If you want to harvest the best tomatoes, get them up off the ground and into a tomato cage. Growing your tomatoes in a cage increases your chances of harvesting tons of juicy, ripe tomatoes because they are less prone to rot and fungal disease--and it's easier for sunlight to reach the fruit--which means they ripen up faster. You can buy tomato cages or even make your own out of wire mesh, but I think this simple bamboo cage is beautiful, functional and easy to build. Here is how.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- (4) 6-foot-long bamboo poles
- (12) 38-inch-long pieces of bamboo
- 12 plastic zip ties
- Measuring tape
Find a flat surface to work on like a driveway or a large worktable. Take two of the 6-foot-long bamboo poles and lay them side-by-side, spacing them 3 feet apart. Create the first side of the cage by laying a shorter piece of bamboo horizontally across the top of the two longer bamboo poles (it should look like a rung on a ladder). Make sure that the "rung" is straight and level. Attach the rung to each bamboo pole with a zip tie, making sure to cinch the tie down very tightly.
Measure 20 inches down from the first rung and attach the second rung to the bamboo poles using zip ties. Repeat this step with the third rung (it will be 40 inches down from the first rung).
You now have one side of the bamboo tomato cage complete. It should look like a bamboo ladder with extra space between the third rung and the bottom of the ladder. Repeat Steps 1 through 3 to build the second side of the cage.
Now it's time to finish the cage in the garden. Plant your tomato seedling. Then place one of the ladders 18 inches in front of the tomato. Drive the legs of the ladder into the soil, making sure that it is stable and level. Then, take the second ladder and place it 18 inches from the backside of the tomato. Push the ladder down into the soil so that it is the same height as the first ladder. The ladders should now be facing each other, spaced 3 feet apart with the tomato in the middle.
Complete the cage by attaching the two ladders together with the remaining 38-inch-long bamboo rungs to form a cube. Be sure to attach the side rungs so they line up as closely as possible with the rungs on the ladders. Use the remaining zip ties to attach the rungs, being sure to cinch them down very tightly.
Tips and warnings
- You can cut smaller diameter bamboo poles with bypass pruners. A handsaw often works better for larger diameter poles.
- When attaching the side rungs it's helpful to have another person on hand to hold them in place while you cinch them on with zip ties.
- Use this cage to support smaller tomato plants including cherry, Roma and paste varieties, and patio tomatoes. Big, heavy beefsteak tomato plants can overwhelm this cage.
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