John C. from New Hampshire shared his tips for making homemade tomato cages with Tomato Dirt readers. John modifies his cages to accommodate his shorter growing season.
For many years, I've made homemade cages from reinforcement wire to support tomatoes.
In New Hampshire, we have a short growing season. Over the years, I've experienced frost every month but July, so I try to be careful to grow tomatoes that can ripen quicker than slower.
I rarely grow indeterminate types that exceed 4-5 feet high because they simply don’t have time to get larger than that. I grow a mix of paste and traditional tomatoes.
I liked the video on Tomato Dirt, but I do one thing differently because of my short season.
When I make my homemade tomato cages, I don't cut the bottom wire for the legs. Instead, I cut wires about 2-3 feet from the bottom. Within that band of wire I cut towards one side, the next from the other side as I go around. I use 6-foot-tall wire, so by cutting this way I can get a 2-foot and 4-foot cage from each length I cut. Occasionally I will make some 6 foot tall cages for experimental plants.
I have grown as many as 50 - 100 plants. My method doubles the amount of completed cages per roll, which you can see provides a significant cost savings.
The reduced number of "feet" has never been a real problem because my plants don’t get too big. My homemade tomato cages last maybe 20 years.
It is important to adjust the lateral branches so they don't damage themselves as the plant grows. It takes little time. But you can see what is going on.
I have also tied rows in a simplified trellis arrangement. I pound heavy duty metal fence posts into the ground (they last forever), running a 10-12 gauge wire along the top. Then I use baler twine to tie a loop near the bottom of the plant, loosely wrap it around the vertical wire, and tie it off with a slip knot to the top wire. It is easy to untie the knot and continue wrapping as the plant grows. Often you can just flip the new plant top around the twine without untying it.
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By Kathy Widenhouse, award-winning writer and owner of Tomato Dirt, a leading online source for growing tomatoes and using them.
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