You probably know that you need to provide support for your tomato plants, so you drive to the hardware store and buy tomato cages.
I’m here to tell you that’s NOT the best way!
Over the years, I learned a few lessons after many failures.
Why Avoid Cheap Tomato Cages
If you’re planting tomatoes in a pot, you may be able to get away with a cage. You can see above I made a makeshift cage with some leftover bamboo stakes.
However, if you are planting them directly in the ground in a spot that gets full sun, they will easily outgrow even the largest store-bought cage.
In my first year, I used a cage for one plant (on the right) and zero support for another (on the left), and here is the result.
It was a complete mess that took over my raised beds!
Using Large Wood Stakes
The next year I went with single wooden stakes to grow my tomatoes more vertically.
It’s important to note there are two types of tomato plants:
For determinate varieties, the tomato harvest comes all at once, and you want to allow the plant to bush out as much as possible, otherwise you won’t get the same yield.
For indeterminate varieties, the plant will continue to grow and produce all season long until it dies out. One method of growing indeterminate tomatoes is to train them on a single stem and trimming away all of the side-shoots.
That’s kind of what I was going for by using a wooden stake and tying up the stem as it grew.
While this worked fairly well, a big mistake was using pine which is a softer wood. By the end of the year, it was basically rotted and snapped off easily, which would have been a huge hassle if it happened during peak season.
Cedar is the best option since it’s more rot-resistant than other woods.
Heavy-Duty DIY Tomato Cages
After two years and not being completely satisfied by my tomato stakes, I did a little more research for creative solutions.
The next trial was to make my own using equipment from the masonry section in Home Depot or Lowes.
There you’ll find concrete reinforcing mesh, or a remesh sheet, which are 3.5 ft. wide x 7 ft. tall. I bought several of these, shaped them into circles for a heavy-duty DIY tomato cage!
What’s the Best Way to Support Tomatoes?
I’m still open minded and want to experiment in future years because the remesh cages haven’t been perfect.
I’ve seen other gardeners who use a string trellis system with a wooden frame, which looks like another cool way to grow tomatoes on a single-stem vertically. There are tomato clips that make it easier to attach your stems to the staking system.
Nowadays you can purchase high quality tomato cages online if you prefer that to building something yourself.
Click the images below for a few popular options on Amazon.
What to Do with Old Tomato Cages?
The good news is that if you have a handful of those cheap tomato cages, you don’t have to throw them out.
They are much better sized for pepper plants, so put them to use!