Tomatoe Cages

ducks4you

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Concrete reinforcement wire makes great tomato cages; strong, not exceptionally heavy, and they last forever. They do rust - but that won't even show once the cage is covered by foliage. I've used them in the past, and still have a couple (which are currently protecting newly-planted trees). The rust is not unsightly IMO, since it weathers to a dark brown, and the rough surface makes it easier for plants to cling.

The biggest problem I had with the wire cages was where to store them between seasons. My cages were made from pre-cut 10' sections of welded wire sold by the local big box warehouse. That was convenient, since those folded into a 3' diameter cage (a good size for indeterminate tomatoes) with no cutting necessary. They worked wonderfully, and the wide openings allowed easy access. But to store them required a 10' X 5' area, where they would not be an eyesore... and in the end, that was the reason I stopped using them. I now trellis tomatoes on the same post/rod/string system that I use for beans, but modified to support more weight.
I think everybody should consider their own solutsions, BUT You Obviously have not had to deal with a broken piece of rebar/metal fencepost that cannot be removed from cement. I had several of these that I dug down 2 1/2 ft, then dragged with my diesel truck, so that my horses wouldn't injure themselves. I dragged them to the front yard, and turned them upside down so that the metal was stuck into the ground to rust, and the cement mound stuck up.
I HATE cemented in metal!!!!!!!
Also, consider that we Should be rotating our beds, so moving such monstrosities would be difficult, a LOT more difficult that moving the goat panel tomato cages, OR the ones that my MIL made, round pieces from cattle fencing, secured by one metal fencepost each, removed/stored after the growing season.
The instructions that I posted is to create two 1/2's of a cage that are tied together. After season you stack all halves. Perhaps just storage is your problem?
 

ninnymary

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Zeed, that was such a good point about the storage of them. In the end I found 9 mostly 7' and some 6' metal stakes for $15 on Marketplace. I thought it was a good deal. I'm back to my original plan of putting a stake at each end of the row and trying the florida weaving method. If that method is too complicated or not enough space to get my arms around the plant then I can always just string a string across both sides of the plant without weaving.

Mary
 

Zeedman

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I think everybody should consider their own solutsions, BUT You Obviously have not had to deal with a broken piece of rebar/metal fencepost that cannot be removed from cement. I had several of these that I dug down 2 1/2 ft, then dragged with my diesel truck, so that my horses wouldn't injure themselves. I dragged them to the front yard, and turned them upside down so that the metal was stuck into the ground to rust, and the cement mound stuck up.
I HATE cemented in metal!!!!!!!
Also, consider that we Should be rotating our beds, so moving such monstrosities would be difficult, a LOT more difficult that moving the goat panel tomato cages, OR the ones that my MIL made, round pieces from cattle fencing, secured by one metal fencepost each, removed/stored after the growing season.
The instructions that I posted is to create two 1/2's of a cage that are tied together. After season you stack all halves. Perhaps just storage is your problem?

I have to admit, I got a little confused as I read that. Removing 300-400' of fencing & poles each year takes time, but it is necessary for rotation of crops, and I don't consider it to be an especially arduous task. But then, nothing in the garden is cemented in place. ;) It actually sounds like your MIL's system & mine are nearly the same, since I also use a single fence pole to stabilize each cage. The only real difference is that your cages are halved... and it would still take a considerable amount of space to store a large number of them. The majority of my tomatoes are grown on someone else's property, so a pile of bent rusted remesh - whether the pieces are long or short - would be an eyesore. The property owners are already very accommodating, in allowing me to stack my poles, rebar rods, and PVC pepper cages next to their pole building.

And I do understand having to deal with concrete-embedded metal. My front sidewalk was apparently reinforced before the concrete was poured - because the concrete is now deteriorating, and the metal is gradually being exposed. At present, it is only a minor annoyance when shoveling snow... but at some point in the next few years, I will need to completely remove all of that sidewalk to replace it. Since I plan to do that project mostly on my own (although I may hire a company to pour the concrete) I should probably get to it while I am still "young". :old
 

thistlebloom

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If I had to cage, which I should do, I would use cattle panel and make a square cage consisting of two panels bent 90 degrees. They would nest for off season storage and are more durable than the wire cages, even the rebar mesh. But I am a rope runner like someone mentioned above.

CP's work great as long lasting cages. I built several for a clients huge old peonies last spring. I used an angle grinder to cut them to size, made 4 individual panels for each cage and zip tied them together. Dismantling and storage are easy. Just stack the panels in an out of the way location until needed again. They don't take up space like round cages do.
I liked them so well I'm thinking of making some for next years tomatoes in my own garden.
 

Zeedman

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Zeed, that was such a good point about the storage of them. In the end I found 9 mostly 7' and some 6' metal stakes for $15 on Marketplace. I thought it was a good deal. I'm back to my original plan of putting a stake at each end of the row and trying the florida weaving method. If that method is too complicated or not enough space to get my arms around the plant then I can always just string a string across both sides of the plant without weaving.

Mary
After using the Florida weave for all of my tomatoes this year, I have become a fan, and will use that method exclusively from now on. Although you do need to devote time every week or so to train the vines (and run the strings) the Florida weave allows very easy access for weeding and harvesting. As the plants become larger, you might find it necessary to tie "belly strings" between poles about midway on each side, to pull in the side growth. I didn't do much suckering (I seldom do) and those belly strings kept the walkways from being over crowded.
 

ninnymary

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Zeed, since I am outside with the kids every morning for 1.5 hours, I should be able to keep it up. What are belly strings? Do you mean just a string from one end of the pole to the other? And do this maybe every 2 ft?

Mary
 

Zeedman

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CP's work great as long lasting cages. I built several for a clients huge old peonies last spring. I used an angle grinder to cut them to size, made 4 individual panels for each cage and zip tied them together. Dismantling and storage are easy. Just stack the panels in an out of the way location until needed again. They don't take up space like round cages do.
I liked them so well I'm thinking of making some for next years tomatoes in my own garden.
I like those cattle panels, and have seen a lot of them being used creatively on several garden forums. They are strong, and don't rust easily, so they are good for highly visible locations. They aren't cheap though, so for large numbers of cages or trellises, they might not be cost effective.
 

thistlebloom

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I like those cattle panels, and have seen a lot of them being used creatively on several garden forums. They are strong, and don't rust easily, so they are good for highly visible locations. They aren't cheap though, so for large numbers of cages or trellises, they might not be cost effective.

True, they may not be cost effective for large scale gardens. They are certainly less expensive in the landscape garden than buying individual peony cages at $20 a pop. I can get a 16' x 52" CP for $20 and it makes 2 and a half cages of the dimensions I needed. There was some waste of course.
And being partially visible in the landscape their tidy looks are important. The peonies grew through them nicely though and covered them almost entirely. I was worried they might be too industrial looking for that application, but they worked well.
 

Zeedman

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Zeed, since I am outside with the kids every morning for 1.5 hours, I should be able to keep it up. What are belly strings? Do you mean just a string from one end of the pole to the other? And do this maybe every 2 ft?

Mary
You could easily manage the training in that amount of time.

The term "belly string" came to mind because I used to ship out large, heavy containers, where we sometimes used a "belly band" run horizontally around the box halfway up, to prevent it from bursting in shipment. The belly string is a similar concept.

Tomato plants will in time tend to get bushier & grow outward from the trellis. It gets harder & harder to weave new branches into the existing growth. You can control that by pruning those branches, or you can tie them up to direct their growth upward. The belly strings are run from pole-to-pole under the foliage, then carefully pulled up to support the branches, and tied in place. If you use a top support on your trellis (I use a rebar rod run between poles) the loop(s) could also be tied up there. It keeps everything above the ground (limiting rodent damage) and improves air circulation. I was very happy with using that technique vs. pruning, since the extra growth prevented sunscald, and increased productivity.

I use a similar technique for plants that tend to lodge, like peas & some of the taller soybeans. When the plants begin to tip over, I place small poles in the row, and run loops of string around the plants & poles to hold them upright. The number & spacing of those strings depends upon the height & fragility of the plants being supported... I might use 4-5 loops spaced 6" apart vertically for peas.
 
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