Saturday, April 19, 2014

How to Make Tomato Cages that will Last Forever

Have you bought the typical metal tomato cage at a garden center? They are everywhere at this time of year. They maybe quick and easy to buy and install, but in a southern garden when indeterminate tomatoes reach 7' tall or more, a little 54" tomato cage just doesn't work. After a season or two the welds come undone and you're stuck with a useless piece of metal. At $5 or more a piece, it can add up to a lot of wasted money.

This year I bit the bullet and made my own tomato cages. I thought it was going to be really difficult, but as it turned out I was able to make 19 cages in 2 hours all by myself. Not bad for something I will never have to do or buy again!

The kicker here is the price for materials. I used concrete remesh. Since I needed 18 cages, I had to buy a large roll of 150', which costs $107 at Lowes. It's a lot up front, but I was able to get 20 tomato cages out of one roll, which makes each cage $7.50 to make. That's less than one of the fancy, plastic tomato cages.  If you only need a few cages, you can buy remesh in smaller sheets for about the same price.

This roll is heavy. I had to have someone load it in the truck for me, and my husband and I had a heck of a time getting it out. Once on the ground, though, I just rolled it to where I needed it to be. I started out this process on one end of my yard. Keep in mind, I'm a smallish woman and I managed to make 20 of these in a few hours so once it's on the ground, it's not too labor intensive.

1. Roll out the mesh to your desired length. My cages are 2 1/2' in diameter, you could make them up to 3'  but of course you would get fewer out of the roll.




2. I weighed the loose end with a large block, measured my cut (7 1/2') and used bolt cutters. When cutting, I cut right behind the squares so that I had a long piece of metal to hook around and latch. This way I didn't have to purchase additional fasteners.



 3. Once my 7 1/2' piece was cut, I made a tube by securing the wire around the other end.



4. There are a couple of options to secure the cages to the ground. You can use stakes or rebar to secure them, or simply cut off the bottom bar, similar to how we cut the sides to leave wire to wrap around. If you cut just the bottom bar off, you have 6" prongs to push into the ground.

I now have indestructible, non-tippable, long-lasting tomato cages ready for even the largest indeterminate varieties. I have seen these in action in other people's gardens and they are amazingly strong.




If you already have a bunch of those flimsy cages, don't worry, they have other uses. They make great structures for growing cucumbers and beans.

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