Tomato plants are classified as either determinate, or plants that reach a certain height then stop growing, and indeterminate, plants that continue to grow until killed by lack of care, insects, disease or cold. Both classifications need some sort of cage or support to optimise harvest and fruit quality. Making tomato supports rather than buying premade cages is less expensive and allows you to indulge the needs of each cultivar that you grow. Homemade supports are generally easier to store in winter and last longer than most store bought supports.
Remove the bottom 4 inches of horizontal wire from the concrete reinforcing wire using the bolt cutters. Make the cuts on the inside of the vertical wires. This creates "legs" that will be pushed into the ground.
Form a circle by bringing the ends of the concrete reinforcing wire together.
Secure the circle using zip ties every 4 to 6 inches. You now have a tomato cage that is 18 inches in diameter.
Store for winter by removing the zip ties and flattening the wire.
Plant your tomatoes in a row. Use the recommended spacing and planting depth for your tomato cultivar. The length of the row does not matter.
Place a wooden stake or rebar 3 to 4 inches from the base of each tomato plant, inserting to a depth of at least 1 foot. Place all the stakes on the same side of the row. Wait until your tomatoes are at least 4 inches tall before assembling the trellis.
Tie the end of the polypropylene cord around the end stake 4 to 6 inches above the soil. Wrap the cord 3 to 4 times around each stake until you reach the last stake in the row. Keep the cord taut.
Go back down the row on the opposite side of the tomato plants, again wrapping the cord around each stake three to four times. Try to keep the same tension on the cord between stakes. When you reach the last stake in the row, tie off the cord and cut it from the roll. The tomato plants will be held upright between the cords.
Allow your tomato plants to grow another 4 to 6 inches. Repeat steps 3 and 4. Continue doing this until you reach the top of the stakes. Don't worry if your indeterminate tomato varieties grow taller than the stakes, It is O.K. for the vines to droop over the top lines of polyproplene cords.
Plant your tomato plants as usual.
Place a stake, wooden or rebar, 3 to 4 inches from the base of each plant. Insert the stake at least 2 feet into the soil.
Secure the tomato plants loosely to the stake every 4 inches with elastic plant ties or plant clips. The bottom clip (the one closest to the soil) should be at least 3 inches above the soil.
- Mississippi State University extension; tomato supports
- The Garden Primer; Barbara Damrosch; 1988
- Step by Step Organic Vegetable Gardening; Shepherd Ogden; 1992
- Keep your tomato plants pruned by removing suckers and side shoots. This prevents plants from becoming too heavy for the supports.
- Use the simple stake support or tomato cage for determinate tomato varieties.
- Use the trellis or tomato cage for indeterminate tomato varieties.
- Add 2 to 3 extra feet between plants when using tomato cages. This gives you ample room to cultivate and move between plants.
- When using the simple stake support never attach the tomato plant to supports under a fruit cluster. As the cluster ripens it will make the plant sag and possibly strip the fruit from the plant.