a significant amount of time compared to tomato plants supported with cane or string, which need to be tied up at regular intervals.
Here are some tips for using a tomato cage effectively:
- Plant the tomato seedling in the ground first, and then place the cage around it.
- Push the legs of the cage deep into the soil to anchor it firmly.
- As the plant grows, gently weave the branches through the openings in the cage, making sure they are not pinched or bent.
- Tie the branches to the cage using soft twine or strips of cloth if they need extra support.
Tomato Cages vs. Other Methods Of Tomato Plant Support
Whilst tomato cages are the ultimate way to support tomatoes, they can be time-consuming and expensive to erect. This is particularly the case if – like me – you like to grow as many tomato plants as possible!
If you are going to struggle to use tomato cages for your entire crop, there are other options available:
Using Stakes To Support Tomatoes
This is the time-honored method of supporting tomatoes, that most gardeners are familiar with. Wooden or metal poles are driven into the ground next to the plant, which is then tied to the stake using twine or strips of cloth as it grows.
The central stem of the plant is well-supported, but heavy branches of ripening tomatoes can still be prone to snapping.
Using A Trellis To Support Tomatoes
A trellis is a vertical structure made of wood, plastic, or metal wire in a grid pattern. The tomato plant is trained to grow up the trellis, with the branches tied to the wire using twine or clips.
This method is best for indeterminate tomato plants that can grow very tall and require strong support.
Using String To Support Tomatoes
This is my favorite method for supporting tomatoes growing in sheltered areas, such as in the glasshouse.
When planting out tomato seedlings, place one end of a piece of string under the rootball – placing a knot in it first can help to secure it in place. The other end is then attached to a high point such as a wooden A-frame or the bars of the glasshouse.
As the plant grows, it can be loosely wound around the string to support it.
DIY Tomato Cages: How To Make Your Own At Home
If you’re feeling creative and want to save some money, you can make your own tomato cages at home using materials you may already have.
Metal tomato cages are easy to make using heavy-gauge galvanized wire. Cut a length of wire to the desired size and bend it into a circle, twisting the ends of the wire together to secure it. Use three wooden or metal stakes driven into the ground to hold the tomato cage securely in place.
Alternatively, you can build a long-lasting tomato support structure by creating a cage out of the plastic pipe.
Cut the pipes to the desired length using a hacksaw, and connect them together with elbows and tees to create a square or rectangular frame. Cover the frame with durable plastic netting or chicken wire for additional support.
Watch the video below to learn more about making your own tomato cage:
Tomato Cages – Are You Ready To Get Growing?
Tomatoes are truly a wonderful addition to any garden, and with the help of tomato cages, growing them can be a breeze. By choosing the right cage, your tomatoes will have the support they need to grow tall, strong, and healthy.
So, whether you opt for a store-bought cage or a DIY version, be sure to give your tomatoes the support they deserve. With a little love and care, you’ll be rewarded with a bounty of delicious, juicy tomatoes that will make all your hard work worthwhile.