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Tomato cage alternatives — The Grow Network Community
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Tomato cage alternatives

Melissa SwartzMelissa Swartz Posts: 269 ✭✭✭
edited November 2020 in Vegetables

In my area, we have shortages of many common garden supplies. I wanted to get a couple of additional tomato cages and can't find them anywhere. Does anyone have any ideas for DIY cages or something I could use as a substitute?



  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 4,084 admin

    I saw a video, I think it was part of a joint Mother Earth News-TGN summit one year where a gentleman made all sorts of really interesting supports in his garden. @Marjory Wildcraft outdid herself finding that wonderful gem of knowledge! (I feel odd calling someone that...haha).

    I wish that I could remember who he was & all of his garden helps. I tried to take notes, but quickly drawing some of those supports made for odd notes. Haha

    One idea I would suggest is making a stick pyramid as a support. I think he liked that best.

    Another idea is to make an almost Jenga-like stack of sticks or light stakes, leaving the middle open.

    A third idea is to train them up hanging twine/rope that is suspended from a horizontal line.

    I know that there are other ideas out there, but this is all that I can think of at the moment.

  • Melissa SwartzMelissa Swartz Posts: 269 ✭✭✭

    @LaurieLovesLearning The stick pyramid seems obvious, once you mention it. Thanks! I was trying to think of something metal, and more permanent, but I guess I could use metal sticks!


    Great ideas LaurieLovesLearning! Another one is push stakes into the ground all around the plant and then weave string/twine/yarn on them to support the plant. I hope I'm explaining this right?!🤔 The only other thing I can think of is tying the plant to a stake. Hope this helps!

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 4,084 admin

    @Melissa Swartz That sounds great. Somehow, this fellow rigged his so that it would just collapse together for storage once the season was over. If you figure out a DIY cage that works for you, please post a picture & maybe a little DIY instructions. 😀

  • AngelaOstonAngelaOston Posts: 217 ✭✭✭

    I have a wooden trellis behind an indeterminate tomato. Planning on using loose ziplocks to secure to trellis. Have also seen there is now something called tomato clips you can order. But i have a big costco container of zip ties so figured id use those.

  • Ethereal EarthEthereal Earth NevadaPosts: 142 ✭✭✭

    While still a traditional tomato cage shape, I plan on making mine in three separate pieces (so I can space out as needed for the plant) out of branches and twine. Can also just use one piece for squash or snap peas later on.

    I would love to see the jenga like structure in action. Does anyone do that for their tomatoes?

  • silvertipgrizzsilvertipgrizz Posts: 1,830 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Melissa Swartz I use cattle panels, I put them on their ends creating an arch and I hold mine in place with the big/what first was a cattle mineral tub full of the usual growing mix, earth, hummus, compost, manure....and the weight of the tub supports the ends of the panel. I have multiple panels with 2 growing tubs between them and plant 4 tomato plants in each tub, 2 adjacent to the other 2 so that each tomato has it's very own 'trellis'/ie support. One of the things that makes this method so great is that where each cattle panel meets, except for the ends, each set of tubs has a semi enclosed support that is hard pressed to be knocked around too much, even in bad storms, as I also tie where necessary the plants with soft strips of flour sack kitchen towels, pretty high up on the tomato and it keeps the tops from breaking off every time. I know it is hard to picture something that someone is describing in writing so I hope this makes sense. I have been doing this method for about 6 years and my indeterminate tomatoes and my peppers are very happy with it...thus am I..😁

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 4,084 admin

    @etherealearthhomestead Welcome! That jenga like structure was super attractive!

  • ieducate2008ieducate2008 Posts: 40 ✭✭✭

    Does anyone have advice on how to prune indeterminate tomatoes? Does this help to make more tomatoes?

  • GardenMamaGardenMama Posts: 95 ✭✭✭

    I made a makeshift trellis with somemleft over wood from pallets. I've got them placed behind the plants and the plants are loosely zip tied to the wood.

    So far so good

  • silvertipgrizzsilvertipgrizz Posts: 1,830 ✭✭✭✭✭


    At the beginning of the season as the plant is growing, I prune my indeterm's from the ground up about 5 ish inches so that even with straw mulch taking the bottom stems off helps avoid watering - soil - splash maladies to the plant. I want my indeterm's to keep growning until the last bunch of maters looks eminante then I would prune to allow the rest of the strength/energy of the plant to focus on the fruit...

    I would be interested to know what others are doing about this as well so will keep a watch'n

  • VickiPVickiP Posts: 586 ✭✭✭✭

    One guy takes a cattle panel cuts it in half across, then each half is cut in half and he positions them like an open sided triangle and uses old nylons or wire to tie the plants into the grid. That allows him room to access the plants for harvesting and he gets four towers out of each panel. I have some panels we cut for other projects and am going to try this method. We will see how it goes.

  • FergFerg Currently United States, Appalachia. Previously Great Lakes, GNYMA, Germany.Posts: 290 ✭✭✭

    There's a couple things we did for the Great Box Plots that work over a raised bed and could be modified--- we used goat fencing (4" square holes) and placed it parrallel to the ground. We cut three sheets that were the same as the raised bed (in our case it was easy, the Great Box Plots are 4' x 8' long for the big ones, so we just had to cut one side to fit). To begin with, there would be three of them on top of each other. as the plants grew, we raised up the three, attached the fencing to the rebar, then raised up two, attached to the rebar, then the last one for the top, highest one. The plants would grow through the fencing. You can prune and guide the plants through as well. We always trimmed out the bottom two feet of leaves so that we could water without getting the leaves wet as well.

    In Germany we mostly grow tomatoes in polytunnels, so the two major ways we supported our plants were with spiral rods and pruned to a single leader (main stem), and with strings that we attached to a ceiling-mounted board with hooks. With the strings, we just wrapped anchored the bottom near the base of the plant, and as it grew, we'd trim back to a single leader and basically just move the string around the plant (not tightly). Both of these systems allowed you to keep the plants tidy. In some cases, we would plant the tomatoes into bins with drainage holes, instead of planting into the ground. The plants were still happy. I had the nicest Hungarian Heart plants in my polytunnel in Germany.

    Another way to trellis is kind of like the pea trellis - attach string to two sturdy anchors at either end of your row. Add sturdy anchors for longer rows. I had strings parallel to the ground at 6" intervals; that year I had really no money for supplies so I used leftover cotton yarn from making dishclothes (basically that Peaches & Cream stuff that never holds its color when you wash it). It's a strong cotton that you can use for gardening and even making wicks. That worked out really well too, esp since i didn't have to dig out the cotton later as it is just cotton.

    My mom used to have dad pound in wooden 2x3x6 or 8 feet and then she'd tie the plants to the wooden stakes with cut up nylons. It doesn't damage the plant and sticks to the wood so it didn't slide. Dad would cut the stakes into a V at the bottom to make it easier to pound it. One year I did similar things with wooden dowels I got on freecycle, and another I had rebar so I used that. That stuff will not go anywhere.

  • FergFerg Currently United States, Appalachia. Previously Great Lakes, GNYMA, Germany.Posts: 290 ✭✭✭

    @ieducate2008 For all my bigger-than-cluster tomatoes, I prune them to a single leader/stem. I also take off the bottom 18-24" of leaves once they are established to avoid watering the leaves. This can also be done for your clustering types, but I tend to give them a couple leaders/stems since they are really nice to just grab as a snack so I tend to feel like a horrible person when trimming them back.

  • seeker.nancy - Central Texasseeker.nancy - Central Texas Posts: 803 ✭✭✭✭

    I would love to see pictures of some of these trellises/towers if anyone has them!

  • silvertipgrizzsilvertipgrizz Posts: 1,830 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2020

    @VickiP Is he cutting them in half by length and then width? I can visually see a two sided structure as an open sided triangle but, are the structures taller than wide, or wider than they are tall with how wide an opening? This option is interesting to me but am not sure I am seeing it as he is doing it..Thanks..

    Maybe a better way to ask the question: my panels are 16 foot long. so it sounds like I would need to cut them at 4 foot intervals for 4 equal pieces?

  • MelissaLynneMelissaLynne NE Washington🌲 Zone 5aPosts: 205 ✭✭✭

    I often use 3 or 4 T-posts and wrap garden twine around them every 6 inches or so. I bought some tomato cages this year because I had used all my T-posts and am disappointed by how flimsy they seem.

  • VickiPVickiP Posts: 586 ✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2020

    @silvertipgrizz Cut the length to 8 foot, then cut each 8 foot length down the middle, length wise that will give you four 8' pieces you wire them together lengthwise so they are "hinged" on the long side. Put your plant in the hinged area and train them to grow through the mesh. For additional support you can use wire or twine or old nylons, whatever you have, tied on the open side. They look somethng like the "Vine Spill" trellis on this page: https://commonsensehome.com/tomato-trellis-ideas/

  • silvertipgrizzsilvertipgrizz Posts: 1,830 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2020

    @VickiP This is an awesome site.. I have looked until I"m blue in the face and these are new to me...don't know how I missed them..hmmm

    I found so many ideas here. Thank You!!!

    And thank you for your input as well..

  • Melissa SwartzMelissa Swartz Posts: 269 ✭✭✭

    Thanks to everyone for the ideas! If you have time to take some pictures, that would really help to understand the solutions if you would post them.

    @LaurieLovesLearning where did you find a picture of the jenga-like structure? I would love to see that.

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 4,084 admin

    @Melissa Swartz I watched a Summit video. Unfortunately I don't have a picture.

  • Melissa SwartzMelissa Swartz Posts: 269 ✭✭✭

    @LaurieLovesLearning Do you remember which summit?

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 4,084 admin

    @MelissaSchwartz I suspect it was a Mother Earth News-TGN Summit. I don't remember which year of time of year either.

    I so very much wanted a copy of that Summit...it was great...but I couldn't afford it at that time.

  • Melissa SwartzMelissa Swartz Posts: 269 ✭✭✭

    @LaurieLovesLearning I have the info from several of the past summits. I'll see if I can find that one.

  • vickeymvickeym Posts: 774 ✭✭✭✭

    This site shows several different styles of DIY and purchased tomato cages. I'm bookmarking this for myself as well.

  • shaley1357shaley1357 Posts: 33 ✭✭✭

    My current iteration of the Tomato Cage is 5 ft tall welded wire with 4X4 openings. I cut 2 ft wide pieces and used to wires sticking out to wrap the adjacent piece. This gives me a 2X2 cage that fold flat or nearly flat when not in use. I then cut high and low openings in the wire and ground down the sharp edges so I can reach inside to harvest if necessary. I also cut a larger opening at the very bottom on one side so I can reach inside and pull weeds or pick up dropped tomatoes. The cages are held upright with 6 ft stakes in 2 diagonally opposing corners. I plant a tomato at each corner outside the cage and train them up by weaving or tying. It would be possible to stack cages if you want to see how high your vines can get. So far they work great.

  • SheilaSheila Posts: 53 ✭✭✭

    We use T-posts pounded into the dirt with chicken wire or stucco wire (which is much sturdier) wired to them. I then plant on either side of the fence on alternating spacing. This gives me room for 36 plants in a single row and allows them to grow up and maintain spacing. I tie them to the wire with either old nylons cut in rings (you just fold the "ring" in half and slip around a wire crossing cross in front of the plant and slip one end of the loop through the other - this holds the plants securely while ensuring they don't get choked by the tie or I also have a velcro tie that wraps and then attaches to itself (hook on one side loop on the other) but these don't have as much give as the nylon and I have to check to make sure the stems aren't being choked.

  • soeasytocraftsoeasytocraft Alberta, CanadaPosts: 214 ✭✭✭

    Great question and ideas. I hd to quickly get my tomato plants in the ground knowing I'd be in trouble later on! We usually put up wire fencing prior to planting. These ideas will be very helpful.

  • fivelawrencesfivelawrences Posts: 33 ✭✭✭

    Thanks everyone! I needed this too!

  • tinarocktinarock Posts: 21 ✭✭✭

    There are many videos on Youtube that answer all your questions.

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