DIY Tomato Cages
In this video, we explain how to choose the best plant supports for both bush and vining tomato plants, and show how to make inexpensive homemade tomato cages. This helps to prevent branch breakage, provide air circulation, avoid slug damage, and keep tomatoes productive and healthy.
We’ve also added the video text below, at the request of our readers. After you watch this video, try our Almanac Garden Planner for free. Also, be sure to check out our Growing Guide for Tomatoes for more great tips on keeping your tomatoes healthy!
Supporting Different Types of Tomatoes
Vining tomatoes (also known as indeterminate or cordon tomatoes) grow to head height and beyond, so they need tall, sturdy plant supports. Bush tomatoes (also known as determinate tomatoes) grow up to about three feet high and therefore require less support. Falling in between are semi-determinate, or intermediate types of tall bush tomatoes. If you haven’t started to plant tomatoes yet and aren’t sure which type to pick, check out these Tomato Tips.
Vining tomatoes can be grown against tall canes or garden stakes or in a greenhouse, twisted around string.
Firmly secure canes or garden stakes into the ground so they will be able to support the considerable weight of fruit-laden plants and withstand sudden gusts of wind. Tie stems to their canes at regular intervals, leaving enough slack for the stem to continue growing in girth. Secure a tie just above a truss, as this will support the weight of fruits better than a tie secured below a truss.
String supports are easy to set up. Dangle strong string directly from the greenhouse’s framework, or from a horizontal length of string secured and stretched taut between the gable ends. Remember that the greenhouse will be bearing the entire weight of the plants, so it must be strong enough for the job.
Loop the string around the rootball of the tomato plant at planting time to secure it in place. As plants reach up, twist the string around the stem, completing a full loop around the stem every two leaves. When you reach a truss, tuck the string above or behind it, never below it.
Vining tomatoes can also be trained up a wigwam structure, one plant to each cane.
In theory, bush tomatoes do not need support, but in reality plants can be weighed down onto the ground by heavy fruits, increasing the chances of diseases and slug damage.
Tie plants to sturdy garden stakes, or secure two parallel rows of horizontal canes to short, upright garden stakes hammered into the ground, and plant the tomatoes in between the two rows of canes. Lift up the branches and drape them over the canes as they grow.
How to Make Tomato Cages
Tomato cages offer fuss-free supports for bush and semi-determinate tomatoes. It’s easy to make your own from concrete-reinforcing mesh. The 6-inch squares will allow you to easily flex the mesh into a tube to make your cage. They’re inexpensive to make, and can be reused for many years.
Start by cutting a length of mesh five to six feet long. When rolled into a tube this will give a cage diameter of 18 to 22 inches—tight enough to support a plant, while giving it enough room to expand. Use sturdy wire- or bolt cutters to make the cuts, and wear gloves to protect your hands from snagging cuts.
Once cut, roll the length of mesh into a tube. Tie the ends together with heavy gauge wire or strong string, then cut off the bottom wire from the cage to leave just the vertical wires sticking out. These wires can be used to push the cage into the ground. For added stability, tie the cage to a vertical length of rebar or a similar sturdy upright. You can also pin the bottom wire to the ground with tent pegs.
Lower your tomato cage over the top of a plant and pull through any stray branches. As the plant grows, encourage growth upwards through the center of the cage, leaving fruiting trusses to grow outside of the cage to make picking even easier. At the end of the season, store the mesh flat to save space.
Pruning Tomato Plants
Tomatoes need regular pruning for the best results. This includes pruning trusses to remove excess fruits, removing unproductive lower leaves, and removing sideshoots (suckers). Pruning can even affect the flavor of your tomatoes, according to our page on Tomato Tips.
- Truss Pruning
- Thinning the fruits within the trusses of prolific fruiters such as cherry tomatoes will ensure those that remain grow larger. For varieties that bear particularly heavy fruits, such as the beefsteak tomatoes, thinning fruits to just three per truss will reduce the weight of the truss and make it less likely to snap away from the stem.
- Prune trusses by snipping off the fruits with sharp scissors while they are still small.
- Removing Leaves (Vining Tomatoes)
- Remove all leaves below the lowest ripening trusses of vining tomatoes. These older leaves divert the plant’s energy away from producing more flowers and fruits, and reduce air circulation and light penetration. Remove the leaves by pulling the leaf sharply up, then down, so it comes away from the main stem. Support the stem as you do this.
- Removing Sideshoots (Vining Tomatoes)
- Also known as suckers, sideshoots on vining tomatoes distract the tomato from producing flowers and fruits, and must also be removed. Sideshoots appear at the point where a leaf joins the main stem. Remove them by wiggling them from side to side, then using your thumb to snap them out. Remove sideshoots while they are still young, working from the bottom of the plant up.
It needn’t take long to complete these simple training and pruning tasks; it’s a once-a-week job and at the same time you can inspect your plants and check on the progress of your ripening tomatoes. You can check our Ripeness Guide to determine when your healthy tomatoes are ready for harvest.
I don’t understand what is
concrete reinforcing mesh. The 6-inch squares will allow you to easily flex the mesh into a tube to make your cage.
Is their a picture to see this mesh? Looked at Home Depot & could not find the product.
Concrete-reinforcing mesh looks like cattle fencing but is more flexible. It is used inside concrete structures to help maintain their shapes and has 6-inch spaces between the wires. Here’s an example of a similar product: Home Depot Remesh Sheet
Is there a reason suckers and side shoots should not be cut with scissors or other cutting device?
I use PVC pipe and zip ties that way when I set out my tomato's I can put water straight to the roots. and any other fertilizer that needs to go to the roots and put the zip ties loose and they will ride up with the plant, works great for me anyway.
My husband drills holes at about 6 intervals up a wooden stake. As the tomato plant grows, he encircles the plant with a plastic shower curtain hook which is then clipped into the appropriate level hole on the wooden stake. We usually plant in excess of 75 tomato plants. This also works for cucumbers, pole beans, etc. He has been doing this for more than 5 years and it really works well.
I am really happy with the above enrollment video discussion concerning how to vining vegetables especially that of tomato. In fact, I will continue to stay with Almanac farms for a pleasant learning enrollment.
Musah Kofi Saidu
I planted over 100 tomato plants so too many to make cages for. I drove posts between the plants then used field fencing with a half circle around plants then attached to the pole then did the same on the other side. Therefore making cages for all plants in each entire row. At the end of the season I detach from the posts, role up the wire till next year.
I also use reinforcing wire mesh to build my cages, but I find it is easier to make my cages with three diameters. When the growing season is over, I nest my nine cages in sets of three for storage. I find it is much less trouble than flattening out the wire mesh, then having to re-make the cages next year.
I screw small eye hooks into bottom of fascia and rake boards around house.ty fishing line [heavy strength]allow to hang to ground.attach to stakes along the front,back and sides of house.I have tomato,peas,beans squash morning glories and other vine plants to grow up fishing line.small knots can be made in line for better support of plants. note; [I research all plants to find those that grow at lease 8-10 feet or more] with flower vines,different colored beans and squash,it can be a thing of beauty and tremendous yields. enjoy ERNIE