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I need new cages this year. I don't want to keep buying junk over and over again, I want to invest in some really good, strong cages. Galvanized!!! I see many of my seed catalogs offer them. I am gonna need a lot and some are very expensive. It would be worth it to never have to buy them again! Some of my heirlooms say they get 7 feet tall!!! WOW! Any suggestions?
I like the green wired-triangle cages you Buy at Home Depot. Lowes has similar cages but the wire is really thin.
Let me try to explain why I like them.
1. They store really well. In fact I can fold them and make them flat.
2. I have been collected them in the past 5 years. I buy some every year. Now I have a lot of them.
3. It is easy to harvest going trough the wires with your hands, without scratching ... I also can easily go through holding a clipper in my hand.
4. They are easy to set up and to remove.
I secure them to the soil with a 6' long wood stick. When I am sure that we will not have any danger of frost, I run around the cages with a twine. So now I have a very strong 6' tall cages full of support.
When I pass by the cages I just push inside any branches that is trying to pop out.
By June-July the plants are really tall and I start to train the vine horizontally at the very top. In this way I found out that the plant does produce more tomatoes.
Here is the link for Texas Tomato cages- someone in our Community garden had them last year- they are awesome! I bet he paid $400 for what he had, and his tomatoes were the puniest I have ever seen! But the cages were nice~
great ideas here. I think I'll give homemade a shot, very cost effective! I've been to the Texas tomato cage site but they are way expensive! I wish I could afford them. Thanks so much for everyones input!
Here's another vote for concrete reinforcing wire cages. I have cages that are 4-5 years old that will still be good for several more years. The cost is reasonable. They are more difficult to store if you have very many. I have a single carport roof filled with a stack of the 60 or so cages that I have now.
I bought the tomato ladders from Gardeners Supply. They come in 4' sections, so you can keep adding on to the tops. I had one tomato over 11' tall last year-I think I had 4 sections on that one! GS also sells the large wire square ones that you can stack as well. Both are good and easy to store. Sometimes the ladders are hard to separate.
Last year, and again this spring, both HD & Lowe's has a painted tomato cage that is the thick wire like the remesh steel others have talked about. They were only about $6 each and they are very sturdy. The wire is about twice the thickness of the galvanized cages. If I remember they have 4 colors, red, green, blue & yellow. I"ll have to look through my pics to see if I can find them again since they've been sent to a friend to get her garden going...
You can also use cattle panels. And I have the guys at Tractor Supply cut them into the lengths I wanted. You have to hit TS when they aren't busy to get them to do that. This will add to the 101 uses for cattle panels list going on another thread.
Please excuse the off topic post, but if I don't ask now I'll forget...
hornstrider, how far apart do you plant your caged tomatoes. I usually use Florida weave for my determinates and that works fine at 18 to 24 inches apart. But DH has convinced me to use cages for the indies as they get all messy with the FW. This will be the first time I've used cages myself as I have a tomato cage phobia...when I was a little kid I was picking tomatoes out of cages for my aunt. I picked a tomato and when I drew my hand out I also came out with a huge poisonous spider. It did no bite me as I totally froze. My aunt was a nurce and she freaked out as she told me I could have been killed and on and on. So I've never gone near a tomato cage again. DH has promised to check all cages for spiders so I will give them a try as it will be less messy looking and the dogs can't have such easy access to eat the tomatoes off the vines. But can't decide how far apart to plant the future caged tomatoes.
OK, back to the cage topic. I'm securing mine with T-posts and we have those already.
My vote is for concrete re-mesh, too. Very long life, sturdy, inexpensive, easy access to the inside to pick tomatoes. Useful too for beans, peas, even some squash. To me, the only downside is storage; they do take up space in the off-season.
Don't get me wrong, I also have 3 sheets of the remesh steel that I used for cuke & cantalope trellis. The mesh size is GREAT for pulling cukes from the outside. I also cut the panels to 18" X 84" tall triangles and used them around some cherry tomatoes last year. I was really planning on using the cattle panels from TS like Terri stated before. My difference was using them to make an A-frame trellis, with the panel bent in half, making an 8' tall trellis. A piece of rebar on the side about halfway up would reinforce it. I would also stagger the cuke plants, 2 inside & 2 outside. The only time you really have to work with them is in the very beginning when you train them to go up the trellis.
The painted tomato cages that I found just were much thicker and better looking than the cheapie, thin galvanized that you find all over the place. They look to be an epxoy or powder coated, and they look like the day I bought them last year. With some care I would expect 5 years or more service, so I think they would be a fairly good investment, and they stack as tall as you would want them in a small space.
They do come in some pretty colors too. I must be the only one that let's cukes sprawl. I've found some huge ones stuck in the fence months after they should have been picked. These were Chinese yellow so I don't know how I missed them. Now if the weather stays warm maybe the ones I direct seeded a week ago will sprout.
This is off topic for tomato cages, but, I have an alternate approach on my cucumbers. Rather than trellis or sprawl, I grow "bush" varieties for both pickle type and salad type cucumbers. I plant more densely than one would with the vine type, and seem to do okay on the production.
I really like 48 inch tall, flexible, galvanized fence wire secured to T posts. IT DOESN'T RUST like concrete reinforcing wire. I got a 130 foot roll for about $145 at the local farm supply store and made 50 cages with a 2 foot diameter. $3.00 a cage is cheap, and they look good forever (at least as long as I will need them)! You can cut the wire with standard fencing wire cutters.
They did used to make fencing with larger openings, but animals have a tendency to get their heads or feet stuck in the larger openings. Here in Texas a kid with his head stuck in the fence in prime lunch for coyotes.
terri_emory...I try to space my plants approx 3.5 feet apart. In the video below you can see the spacing better.The bed are 10 feet long. I used to try 4 plants per bed, but it made harvesting very difficult because the plants go so big I could not get to the plant. I also use plastic to protect my plants from the wind, Dreaves can tell you about the Hutto winds...I believe he does something similar. I use re-bar to secure the cages, and you can see in the video what will happen if you don't secure w/ re-bar...lost three plants...sorry to hear about the spiders...one of the hazards of gardening...critters like spiders, snakes, bees, wasps, hornets
Thanks, hornstrider. I'll check out the video on break. I think the spider/cage thing is really just because I was a little kid and was compounded by my aunt making such a huge fuss about it-bless her heart.
And I have those winds and my place, too. Almost constant with gusts up to 35-40 mph through spring. Storms can bring even rougher gusts. It is just some sort of microclimate. Our land must be positioned right in a wind tunnel running between Lake Fork and Lake Tawakoni down to the Sabine River. We are only a few mile from each of these. That is why your system of cages and plastice appeals to me. I'll stick with the Florida Weave for the determinates for now as that is working fine.
One of the plans for the tomatoes this year was to use an overhead string trellis. I've plenty of 5 gallon buckets to fill with concrete and a 4X4 post to make the end anchors. I can make them to fit the garden and they can be adjusted fairly easily. A guy-wire set to the T-posts on the fence will give the top pull to keep wire top wire tight for the reels to sit on. I'm also on the top of a hill, and we deal with wind on a constant basis, and the days of no wind are few & far between.
We have vicious spring winds in central Texas. I wrap my cages in the thin, sticky plastic sold by U-Haul as "Mover's Wrap." That doesn't block the sun too much, but protects the small seedlings from being battered by the wind. The plastic only lasts one year, but I think it makes a difference. The photo below is from last year. This year, I'm only wrapping the plastic for the bottom 18" of the cage. The shorter height still protects the plants, but doesn't catch as much wind when we get really high winds. I don't stake each cage. Instead I drive a heavy T-Post on both ends of the row then string a heavy wire between posts, at the same height as the top of the cages. Each cage gets a couple of zip ties from the top wire to the wire between posts to provide stability. I'll take a picture later. I couldn't find any from previous years on my computer. Once the tomatoes are big enough to stand the wind, I trim the plastic off except the bottom 6 inches. I use that as a watering ring around the plant the same way Ozark uses the half 5-gallon buckets around his plants.
I found another picture of the cages in use, a little further along in the year. These don't show the overhead wire, since I hadn't yet put it in place. It does show the cut-down plastic and the pulled up hills to help retain the water. I didn't realize how far behind I am this year until I found this picture. It was taken at the end of April last year. I don't think the little plants I put in the ground this week will look like this in two weeks!
Hey, dreaves--I like your plastic and the overhead line ideas. Here in SE AZ, we get windy as H E double hockey sticks in March thru May or so. I use rebar bent into a J shape to stake the cages, tent peg like, but your idea sounds better yet. I still vote for concrete remesh. Five years and still going for some of my cages and, heck, the rust just adds iron to the soil. $100 for a 150 foot roll (5 feet tall) is CHEAP and the large mesh size makes easy 'mater pickin'.
David- I know how far behind I am. But last year we didnt have a cold front come thru ever week at least not in April. With these temps even the plants that are out won't grow as fast. Lol when I looked at the forecast for next week I just rolled my eyes.
My tomatoes won't be ready for cages for a bit, yet. So I'll probably be building them Sunday afternoon. Since I still have a pile of the cattle panels left here when we bought the land, and DH has the cutting tools, I'll be using those. Free is alway good. That wire idea is a real good one. I'll figure something out.
You can use the bottom row of the cattle panel to stick in the ground the same way I do the concrete mesh. Use your bolt cutter to cut the bottom row of horizontal rod on the panel. That will leave vertical spices on the bottom of the panel piece that can be forced into the ground. Then you only have to stabilize the panels, not drive stakes or other anchors.
I do that for trellis panels for sugar snap peas and vining cucumbers. Works great!
David... By looking at your pics, I'd venture to say you have the 6 guage wire mesh. The thicker 10 guage, is about the same thickness as the wire for the cattle panels. I feel the 10 guage is much more stable for making the cages we're talking about. I do know the 10 guage is much more expensive. I would even think about using it for cuke & cantalope trellis. What's nice is I have some mesh produce bags to use for the market. I was going to use them for putting the cantalopes on the trellis to support them, and grow them in the bags.
I like the idea of wrapping the plastic around the base of the cage. U-Haul has the 15" or 21" rolls of plastic for about $20 for a 1,000 foot roll. That would really help me out, with our place on the top of the hill.
well I think I'm gonna splurge on a 6 pack of the Texas cages, but that won't be nearly enough so I'm gonna look for a roll of the galvanized fence and some rebar and make the rest. The Texas cages should last forever and the fence can be used for all kinds of things which is good because I don't plan on having this many tomatoes (25 or so) every year. I have cheap fence around the garden now to keep out critters, but this is year 3 useing it and showing some serious wear so I can reuse the fence for that! all my old scrappy cages (way to small) I'll use for peppers until they are completely shot. So everything is going to have a purpose. Also I'm gonna make the galvanized fence ones first because if I do a good job and like them I'll nix the super expensive Texas. It is still cold here so I have time to shop around a little for the fence, but I think Farm and Fleet is my best bet.
Thanks everyone for the advice and ideas. I am so so sick of replacing tomatoes cages every year!
Would the small, disintegrating cages be worthwhile if you repaired them and stacked them on top of each other with partial overlap, and knitted them together securely with some heavy gauge galvanised wire?
I guess they would always look kind of Dog-patched.
Wehn I have two flimsy pots crack and start to fall a part, I n est them and make one g ood pot out of two flimsy ones.
well the smallest ones are so cheap they were bending under the weight of the fruit late in the season. The green 3 panels triangle one that fold, I'm gonna try to fix up and use for peas this year. They were new last year and just started coming apart when I tried to get the plants out of them and ready to store. I don't know how to explain it but the panels were just loosely hooked together and when one came off all pieces just fell apart. putting them back together is gonna be like a puzzle. of course some aren't even salvagable. You know, the ones I verbally abused, stomped on, and threw against the garage :)
The big problem with the round tomato cages is they dont have enough rings on them, and they are a little short. Those green triangle cages you see at Wal-Mart are made of the same thickness wire as the galvanized round ones, and they are just too light for decent sized tomato plants. I would use one of the Ultimato Stakes in the center as a support, and the cage to help the plant stay somewhat confined, even with the heavier cages from HD & Lowe's. The coating, either an epoxy paint or powder coating, will make those cages last for years, and the thicker wire SHOULDN'T give out.
I believe we've all made the mistake buying the thin wire cages, and we all learn from these forum discussions. If one person is helped by our insights then it's time well spent at the keyboard.