bflocat
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Debate over Tomato Cages - Opinions?

The only times I've ever planted tomatoes, I used the cages, and I thought they worked great. But I've heard a lot of people complain about them. I'm about to plant 10 various heirloom plants this season, and I'm now starting to wonder whether I should plan to use the cages.

What are people's experiences and opinions on the use of the cages?

Daphne
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I have always used tomato cages. If I didn't do something to protect the plants, between the birds and the rabbits, my tomato plants would never survive long enough to bear fruit.

I know it's more popular to stake them but for me, that's not practical.

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atascosa_tx
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I too have always used tomato cages. Those little ones that are shaped like cones are best used with pepper plants, but not tomatoes because they can easily outgrow them.
I make the cages out of Concrete Reinforced Wire about 5 foot tall and 2 1/2 wide. I like them because I don't have to bother with the staking and pruning of the tomatoes. I just plop the cage over them, stake down the cage, and as the plant grows I tuck the growing vines to the next level of the cage.
Works like charm. If there was any complaint it would be the storage..storing 35 tomato cages isn't easy, but it's worth it.

Margie
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I plant only heirloom tomatoes and I use both cages and tall, thick stakes. (about 8 feet tall - available at nurseries) I like the cages because they kind of contain the tomato before it really gets going. Then I just tie it up to the tall "stake."

opabinia51
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Tomatoe cages don't work for Semideterminate or indeterminate tomatoe plants they can work okay for Determinate but, I have found that even determinate tomatoes will outgrow the cages to. A cedar stake seems to work best. And on the advice of a friend of mine I use old nylons to tie them to the stake.

However, tomatoe cages work great for pepper plants.

jrm3bean
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Can I top the plants? No matter what I do, they grow > 8f

Garden is in San Diego, south side of the house. Fertilized w fish emulsion and chicken poop. I use cages I made from wire mesh (used for reinforcing concrete slabs). The cages stand about 5.5 feet high, 2 feet wide. Every year my plants grow tons of wonderful fruit, but they become unwieldy, growing at least 3 feet higher and then drape over the edges of the 5.5ft cages. It becomes difficult to watch for bugs and ultimately to find the fruit. I don't usually see much fruit past the 5 foot height. Can I prune them at the top now or will that kill the plants? They are currently 2-4 ft, w flowers, some green fruit.
Thanks for your help.

opabinia51
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Ah yes, suckering would help you there. What you want is one major stalk with individual branches growing away from the stalk. That will keep the sunlight on your fruit and make it easier to find your fruit as well.


Pinch the suckers away from between the main branches the the stem.
Feed the soil, not the plants.

Brandywinegirl
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Burpee has great tomato cages. They are about $30.00 for four cages. They won't fall over when there is a heavy wind or rain like the cone shaped ones. They are great for peppers & eggplant - that's it. Thirteen of my seventeen tomato plants are heirloom, so I will be buying more of them since I am finding out from the forum that the heirlooms grow large!

:)
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praying mantis
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This is my first year growing anything but my 8 tomato plants are on a 4 ft high trellis of 4 stakes bound by hemp cording 6 inches apart over a 10 x 2.5 ft raised bed. My friend manages an organic, cooperative farm. I have seen the trellis ladden with fruit. It seems to work well for training the branches into rows, giving everyone enough sun and keeping the fruit off the ground. It sounds as though I didn't make them tall enough.

Does anyone have an opinion on when to stop pinching flowers?

opabinia51
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Yes, I'm not sure where this flower pinching idea came from; from what I've heard, practised, seen and discussed with other professionals all pinching tomatoe flowers does is decrease your tomatoe crop. So, I'd say probably best to stop now.

Also to help prevent blossom end rot crush eggshells around your tomatoe plants.

Have fun Gardening!
Feed the soil, not the plants.

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JennyC
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Hm. Soundls like I can expect my tomatoes to outgrow the five foot dog wire I'd planned to cage them with. As I have a big roll of leftover dogwire and don't have any stakes or premade cages, though, I think I may try it anyway. I guess I could turn the wire on its side and make taller cages since I have a roll. What diameter do tomato cages need to be (roughly)?

I have my first tomato coming along! It's about golf-ball size now, still green, of course.
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JennyC
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So, the "dogwire" in the shed turned out instead to be hogwire (much, much heavier) left over from the garden fence. I now have a trellis of hog wire, sort of an A frame of wire bent over two rows of romas (which I planted as seeds in the garden, and which are now over a foot tall!)

There was much struggling with the incredibly heavy roll of hogwire (a pulley was involved) and much difficulty cutting it until my husband finally resorted to lock cutters. I didn't realise what was going on (I was weeding), or I'd have suggested giving it up and staking instead, but I don't think we'll have any trouble with the trellis being strong enough to support the tomatoes!

I transplanted some determinate tomato plants also; staked those with some of our native bamboo that had died back.
Jenny C

Rowlett Don
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staking tomato plants

I cut 3 pieces 4' using 1&1/2" PVC pipe. Place them by the root ball about 8" away and use them to hold up the plant. If they are close enough you won't have to tie them at all. Much cheeper than cages and the plant can get good air and sun

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tomakers
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I like the CRW cages best. I have been using them for over 30 years.
I cut 5' sections giving a 17+" diameter and cut off the bottom strand so it can be stuck in the ground. I plant 6' apart and any that grow too large I just let fall over the sides. Most of the time any that fall over can be just picked up with little damage. When it does happen I stake that particular cage with a 6' stake tied on with a couple of plastic ties. I think last year I only had to stake 4 out of 36 cages.
You can also get 10' sections besides the 150' roll ($124, bought today, I didn't price the sections).
Those cone shaped cages are only suitable for peppers, but they do a wonderful job with them.
JMO,
Tom

debra630
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:D I use steel 8 ft stakes place in tee-pee fashion, tied together with strong thick string. Then i wrap a long strand of string down the middle of the "tee-pee" and wrap this string around the main stem of the tomato plant. Because tomatoes are vines they grow right up the string!
I use the round tomato cage the first time I grew tomatoes and they grew right up, out and over the silly things.
I only use tomato cages for either peas or peppers.
Try my method and you'll be very happy. this method also works for cucumbers and green beans.
keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.
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cheshirekat
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I don't use cages. I just use a few stakes and twine. This year, I'm not sure yet how I will stake my upside-down tomatoes. I'm just waiting to see how they grow. Some gardeners I know say they haven't had to stake their upside-down tomatoes.

I have a couple tomato plants in the ground next to a fence. When they get big enough, I'll tie them to the fence. I always seem to have a need to buy more stakes, so I never run out of them when they are needed. I was tempted to buy cages but so far when the time comes around, I reach for the stakes and my twine.
"Love all God's creatures, the animals, the plants. Love everything to perceive the divine mystery in all." -Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Mommagreen
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I just use stakes, I find it cheaper and easier to use. :)
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Reptilicus
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This year I tried to use big 4x4 posts with twine strung up between them. I tied up the plants to the twine. It basically didn't work as well as I had hoped. I of course didn't know how to 'sucker' or trim them so they are just wild.

I did get another crop going that I've staked up. It seems that they are going well.

I did get this great book about tomatoes. The dude is a record holder for tomatoes. I will try his method next year. He stakes the plant up and uses a cage. Of course his plants grow to the 20ft +/- high.

Here's the book. It's an interesting read and the technique can be applied to other crops & trees....
https://www.amazon.com/How-Grow-World-Record-Tomatoes/dp/0911311572/ref=pd_bbs_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1213701206&sr=1-2

jay695
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I have used homemade tomato cages for the last five years

I use homemade tomato cages made of 6" x 6" concrete wiremesh with 6 ft height. The cages they sell at Lowes and Home Depot are too little for my tomato plants.

I tried staking. But it is too much of work, continuously tying the plants to the stake.

I grow indeterminate types.

Here is a picture from my blog.
[url]https://yourhomegardenblog.com/vegetable-gardening/constructing-tomato-cages-using-wire-mesh[/url]

[img]https://yourhomegardenblog.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/tomato_with_wire_mesh_cage2.jpg[/img]

2cents
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Have you seen the 5 foot cone shaped tomato cage that came out last season?
I tried them, and although still a little short, they are much better than the old 3 foot cone cages.

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Loving the rewire cages jay; especially good for really wild ones and probaly a good deal cheaper. Nice!

I've been caging and whacking back the indeterminates to suit; not particularly elegant but it works...Have tried Patio Prize the past two yeaers and am very impressed with fruit set on a three foot tall plant; wicked tight as we say in this neck of the woods; a great tomato for those with size constraints. The pear type are smaller as well...

I'm going to try and "espalier" a cherry type (maybe 'Matt's Wild Cherry') up a wire trellis this year; waddaya think?

HG
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hendi_alex
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I use concrete re-inforcing wire and love it. Run a wire between two posts and through each of the cages, never have to worry about the wind. This year I'm goin to experiment with cutting some of the re-inforcing wire long ways such that the baskets are six to seven feet tall. Will cut a narrow band and twist tie to expand the circumference such that the basket is about 2 foot diameter. Alternatively may simply cut one basket in half and twist tie that to a full sized basket. The extention will give a 7-8 foot basket. The extension may be secured by simply wrapping the cut raw ends around the end of the basket to be extended. Will post photos and comments relating to ease of conversion and how well this works.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
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jay695
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The aspect that I love most about the cages is that once it is placed around the plant, there is absolutely no additional work - OK, I agree sometimes I may have to discipline a wayward branch back to the cage.

When I was using stakes, it was a constant struggle to keep the plant attached to the stake - every weekend I spent a lot of time tying the fast growing plant to the stake.

My cages are about 5 years old now. I think they will last another 10 to 15 years.

During off season I hang them horizontally under the deck.

2cents
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Concrete reinforcement cages last upto 30 years.
I poured concrete for a company right out of HS 1979.
I did a couple side jobs, left the excess wire at Dad's place.
1980 he made around 20 cages, his are/were 3 foot diameter.
He still has 2 left that have not rusted out.

TZ -OH6
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I have about 70 feet of trellis from old stock fencing, hung on electrical conduit pipes, a couple of garden rows with 6'-7' stakes (about 16-20 staked plants, and a couple dozen CRW cages (those commercial cone things cannot be used for tomatoes). The cages are by far the easiest thing to use and well worth the money, but you have to get the big roll of wire home, which is the hardest part. Making them is fast and easy, but you have to buy a bolt cutter.

Venomous_1
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I use the 'Florida Weave'. That is how commercial tomato farmers grow them and it works well for me.

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DO tell Venomous...

How does one weave tomatoes? Inquiring minds want to know... :)

HG
Scott Reil

Venomous_1
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You can get a better picture in your head if you Google 'Florida Weave' and look at some pics, but here's my best description:

I make a row of say 10 tomato plants spaced 3' apart. I place a T-Post on each end and between every othe plant. Anotherwards: T-Post...Plant...Plant...T-Post...Plant...Plant...etc.

Do not use the flimsy metal posts because they just wont hold. I then string, using degradable twine, starting about 6" off the ground from one end to the other. As I pass each T-Post I wrap the twine around the T-Post. When I get to the other end a come back down the row, this time wrapping the twine on the opposite side of each T-post.

Now, what you end up with is twine run 6" off the ground and spaced apporximately 2" apart. You run another run of twine about every 6"-8" up the T-Posts as the plants grow. Stay ahead of the plants!

As the plants grow, simply 'weave' them between the strings of twine. The twine is somewhat flexible and you can pull it apart and move limbs up fairly easily as needed.

Now I use the 6' T-Post AND I attach another stake to them so that I can achieve the 6'-7' I need for my Better Boys.

Using this meathod you can also put down black plastic prior to planting and virtually eliminate weeding. Plus, the plants are easy to weave, easy to walk around and get to all sides, etc. If I need to keep the plants from moving side to side I simply take an old fashioned clothespin and clip it to the twine lines. This allows me to easily adjust my plants as they grow.

Sounds complicated, but it's really not that bad. Hey...works for me.

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Thank you Venomous! I now know what you are talking about and indeed have seen this done. Thanks for giving me the moniker to put to it...

HG
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rainbowgardener
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tomato cages

I like tomato cages for their ease. Because the tomatoes do outgrow them, I use them double, one stacked on top of the other, open end to open end. I just hook the two open ends together with twisty ties. Works pretty well to make a tall cage....

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hendi_alex
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Rainbowgardener, glad to see your post on that. Don't know if you read my earlier post on the matter, but intend to try the stacking and twist tie arrangement. Will likely cut the stacked section in half just to extend the height by a little over two feet. Anyway, thanks, glad to see that the method works for you.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
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I agree Alex; Rainbows solution is beautiful in its simplicity (as all the best ideas are).

Nice post, RG! :D

HG
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atascosa_tx
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I still choose to use the CRW cages,,,no pruning involved. I have tried the staking method, but too much effort in re-tying the growing vines..but to each his own...do what works for you.

[img]https://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g187/atascosa_tx/CRWcages.jpg[/img]

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Earl K
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Tomato cages,here is my story.I have stated that this is my first year growing,she did two years ago,i didnt get into it.So i get into attic a few months ago to get cages down and when i look at them they have no legs which go into soil to support them..........hmmmmmm,oh yeah,i now remember cutting them off during x-mas time to use as stakes to hold down decorations in the yard,(neighbor is like Mr.griswald so i have to try to keep up)Well,i have made them work,a little shorter but are doing their job supporting my three tom. plants and have one around a zuchini plant but that is another story,theyre so big they look like elephant ears.time to transplant them already,wow.well, yes i do use cages just a littlle modified,keep on growing and love every minute of it...

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Nice garden atascosa; I am envious of the space (that would be half my backyard, or pretty close...)

Earl if you got new ones you could wire the legless ones to the top of the new ones...

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Gary350
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I have tried it both ways, cages and no cages. There are advantages and disadvantages both ways. When I lived in town I had a large yard with a large garden I would plant 60 tomato plants and let them grow across the ground. Advantage was, it was a lot less work not to deal with cages and not to weed and till the rows. Disadvantage was the crop was smaller and I lots a few tomatoes to turtles and rabbits. Crop is 6 to 10 bushels depending on the weather.

At the new house I have a small yard and a small garden. I plant 24 tomatoe plants each year and cage them all. When the tomato plants get large the cages turn over and fall on the ground so I have to stake the cages. I can till between the rows when the plants are small to keep the weeds down but when the plants get large I have to hoe by hand. My crop is larger and I don't loose many tomatoes to rabbits. Crop is 6 to 8 bushels depending on the weather.

I have also tried staking tomatoes with twine. Put a 6' tall stake at the end of each row and 1 in the middle. Run a rope across the top from stake to stake. Hammer a 10" long stake in the ground at each tomato plant. Tie a twine string on each 10" stake then run the twine up to the rope at the top and tie it on. Leave the twine a little pit loose don't pull it tight. About once a week wrap the twine around the tomato plant to hold it up. It is very easy just give the twine a twist around each plant. Plants stay up better than cages and the rows are easy to till. 24 plants crop will be about 6 to 8 bushels.

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hendi_alex
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It takes me about 15 minutes to secure my baskets so that they don't fall over. Put a post at each end of the row. Place an eye screw in each post near the top level of the basets. Run a wire, like antenna cable from eye to eye, looping through the top section of each basket. Take a short piece of flexble wire, mine are short pieces of scrap copper wire, and twist tie the side of each basket to the cable to prevent sliding along the wire. Since starting this method, a tomato cage has never fallen over. Developed this technique after many years of trying to stake or weight the cages.

This photo shows the cages and posts from last year.

[img]https://farm4.static.flickr.com/3190/2629650234_d80c900ce1.jpg[/img]
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
Alex

jay695
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To solve the falling over problem, I use 4 feet rebars driven halfway to the ground. Four such rebars were used per cage.

I have followed this approach for the last five years. Never had a falling over problem. But I have only 4 tomato cages.

A picture of this approach is shown below:

[img]https://yourhomegardenblog.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/tomato_cage.jpg[/img]

James282
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Instead of starting a new thread, I thought I'd just make a post here.

I have a problem with my tomato cages...they are miserably small, and the plants are so intertwined in them that my one attempt to upgrade to a bigger cage was a near disaster. They are the conical kind where the bottom is the four metal poles that almost meet in the middle. Some of my plants are already peeking out of the top...I am pretty worried!

So one thing I tried was placing another, much taller, sturdier cage on the south side of my biggest plant. Will the plant be able to hold its weight on a cage in this way? What other sorts of solutions are out there? All of my tomatoes are on the edge of raised beds, by the way.

Thanks, and great thread here for those who might have missed it!

James

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I'd probably think about stakes and lines and a Florida weave at this point James... easiest, cheapest, best solution... Alex's way is great if your cages were the right size, but as they are not, you are going to need more support. Do it right this time and you will be set for life...

HG
Scott Reil

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