Why Do Gardeners Cage Tomatoes?
Caging tomatoes provides an extra layer of support to your crops. These wire cages can make it easier for you to pick fruit and tend to your tomato plant’s inner branches and leaves, minimizing maintenance work for the gardener by reducing the need for staking and pruning. When you support tomato plants, they provide their own natural covering, helping retain soil moisture and provide shade, which can prevent sunscald.
While bush tomatoes (also known as determinate tomatoes) and semi-determinate tomatoes don’t grow as tall as vining tomatoes (indeterminate tomatoes), they can be weighed down after the fruits set, exposing them to ground pests and disease, like blossom end rot. A tomato cage can help protect these tomatoes from pests and diseases.
How to Make a DIY Tomato Cage
DIY tomato cages are simple and inexpensive to make. While you can purchase one at your local garden center, many gardeners prefer the strength and durability of their own cages. If you’re interested in making your own tomato cages this season, check out the following steps:
- Use sturdy material. To create your cage, you’ll need at least one sheet of wire mesh, which can be found at your local hardware store. Wire mesh is a concrete reinforcing product that is strong enough to make a sturdy cage and hold the weight of your plant. Use bolt cutters to help mold the wire mesh into the desired shape.
- Make it the right size. A standard tomato cage is about five feet in height, and about two feet in diameter. The squares should be about six inches wide, or large enough to reach your hand through. You can use larger cages for bigger plants, but they will take up more garden space, and be more susceptible to falling over.
- Secure the base. To secure the base of your cage, attach stakes to the cage and drive them into the ground. You can also create “legs” by cutting the bottom of the fencing wire, which you can then drive into the ground to secure the cage.
- Place carefully over your plant. Cages work best for young tomato plants and newly sprouted tomato seedlings. Trying to place a cage over a fully grown tomato plant can crush and damage your crop. If your tomato plant already has some branches, gently pull them through the cage squares to encourage their upward growth.
- Provide enough space. If you plan to grow and cage multiple tomato plants, make sure that each of your cages is three feet apart to give the plants ample room to grow.
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