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After starting our tomato plants from seed this year, we have many more small plants in the ground than in the past years. We are looking to make our own inexpensive and durable cages that we could use year after year.

What are starting materials that we can use? Are there materials to avoid? It seems that the openings in chicken wire and hardware cloth are too narrow.

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I grow "red alert" so I don't need cages. –  Ian Ringrose Jun 16 '11 at 13:19

9 Answers 9

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Bamboo is one of the best materials. It is durable and lasts year in and out. If you have access to bamboo take advantage of the natural resources available. You can use as a pole and tie up the tomatoes or make it into a teepee style. Many garden shops will carry this material in bundles.

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4  
This is what I used last year and I was happy enough with them to use them again this year. I just used them as stakes with a bit of green velcro tape I bought at Home Depot. They did fairly well although as my tomato plants got a bit out of control at the end of the season they started to fall over a bit. –  wax eagle Jun 9 '11 at 1:55

I used fence pickets and hog wire to make a tomato trellis:

Click image to enlarge...

enter image description here

I like the trellis better than a cage for two reasons:

  1. Easier access to tomatoes as they grow
  2. More stable than a cage

I hope this helps!

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You can make a tomatoe teepee from three pieces of trim and some jute twine.

Allow me to demonstrate:

   /|\
  / | \
 /  |  \
/  TOM  \

   /|\
  / | \
 / TOM \
/   T   \

   /|\
  TOMAT
 / TOM \
/   T   \

 TOMATOES 
  TOMAT
 / TOM \
/   T   \

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We use the same type of square grid sturdy rebar type fencing and lean two 5' to 6' pieces against each other down the length of the bed. We place plants about 18" apart on either side. Down the center, between the fencing, we cover the ground with black plastic, cardboard or other mulching materials to prevent weeds, and conserve moisture.

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A concrete contractor friend of mine gives me the end-of-roll of this 6" square grid rebar (bit over 1/8" wire) stuff that he does not want to mess with. I have seen similar stuff sold as rebar and as fencing (thinner wire) in home improvement stores for $10-$15 a roll. One roll would do a dozen or more cages.

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Is it galvanized? Will it rust? –  kmm Jun 15 '11 at 23:01
1  
The fence looks galvanized. The rebar mesh stuff is not - but it is thick enough that it can rust away for years before it is structurally unsound. –  rschuler Jun 16 '11 at 17:06
    
Will the rust have any negative effects on tomatoes? –  kmm Jun 16 '11 at 17:28
1  
I have not noticed any ill effects on the tomato plants from the rust. –  rschuler Jun 17 '11 at 13:51

Some of my neighbors use chicken-wire in columns to hold up the plants. They don't close the tube/column of chicken-wire, that way one can reach in easily to harvest.

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We also trellis, rather than cage.

We're still using the supports we bought 25 years ago - generic metal fence/sign supports from Home Depot, or whatever was around back then. We just pound one in every 6-8 feet, and string nylon trellis netting between them.

This gives you a trellis about 6 feet high. It works best with indeterminate tomatoes. If memory serves, we got the idea from Square Foot Gardening (the old edition).

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I perfer using a trellis as others have mentioned. See the pic in this question as an example. I bought nylon trellis netting off amazon for $10, 4 8' electrical conduit pipes, and 6 conduit straight connectors for less than $10 as well at Home Depot.

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Watch the video in this answer to a question about pruning. They demonstrate a strategy for staking that uses twine woven between the plants to support them as they grow.

I have some tomatoes in cages but also have a bunch that I'm going to support using the weave shown in that video.

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