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PVC Cage for Earthbox

Hampstead, NC(Zone 8a)

Many of you are growing tomatoes in Earthboxes, so you may be interested in the cage in the image.

If anyone wishes it I have a plan by the original designer (Nancy Silver) and the dimensions that I used with the Earthbox....she originally used it on the Gardeners Supply Self Watering Containers. I built mine out of 3/4" PVC because here in NC we have high winds at the coast (60 mph this last week) and our season is longer so if you are growing indeterminants you may want to go higher.

works great, and can be extended as high as you wish. it is not necessary to glue the joints so it can be taken apart and stored at the end of the year, and washed/sterilized if you wish.

Michael

Thumbnail by jmhewitt
Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

*very* clever!

New York & Terrell, TX(Zone 8b)

Michael,

I'm very, very interested in these! How do I get the plans?

~* Robin

Hampstead, NC(Zone 8a)

Here is a diagram that Nancy made. Her diagram refers to the Garden Supply cages and she used 1/2" PVC, and her cages were not very tall. her C dimension is 6.75 " and mine was 12, so her cages reached only about 40" above the box. my C dimension is 12" so mine currently top off at about 60" above the box (they might go up another 12" if necessary, but that is as high as I can reach to harvest). I use a lot more PVC than she does, and mine is 3/4" PVC.

all the PVC joints can be obtained most cheaply at www.plumbingsupply.com

the boxes are perfectly stable at their new height. I did make one addition on my last box that was sort of on a slope: I used a T on the bottom of both ends of one of the lowest A pieces on the ground, and put about a 6" piece of PVC below the base. that entire assembly then was pounded into the ground, giving an absolutely stable platform. next year I will do this on all my cages.

Nancy did not need to do this because I think she used them on a level surface, perhaps her driveway?

To continue, the pieces that are next to the cage are D, and they need to be the correct height to make the cage hug the box....the box actually becomes a part of the cage structure.

My dimensions for the PVC pipe pieces for the Garden Supply cages are::
A: 19 1/8"
B: 15"
C: 12"
D: 10 1/4"

My dimensions for the PVC pipe pieces used for the Earthbox are:
A: 15 1/4"
B: 17"
C: 12"
D: 10 1/2"

get a rubber hammer to set the PVC pieces in the couplings....no glue needed.

good luck, and if you have any questions or results, please post them on this thread.

Michael

Thumbnail by jmhewitt
Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

Michael....very cool. I think my engineering spouse my like to make this for me. thanks, Michelle

Tucson, AZ(Zone 9a)

Nice cage... I will try something like that next year. You might need to paint the PVC. The sun destroys it in this part of the country.

New York & Terrell, TX(Zone 8b)

Michael,

Thank you.

~* Robin

Auburn, AL(Zone 8a)

Newatplants can I borrow your spouse? Cause I'm pretty sure MY engineering spouse isn't going to touch that project with a 10ft pole! I'm going to wait during the fall and winter for the after halloween and Christmas sales on the tubs (I mean who cares if it's orange or red) and make several boxes for next year. DH might not know it yet but he gets to help. I think the only difference I'd make is I'm going to use the plastic tubs with wheels or figure out how to attach some so I'd have to also find a way to attach the cage. It's a pain but with the weather we have here I have to be able to drag/roll them in under the shelter when we have those pounding rain storms. We had one last night and my poor lime tree was almost beat to death.

Saint

Hampstead, NC(Zone 8a)

You could attach this cage to the tub if you glued the bottom connections. then it would be attached until you cut them off. or maybe glue most of them, but not all, so it is still removable.

I also think it might be possible to modify the base of this cage to support the sides of a bigger home-made E*box.....many have complained that the sides bow out, and then the potting mix falls down into the water. if you constructed a girdle with these pipes you might be able to prevent this.

Michael

San Jose, CA(Zone 9a)

I am new to EB's and just filled mine this past WE and then saw these directions. Do you think I could lift one of my boxes with tomatoe plants and get the PVC under it?
Also the sizes given for the EB support...does that need (4) 10' sections of PVC too?
Thanks...Margie

Hampstead, NC(Zone 8a)

Margie: yes, I lifted all my E*Boxes to sit on the supports, but only one end at a time. I made the two U pieces that fit under the box, and then slid them under, then turned them vertical and attached the rest of the structure that I had pre-assembled. for some, my DW helped me, and that made it easier.

Also, Nancy Slver used 4 10' sections of 1/2 "PVC for HER dimensions, which were for the Boston area. My tomatoes (and I suspect yours as well) get taller, so I made my cages taller and of 3/4" PVC, and thus will use quite a bit more PVC. when I do the calculations I get 423" of 3/4" PVC. this would mean you need to buy 5 10' lengths....I used 20' lengths which were cheaper.

Michael

San Jose, CA(Zone 9a)

Thanks alot Michael...I think I will get them this week and make the support!

Inverness, FL(Zone 9a)

Very nice. I Ilike it. I have one suggestion. Switch the T connectors out with X connectors. Then if you get some plants that are really going crazy, you can just pop in a couple of 12" or so pieces of PVC with elbow connectors and a cross piece and one could have another support further out from the EB. I had some beefmasters take over this year, they are huge. I finally gave up and let them start sprawling. If I would have had your setup using X connectors. I could have added on additional supports on the fly. That would have been nice. Thanks for shareing this. Ed.

San Jose, CA(Zone 9a)

Ed...Great idea...maybe I will use it on mine!

Hampstead, NC(Zone 8a)

Actually, Ed, remember none of this stuff is glued, so you just have to pop off the top elbows and replace them with Ts.....as long as you do it BEFORE the mater is falling over the top rungs.

also, I don't want to go more than 12" higher than you see now, because of harvest problems....just let them dangle down is easier.

Inverness, FL(Zone 9a)

Hey Michael, I'm with you on the no glue. I'm looking at branches up around 10' right now on beefmasters and they don't seem to slowing down. They are really thick too. So thick I couldn't get into the main supports to add more ties, stakes or whatever, so I let the rest of them sprawl. If my experience with the EBs holds true next planting, it isn't a matter of "if you will need additional supports, just when". I'll put the Xs at each level, not just the top. These beefmasters just keep pumping out new branches at the lower levels that could use some support now that they are getting some pretty big maters on them. I've had a couple break off already. I have not figured out all the druthers yet, but I'll probably have 3', 2', and 1' extensions ready to go, with the longer ones at the lower levels. I'll probably use 1" schedule 40 PVC so it will stand up to those durn high thunderstorm (or if we are unlucky again -hurricane) winds. Stakes and guide wires are also probably in order. I just built a germination rack with the 1" sched 40 and it turned out to be nice and sturdy. If using the 1" I would recomment buying a good pair of ratchet action PVC/hose cutters. They will save you lots of time. I think I paid around $28 for the ones I got at Lowes.

Then again,maybe they don't need supports at all. Letting them sprawl doesn't seem to be hurting them. It's kind of neat, the branches crawl a foot or two on the ground an then turn and start growing straight up reaching for the sun. I'm finding out that these mater plants are pretty darn tough and might do a better job taking care of themselves in EBs (with the exception of filling up the water) than I can . They talk to me ----"Leave me alone, I know how to do this".

Great idea Michael. You solved the problem of how I was doing to support these things next planting. Thanks Ed

Hampstead, NC(Zone 8a)

Ed: thanks really go to Nancy SIlver, not me....

I also live in a hurricane area, so I have thought about that too. I don't really think there is anything we can do if we REALLY get hit - the winds will just toss over the Earthbox no matter how thick the PVC is.

I actually think the 3/4" is enough for any normal weather - have already been thru 60mph winds this spring! One inch PVC will be REALLY pricey...and I do use a rachet cutter.

one thing I am going to do next year is anchor all the cages into the ground like in the photo - about 8" below the T should be enough.

Michael

Thumbnail by jmhewitt
Inverness, FL(Zone 9a)

Michael - You got that right on the hurricanes. Our EBs could end up in the next county. I think I'll grab my engraver and put my name and phone # on the them. I like the idea of putting those anchors on the bottom, that would help a lot. Then maybe some eye bolts on the top and run a rope through all of them to anchors on each end of the row. Mine are in one line. With that setup Mr or Mrs Caine would probably just rip out the mater plants and send them to the next county. My grape got wind whipped pretty bad with 50+ gusts earlier this year. I though it was a goner with all the broken branches and white leaves, but the experts said leave it alone and it will probably come back by itself. It did and I've picked over 500 off it so far and it is still loaded with green ones. . Amazing, I thought it was ready for a one way trip to the compost pile.

Nancy Silver - Thank you for the plans

Ed

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

bump!

Dacula, GA(Zone 7b)

Gymgirl, Thanks for the bump. I don't use EBs but I think these plans could be adapted for use with raised bed boxes. Maybe pound rods into the ground to put the corner posts on or something. I like the idea that they are re-usable and easily taken apart. Becky

Westbrook, CT(Zone 6a)

I made two EB PVC cages 5 ft high last year and they worked quite well. I anchored them in the ground and used 6-inch risers. That used a bit more PVC and T connectors than the 12" risers mentioned above, but it gave more support to the tomato vine branches that stuck out beyond the cage. Don't pound the connections too tightly–I had to use a big pair of pliers to separate some of mine when I disassembled the cages.

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