When I first started my garden I was pregnant with my youngest, and I suffered the consequences of using those puny little wire round tomato cages. Tripping over toppled over tomato plants with vines spread everywhere is never enjoyable, especially when you’re pregnant and a tad unbalanced. Inexpensive tomato cages? Yes. Sturdy? No. The tomato plants made those cages topple over by the end of the season and were barely reusable for the following year. I salvaged them the next year only out of guilt for wasting the money on them in the first place. I would have to say that the wire round tomato cages are better off for things with less vines like bell peppers or eggplant. To this day, I have four out of the 16 cages that I originally purchased. Their survival rate of the tomato vine’s weight is dire. I only use the remaining wimpy cages to simply keep animals or children from stepping on plants when they are first planted.
DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY ON THIS TYPE OF TOMATO CAGE: Steel Wire Round Tomato Cage
My grandpa aka Poppie built the tomato cages I currently use. They are made out of 6-foot tree stakes, chicken wire and fencing staples (U-Shaped Nails). To affix all parts, you’ll need a hammer and fencing pliers to cut the chicken wire to fit. The dimensions of the cages are 1 foot wide by 6 feet tall by 1 foot deep. For one cage, you’ll need four tree stakes, chicken wire (five foot tall by 4 foot wide), and 10 fencing staples on each tree stake, alternating every other wire down the stake (so 40 total per cage).
The photo below is fairly self-explanatory. Oh and by the way, this is my best “Vanna White.” I thought it would be helpful to stand next to the cages to exhibit just how tall they are (I’m five foot five inches), but the photo just ended up looking like I was trying to portray Vanna White. Trust me, I felt ridiculous but still felt that I should show the height comparison.
You might be thinking that there’s no way your hand is going to fit through those rectangular wire openings of the chicken wire, and you’d be right. So I cut midway up a rectangular slot and bent the wire back on both sides to create an opening for my hand to reach through to pick and retrieve tomatoes. On each side of the cage, I cut to allot for two squares on one row and then move up one row and cut only one square (making a two to one ratio as you move up the chicken wire rows). It’s unnecessary to have two square openings on every row (unless you really want to spend the extra time cutting and bending wire back, by all means).
There you have it. Now for installation, I used a 3-step step stool ladder to get high enough and a sledgehammer to pound each of the four tree stakes on the cage into the ground. You want the stakes to be inserted into the ground fairly deeply, about eight inches. I recommend hammering them into the ground about a day or two after a small rainfall so that the ground is soft enough for the stake to dig into. Definitely plant your tomato plants prior to the cage installation.
A few of my favorite things about these tomato cages:
- They are very TALL! Tomatoes tend to be prone to bug infestation when close to the ground. By allowing the vine to climb upward instead of spanning outwardly, tomatoes remain BUG-FREE.
- They are perfect for SMALL SPACE GARDENS! I don’t have an enormous space for my garden, so these cage’s height allow me to plant more in a smaller space. I only have to space my tomato plants about three feet apart (with cages installed, you’ll have two feet of space between cages). By the end of the season, it may appear jungle-like due to its extreme height, but at least, I’m not tripping over vines stretched over the ground.
- They are extremely STURDY! We live in tornado alley and can get some pretty intense and frightening storms. I have not had a single tomato cage topple over due to a storm, and that is saying a lot.
- These cages are super INEXPENSIVE! You don’t need a bunch of tools. No saws are even needed if you buy the tree stakes at the exact height of 6 feet. Chicken wire is cheap along with the fencing staples. Prior to using these cages, I researched ideas for sturdy tomato cages. But all of them used several pieces of wood, which required more money and cutting/sawing all of it. If you’re looking for minimal investment with maximum reward, these cages are for you!
If I failed to explain something about these DIY tomato cages, please leave me a comment and I’d love to help you out!