You know how hard it is to keep your tomato plants standing upright so they get more fruit that ripens nicely and does not get full of dirt and bugs. Well forget those flimsy short tomato cages you get at the garden store, they are such a hassle to keep standing even without plants in them. Here a few better ideas you can do yourself that will have your tomatoes thriving all summer long.
These Simple sturdy cages can be built with 2×2 lumber and a few screws, found on getbusygardening.com. You can make them any size you want and they will keep your plants growing up off the ground for a beautiful harvest.
Six 1-by-3-inch wooden strips measuring 8 feet long A 2-by-4-inch piece of scrap board measuring 8 inches long, for the top section that will serve as the pivot point where the two “ladders” hinge Two 3-inch deck screws About 30 1 1/2-inch galvanized deck screws
1. Cut two of the 8-foot 1-by-3s to make the rungs of your tomato “ladder.” Cut the first two rungs to 21 1/2 inches long; the next two to 19 1/2 inches; then 17 1/2 inches. Also cut two 20-inch boards for the braces that will stabilize the sides of the ladder.
2. Next, lay out two of the 8-foot strips (for the legs of the ladders) on each side of the 8-inch 2-by-4 that is the top of the “ladder.” First, drill pilot holes into the legs, then connect the legs on each side with a 3-inch deck screw screwed into each end of the 2-by-4, creating the pivot point, so you can spread the legs out later.
3. Lay out the rungs, with the longest near the bottom. drilling pilot holes first, screw on the 21 1/2-inch board at 7 inches from the bottom on the outside of the uprights, then repeat with the 19 1/2-inch board at 12 inches from the first rung, then the 17 1/2-inch board at 15 inches from the second rung. This will make the base of the stand wider than the top, allowing the structure to stand.
4. Turn the “ladder” over and screw on the other rungs at the same distance as the other uprights. The rungs will extend slightly on each end of the braces.
5. Stand the legs up and spread them out, then screw on the 20-inch 1-by-3 braces to each side of the “ladder” at 27 inches from bottom with one screw on each side.
Fencing Nails (Sometimes referred to as U – Nails)
30″ High Welded Wire Galvanized Fence with 2″ x 4″ Mesh Grid (You can buy a 25′ roll which makes enough for about 16 cages for tomatoes, or 25 for peppers) There are a couple of options to make or buy your stakes. If you are starting from scratch, the easiest option is to buy inexpensive 2x2x8 framing lumber at your local home improvement / lumber store (usually for around$1.25. each) If you buy them in the standard 8′ pieces, you can simply cut in half to make 2 from each board.
After using up the grade stakes we had on hand, we made the remainder of our stakes from scrap 2×4’s and 2×6’s. Running them through the table saw lengthwise to make 2×2’s and then cutting them into 4 foot pieces.
To make a sharp point on the stakes – we then used a chop saw (jig saw works great too) to cut angled points into the end of one side. If you angle all four sides – it makes for a sharper point to drive into the ground.
***One extra note here: Since we use these in the garden and around our plants – we have always used regular, untreated lumber. Yes, it’s true that it will not last as long as treated lumber – but if you store them each winter – you should be able to use them for a good 5 years. When they do start to go bad – you can simply remove the metal grid, and put on a new stake for the next 5 years! The wire mesh is galvanized, so it will not rust and can be re-used over and over.
Once you have your stakes ready – the rest is a piece of cake! Roll out the galvanized welded wire roll, and using wire cutters – just snip off 18″ wide sections for tomatoes, or 12″ sections if you will be using them for peppers.
Center the wire grid on the stake with the bottom of the wire about 16″ from the bottom of the stake. (This is to allow the stake to be driven in to that depth) Then nail in 3 fencing nails, securing the wire to the stake. You have your very own Stake-A-Cage!