So, a couple weeks ago, a reader asked me about my tomato cages after seeing this picture
Because of that, I decided to do a tutorial on how to make them and where to get all of your supplies!
Before we get started, let me give you a little tomato tip- tomato plants produce more when they are staked in some sort of fashion! I have read this numerous places, plus I have experienced this in my own garden. Last year, I didn’t quite have enough cages, so I let a couple plants just sprawl on the ground. Yes, they produced tomatoes, but they didn’t do as well and the tomatoes were much harder to pick!
So, having some good heavy duty tomato cages will definitely increase your tomato production, plus it’ll make harvesting them much, much easier!
How many of you have tried the cheap 3 ring cages that you find at about any store this time of year? Yeah, me, too!
They lasted me all of one season, they can’t support the plants, and they’re super short, right? I knew I needed something heavier.
Now, before I begin, I must confess, my cages are not my own invention. My sister and another friend both have cages like mine. So, I didn’t invent these, K? I’m sure there are other’s out there using these, too!
But, enough chit chat! You’re ready to learn to make them, I’m sure!
Here’s what you need:
- bolt cutters
- a small crescent or box end wrench
- roll of concrete wire mesh
If you don’t have bolt cutters laying around (I live on a farm, so we have every tool imaginable), you can get them at any home improvement or hardware store, or be modern and order them online! Jeff said a 14 inch pair would be enough to cut the wire or you can go slightly bigger for better leverage and get an 18 inch pair. They run you about $20. You can find them on Amazon, Lowe’s, Walmart, etc.
This is what the wire mesh looks like. It’s super heavy duty and is used in laying concrete. This is a partial roll left over from a project my in-laws were doing.
It’s officially known as either concrete wire mesh, or remesh. You can find it at home improvement stores (Lowe’s, Home Depot, Menards, etc). A full roll is usually 150 ft long and 5 ft tall which will make you about 25 cages. Don’t freak out if you don’t have 25 tomatoes to stake! Have a cage making party with some fellow gardeners and split the cages and the cost. Or make all 25 and sell some! Or just be like me and go ahead and plant 25 tomatoes, lol 😉
Next you need to start rolling it out. It’s really a 2 person job. I had Lindy helping me, but since she was also my photographer, you won’t see her doing her part 😉
You need to unroll about 70 inches of it or enough that you have 12-13 squares. In the next picture, you’ll see how we trimmed the ends to give you wire to work with.
OK, see how I trimmed the ends to leave pointy wire? That’s what you’ll use to close your circle and attach it to itself so it doesn’t come apart.
Now, I’m closing in the circle. Next I take that little crescent and using the hole in the handle, I’ll wrap the wire ends around the mesh itself.
In the end it looks like this…
When you’re all done you have a cage that looks like this!
See that t post inside the cage? That is very important if you live in an area that gets strong winds or thunderstorms!
I use 6 foot t posts and drive them about a foot into the ground.
It’s important to stake your cages because that itty bitty tomato plant will grow to be 5 ft tall and top heavy. One stiff breeze can knock it right over. My first year using these cages, I just used electric fence posts to support them. They only stick up about 3 ft. We had a good thunderstorm in August and all of my tomatoes blew over!!
Lesson learned, people.
What is this going to cost you, you wonder?
If you add in the cost of the bolt cutters, you end up with about $6.50 in each cage (I’m rounding up). If you already own bolt cutters, then it drops the price to $5.50 a cage. But, if you ask your family/friends/neighbors if you can have their extra concrete mesh from that home project they just did, then your cages are free, lol! This is how I acquired the materials for my cages 😉
To put it in perspective, one of those flimsy, tiny wire cages from a garden center or Walmart costs over $6 and they only last one season! These cages could potentially last a lifetime 🙂
Here’s a brief recap:
- 150 ft of wire will make you about 25 cages
- Each cage will cost $5.50-6.50 a piece
- A cage is 5 ft tall
- Use a 6 ft. t post to stake it
- Enjoy gathering your yummy red tomatoes!!
Before I forget, make sure you cage your tomatoes before they get huge! Did you see the size of the plant in my picture? Not very big yet, right? Which means it’s the perfect size to cage! I have waited too long before and it ends up being a pain in the backside as you try to slip the cage over the plant without breaking branches. As they grow, I try to tuck the branches into the cage so that they take up less space in the garden.
Do you have any questions for me? Any tips or tricks that work for you?
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Great tutorial, loved the tip about using the little wrench! Clever.
I make my cages this way too, but with something I got at a big box store called galvanized welded wire. The openings in the mesh are 2”x3” and I assembled them in the exact same way. They’ve held up for years.
Excess mesh went to a pole bean trellis that works so well. I just cut a 10-foot length and threaded two poles thru the far most left and right sides of the wire and attached to my fence. The beans (sweat peas, snow peas, etc) happily climb up it. I’m trying tromboncino on it this year.