Build a Better Tomato Cage

Master Gardener Bob Woods hs been growing tomatoes for 75 years. Bob had advice for helping your tomatoes grow strong and free of disease and pests.

SUPPORT YOUR TOMATOES
- Tomatoes – fairly easy crop to grow in Western Oregon.
- Success can be determined by following a few guidelines.  Plants need support, about one inch of water/week, a least a half day of direct sunlight.
- Need to support tomato plants – keep off ground – protect plants from soil-borne diseases and animals (including slugs).  Fruit on ground will rot.

WOODEN STAKES PROVIDE SUPPORT

- If single or double stem, can use simple wooden stake (1”x2”or 2”x2”), tie plant to it.  Use soft cloth strips, string works too.

- For multiple stem plants, use metal or wooden cage.  Can buy from stores, but can be flimsy, expensive or too small.
- You can make your own sturdy metal cages made from concrete reinforcing mesh from most home improvement stores.
- 150 foot roll is just over $100 and can make 25-30 cages.  If don’t need that many, share with neighbors, friends.
- The mesh can also be used to support other veining plants and for fencing.

BUILDING YOUR CAGE

1. Unroll a length of 20-30 ft. of mesh from the roll.  Secure both ends, as is very springy, and edges are sharp.  Safety glasses and gloves are strongly recommended. 
2. Use a bolt cutter to cut the mesh into the lengths you want. A 5-foot panel will form an 18-inch diameter cage. A 6-foot panel will form a cage of 23-inch diameter. Cut a longer panel for larger cages.
3. Cut off the bottom wire, leaving 6” vertical wires to push into ground.
4. With pliers (or special bender), bend the prongs at greater than 90-degree angles to form hooks. Link the hooks to the straight vertical wires to form a cage.

Steel wire will rust and after several years, and wire “legs” into ground will break off.  Solution is to just cut off the wire ring above, giving new legs, with cage 6” shorter.

- Cages can be stored by opening them and nesting one inside another.

- Get jump on neighbors, earlier ripe tomatoes. – plant early by protecting plants.

- Use wrapped cage with plastic (With milk jug), or small plastic tepee filled with water. Traps heat in day, gives back at night.

- For more information on growing tomatoes, click here.  The guide is also available in Spanish click here.
- To learn more about growing tomatoes you can visit OSU's extension service website or Metro's Master Gardener's website.

Subscribe to “Bob’s tomato email letter” by emailing:  BigTomato999@aol.com

Bob also learned a lot about growing tomatoes in Oregon, volunteering with a Portland nonprofit, “Growing-Gardens”.
- Reduce hunger by helping people grow their own food.
- Volunteers build raised bed gardens in low-income family yards, support them with plants, seeds, and mentoring for 3 years to make sure they know how to grow own food.
- In 16 years Growing Gardens has built over 1,000 gardens in Portland..
- Each year, teach over 600 elementary school kids in seven schools about growing healthy food.
 

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