Many home growers use trellising or staking to keep their tomatoes strong and healthy. But have you tried tomato cages?
Those who do use them find no shortage of reasons to do so. The benefits start with maximizing your harvest and saving your garden space. But there’s much more to it.
Tomato cages are a great alternative to both staking and trellising. Namely, they:
- Give the plants enough room to grow.
- Provide strong structural support to heavy branches of more robust tomato types.
- Keep your tomatoes off the ground which lowers the risk of pest and disease damage.
- Promote air circulation so your fruit gets dried quickly after heavy rain. This makes fruit rotting less likely.
And there’s more. The fact that everything is off the ground makes your tomatoes easy to harvest.
Without further ado, today we bring you a step-by-step guide on how to build strong tomato cages. We’ve included a few simple tips that will help you choose the model, materials, pricing, and size that suits you best.
Let’s dive right in.
How Sturdy is Sturdy Enough: A Livestock Panel vs a Remesh Tomato Cage?
So, you might be asking, how sturdy is sturdy enough? There’s a large product range of commercial tomato cages out there but they are often next to useless.
Such cages often fall short of buyers’ expectations.
A store-bought tomato cage product comes with serious downsides. It’s often not strong enough to support the tomato vines, so the plant tips over. It’s also not high enough, so you need to prune your tomatoes excessively. Or else the stems will get broken on account of the weight.
Which is why it’s best to build your own tomato cages.
So, which one will it be, livestock panel or remesh? Let’s break down the pros and cons.
Livestock panels are great to use when building tomato cages for your plants. Here’s your list of pros. They’re:
- Pretty sturdy and able to support robust plants burdened with fruit.
- Tall enough to support taller indeterminate tomato plants.
- Made of galvanized steel which makes them rust-resistant.
As for the cons, there are some, when compared to remesh. Livestock panel is a bit more expensive than remesh. You’ll need to fork out $20 for buying material for just one cage, whereas a remesh roll will cost as little as $7 per cage.
Remesh or concrete reinforcement wire is also a great material to build a strong tomato cage. Here are the pros:
- Remesh is a product used in construction, so it’s both flexible and sturdy. It’s easier to bend than a livestock panel, though not as sturdy, yet it’s more rigid than other wire fencing rolls.
- You might need two rolls of remesh one on top of the other to make tomato cages tall enough for indeterminate tomatoes.
- It’s easily storable since you can unroll your cages during the winter months and store them as sheets.
And as for the cons, the remesh material isn’t rust-resistant so it will rust. Another downside is that the unrefined edges can be sharp which is why you want to be careful to avoid any injury.
Build Your Own Tomato Cages
How to Build Livestock Panel Tomato Cages?
To build tomato cages using livestock panels you’ll need:
- A 16 ft. long x 4 ft. wide livestock panel (the product is available at DIY and tractor supply stores)
- A pair of bolt cutters
- A few zip ties
A 16 x 4 ft. panel will allow you to build solid size tomato cages that are wide enough so that there is enough room for each tomato in cage.
You’ll be able to create one cage from a single panel. If you follow the steps below, you’ll get cages 4.6 feet high.
Importantly, you can improvise with height to make taller tomato support if needed. For indeterminate tomatoes, cages are advised to be up to 10 feet high.
Count the squares along the width of the livestock panel (there should be nine to start with). Then cut away three squares so you end up with a panel that’s six squares wide.
This is what you’ll need to create your tomato cage.
Now you’re all set to deal with the length. Standing at the end of the long panel, count nine squares and cut all the way across just above the horizontal bar. You’ll end up with full six squares of width and full eight squares of length with protruding prongs.
These prongs will serve as legs that you’ll use to drive the cage into the ground around your tomato plant.
To make the prongs even deeper cut the horizontal bars one level up as demonstrated below. This will make the tomato cages more stable.
Repeat step two on the other side of the panel. You can use what’s left of the livestock panel in the middle for other garden purposes.
Once you do that, you have the two pieces you need to build support for one tomato plant.
Next, you need to come up with a way to bend the two pieces. A good solution here is to use a long wooden beam.
Take the first livestock panel and place the beam in the middle of it. Make sure three squares are on one side of the beam and three on the other. Bend the panel up until you reach a 90-degree angle.
Repeat this process with the other piece.
Turn each panel so it’s facing up and straighten any stray prongs. This will ease the installment process as the prongs will go in evenly when you stick them into the ground.
Take the two panels and insert them around your plants one after another so they make up a square structure.
To make your tomato cages firm and stable use zip ties to secure them. This step is advisable but optional.
How to Build Remesh Tomato Cages?
To build tomato cages made of remesh you’ll need:
- A roll of remesh
- A pair of gloves
- A pair of bolt cutters (optional)
- A pair of zip ties (optional)
Making tomato cages out of remesh is a matter of some cutting and some rolling. The remesh product is easy to find in any hardware store or home improvement store. You can get it in a roll so you design your tomato cages any size you prefer.
If you want to keep it simple and find a way around cutting the remesh, get pre-cut 7 by 3.5-foot panels. A panel of this size will render you tomato cages that are 3.5 feet high. To get a higher cage, you can attach two cages on top of the other.
To start making your cage, roll your remesh into a cylinder. A 7 by 3.5-foot panel will make a cage 27 inches wide. Now, this may be too large for typical tomato plant spacing.
To get a cage smaller in diameter:
- Overlap one row of the remesh squares before you secure a cage into a cylinder. This will give you a tomato cage with a 24-25 inch diameter.
- Overlap two rows of squares. This will give you a tomato cage with a 22-inch diameter.
To make sure your tomato plants stand strong, you want to ensure your cages are solid. To do this, cut the horizontal bars at the bottom so you leave prongs that will serve as a ground anchor.
This anchor will be around 6 inches long, just like in the image below.
Next, use zip ties to secure your cages so they stay in a cylinder shape. Alternatively, cut your remesh so you leave tag ends which you’ll use for securing.
Bend them into loops to secure your cages, just like in the image below.
Now, you’re all set to install your tomato cages. Drive your cages into the ground while making sure each tomato plant is centered within the cage.
Add a wooden or a PVC garden stake to add more stability. Drive them at least a foot into the ground. Then, use zip ties to attach them to your cages.
Your Next Step
It’s as simple as that to build cages for tomatoes and keep your tomato plants from
sprawling on the ground.
Now you have everything you need to get started with your DIY project. And it’s really easy.
Use the ideas above for inspiration and then start building tomato cages your tomatoes will love.
For what it’s worth, you’ll have a great alternative to the generic store-bought product. A tomato cage that’s cost-effective, strong, and sturdy.