Thursday, March 2, 2017

Making Tomato Cages


            In the past, I have tried to support tomatoes with those flimsy, circular tomato cages.  But they are not big enough, they flop over too much, and they don’t support enough.  And the past few years, I have just been sticking garden posts into the ground next to the plants and tying them up as they grew.  And that was fine, but it was a mess of strings and lanky branches.  And it didn’t do well supporting a branch that had a lot of tomatoes on it.

            But this year, the elderly lady across the street has offered to pay me to raise tomatoes in my garden for her.  (I’m not letting her pay me.  But I told her that I’ll have my sons help tend the plants and that she can give them a dollar whenever they bring her tomatoes.  It lets her contribute a little and it gives them some responsibility, like a little job, and helps them see the reward of hard work.)  And since I really want the tomatoes to produce well this year for her and since she might be coming into the garden herself to get tomatoes, I wanted to have a nicer support than just a tangle of strings and floppy branches.

            So this year, I decided to make tomato cages out of garden fence. 

 

            In order to make 12 circular cages that are about 15” across when finished, I bought a 50-foot roll of green, vinyl-coated, 4-foot-tall fencing with openings that are 2 inches by 4 inches. 

            And since I wanted to make sure that each ring was the same size, I counted the top row of spaces along the whole length of the fence.  In a 50-foot roll, there are 301 spaces, with a little bit of wire-ends left over.  That means that if I had counted off 25 spaces for each of the 12 cages, I would have had one column of 2x4 spaces leftover at the end.  But since I didn’t want to cut it that close (in case I counted wrong or something didn’t work right), I decided to give each cage 24 spaces. 

 

And here is how I made them:

Step 1:  Count off 24 spaces.  Use wire cutters (or whatever you use) to cut down through the 24th column.  The 24th space will not have four sides.  It will have one open end (where you cut it off the roll), and those loose-ends will be what attaches it to the other side.     

This is the 24th space with its loose-ends

 

Step 2:  Roll the fence piece into a circle, and bend each loose-end around the corresponding spot on the other side.  I chose to bend the loose-ends around twice, to make it stronger.  Bending it just once (making it like a hook) didn’t seem like it would hold as well.



 

Step 3:  Because the 2x4 spaces are quite small, making it harder to reach in and pull out large tomatoes, I made four larger openings (2 on each side – one closer to the top of the cage and one closer to the bottom).  To do this, I simply cut through the middle of one of the spaces and then folded the loose-ends back.  Just make sure that you fold the loose-end in the direction where it will wrap around the perpendicular wire, instead of folding away from it.  That way, if the joint breaks apart, it will still be secure, instead of flapping apart.

Cut through a wire and fold loose-ends back to make larger opening
 
 
 
 
 
 
The spaces are large enough that I can easily fit a gloved hand through
 


Step 4:  And then I will stick a garden post by each tomato plant (being careful not to damage the roots) and place the cage over the plant, attaching it to the post to stabilize it more. 

This is the size of a finished cage
 

And here it is with the garden post
 

And that’s it!  I’m looking forward to seeing if this system is more productive.  I know it at least looks nicer.

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