When we moved to Texas I was thrilled because we had a big backyard and lot of space to put a garden in. Before I did anything out back I waited to see what was growing back there in the “flower” gardens. The previous owner had said, “oh the back gardens are beautiful with so many blooming things,” so I waited and watched. Hmmmm….. looked like a huge unkempt mess to me, all over the property, and after waiting and watching, that is mostly what it was – a mess. As I slowly made my way through the mess I also started planning the vegetable garden. Lots to do.
When it came time to put tomatoes in, I got out my old tomato supports – you know, the galvanized support that is round and bigger on top, then tappers done to 3 or 4 spikes to anchor it in the ground. They had served me well in the past, but after using them here, they just weren’t big enough or heavy-duty enough to support the tomato plants.
My neighbor showed me the cages he made. They were made from reinforced concrete mesh. It is really rusty, but it worked. So I picked up some hog rings, borrowed my neighbors bolt cutters and a special pair of pliers (that he modified to secure the hog rings) and I was ready to make my own tomato cages.
These cages have worked great for all of my tomato plants, and I even use them for some of the pepper plants like Anaheim and bell peppers that tend to get real tall. The other peppers I plant (banana, cubanelle, jalapeno, Serrano, cayenne get bushy, but so seem to need the support of the cage so I just don’t cage them.
If you do a quick search on the internet for “tomato cage images” you will see 1000’s of examples. The cages I make and use are just one example.
Originally, I bought a roll of the concrete reinforced mesh and I still have those original cages today. A few years ago I bought a 300′ roll of galvanized wire and have been using that roll as I needed more cages and other things around the yard.
The supplies I use:
- Sturdy wire mesh/fencing
- Bolt Cutters
- Hog Rings
- Hog Ring pliers or tool
I usually do this kind of stuff on my own, so to keep the unrolled section of fencing from rolling back on top of me and (biting me as it springs back,) I take two rocks (see photo above) and to anchor the ends down as I unroll the fence just enough to make one cage at a time. I count the squares off and stand on the section of fence that makes up the cage. I have found that using bolt cutters cuts the wire so easily for me. You can use a wire cutters, but since I struggle with tendon issues in my hands the last thing I want to do it aggravate that, so I use the bolt cutters – no problems. Once I have cut my section of fence, I cut off the the exposed, raw ends. You can use those ends to wrap around and secure your cages with those end, I just don’t want those rough ends – I tend to scratch myself up on them while picking tomatoes. Before I finish my tomato cage, I pick up the raw ends I just cut off. I count them each time to make sure I didn’t miss one. The last thing I want to do is run over one of those with the lawn mower!
Now, it is time to connect the ends of the wire fencing to make the tomato cage. I use three hog rings per cage. You can use more if you want, that is up to you. I get one hog ring ready in the special pliers. My neighbor cut notches in a normal set of pliers so the hog rings wouldn’t slip out as he was using it. I think you can buy a set of pliers specifically made for this tasks, I am just using the tools that my neighbor has. I start by securing the middle section of the cage first, that way I don’t have one end of the wire gaping and flopping around ready to scratch me up. I roll the wire fencing into a tube and hold the two ends together near the center. My other hand is ready with the hog ring. Then is is just a matter of securing the two ends.
Your cage may be a bit out of shape. Just roll it and push down on the wire to get it formed into a nice circular tube.
These make very study tomato cages and they will last for many many years. My neighbor just started replacing a few of the cages he made using the reinforced concrete mesh that he made 15-20 years ago.
What do you use to support your tomato (or pepper plants)
You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.