If you’re a gardener, you know how important it is to give your plants the best environment to grow in. The right soil, sunlight, and water amount can all play a factor in how well your plant grows. However, sometimes you need to offer your plant support as well.
Enter tomato cages. A tomato cage can work with the other environmental factors to help your tomato plants thrive in their environment. However, it’s crucial that you understand what they are, how they work, and what the different types are. Using the wrong tomato cage or even using the right cage but the wrong way can cause your plant to fail to thrive.
That said, when you use them correctly, you’ll be amazed at the improvements you see when growing tomatoes! Let’s look at how tomato cages work and some of the best tomato cages.
What is a Tomato Cage?
A tomato cage
is a great tool to use to support your tomato plants as they grow. When used correctly, they can keep your tomato vines off the ground, making for a better growing environment for the plant.
Plant support is essential from seedlings to throughout the growing season. Without the proper support, your tomato plants may suffer and not produce a great crop. However, tomato cages can help give your tomato plants (and other plants, like a cucumber plant) space to grow, allowing them to thrive how they should!
Most tomato cages are made from wires that have been formed into different shapes and placed into the ground or from wood stakes. There are many shapes, including cones, squares, and tripods, and each of them supports tomato plants in different ways. Some people may even opt for a tomato trellis, giving a larger area for tomato plant support from seedlings throughout the growing season.
It’s important to understand how to use the cages to help your tomato plants grow so that you don’t end up hurting your plant when trying to help it. However, when used correctly, you can train your tomato plant to grow up the tomato cage through the season, making for better growing conditions for the tomatoes themselves while also making for easier harvesting at the end of the season!
Using Tomato Cages
To make the most of your tomato cage, you must understand the ins and outs of them. Too often, people use a tomato cage for their tomato plants without doing the research beforehand, leading to choosing the wrong type of cage or setting it up properly. In order to set yourself up for success, check out the guidelines on when to use what type of cage when growing tomatoes and how to set it up! This will help you make decisions about whether to use smaller tomato cages or a trellis for your plant support.
Types of Tomato Cages
There are many types
of tomato cages, and each one of them works for different situations. Knowing which type of tomato cage to get is vital for successfully growing your tomato plants.
- Cone Shape The cone shape is the most common tomato cage shape, but it’s also the flimsiest. The cone shape creates a tomato tower, making it wider at the top and more narrow at the bottom, so as your tomato plant grows, it becomes much more likely to topple over. If you use the cone shape, make sure that you secure it deeply into the ground to make it as stable as possible. The affordability makes these more popular, though their function and longevity can be less than ideal.
- Tripod Shape: This option is common because it’s relatively easy to make yourself. Also known as an A-frame, all it takes is three long pieces of bamboo or whatever type of wood you have available and some fencing wire or twine to connect the wood pieces together at the top. If you need a sturdier option, but like the tall tripod, you can purchase a metal tripod tomato cage instead or use rebar as a tomato stake! However, you will have to continue tying the plant up the stakes during the growing season, making for more work.
- Heavy Duty Tomato Cage: The name of this type says it all! Heavy-duty tomato cages are usually square and are made of thicker and stronger wire. They can come in various sizes and give your tomato plants ample room to grow as the season progresses. This is one of the lower-maintenance types of cages because you won’t find yourself tying your plants up or tucking them into the cage to keep them safe. The largest downside of them is the fact that they’re more expensive than other types, but they’ll likely last for many seasons!
- Trellis: If you’re an incredibly serious gardener, you may want to consider trellising your tomato plants. Some tomato growers like to combine all their tomato plants into a single vine to maximize the production output. In doing so, they find themselves needing to build a trellis for their tomato plants, which gives them the option to support their tomato plants in both vertical and horizontal directions using wire fencing. While the startup cost of setting up a tomato trellis can be much higher than traditional cages, many farmers say it is well worth the investment.
These are the most popular types of tomato cages, but there are honestly endless options because you can build your own cage to meet your requirements. Having the ability to make a DIY tomato cage makes your options open up to whatever you can imagine your tomato cage looking like, as long as it’s stable!
However, you can always purchase
one of the many cages on the market right now, if you’re looking to spend less time preparing and more time planting your tomato garden!
What Type of Plants Can You Use a Tomato Cage With?
One of the best aspects of tomato cages is that they aren’t limited to only indeterminate tomato plants and tomato varieties. You can use tomato cages with a large variety
of vegetable plants; it just takes knowing how to make them work for each plant specifically!
- Peas: When you place a tomato cage upside down, it makes an amazing support for your pea plants. You’ll want to place the cage first and then plant your peas around the outside of the tomato cage. As they grow, train them to grow up the cage, using pins or wire as needed. This will allow you to be able to pick your peas much easier when it’s time to harvest them!
- Climbing Beans: As their name suggests, different varieties of climbing beans (pole or runner beans, for example) would benefit from having a tomato cage to grow up. These beans will do best with a sturdy tomato cage, like the heavy-duty rectangular ones. Again, you’ll place the tomato cage down first, upside down, and plant the beans around it. They’ll then grow up the wires of the cage. Securing the cage is important, so consider using landscaping pins to ensure it’s connected to the ground.
- Peppers: Pepper plants benefit from smaller tomato cages. Planting your peppers inside of a small cone-shaped tomato cage will allow the plant to grow with the wire around it. This will give the peppers themselves somewhere to rest that isn’t in the soil, making them healthier and safer to consume. Plus, the cage's wire will give the plant the support it needs to not snap as it gets weighed down with larger vegetables later in the season.
- Cucumbers: Similar to peppers, cucumber plants benefit from the support given by a tomato cage. Planting your cucumbers around a tomato cage gives them wires that will provide support to the plant as the cucumbers grow. You’ll simply have to train the plant to grow around the wires as it gets larger. This will also help keep your cucumbers out of the soil, allowing them to have better growing conditions and less exposure to possible bacteria in the soil.
The truth is, the possibilities are endless when it comes to using tomato cages in your vegetable garden. If you have climbing plants, you can likely benefit from using a tomato cage with the plant as it grows. Putting the tomato cage down when you plant your vegetables allows them to have the support from the beginning and lets you start training the plant to grow around the cage as soon as possible.
How to Use a Tomato Cage
It’s important to understand how to properly use a tomato cage so that you don’t accidentally cause more harm to your tomato plant than good. If you follow this step-by-step tutorial
on setting up and using a tomato cage, you’ll be sure to find that you’ve got the perfect support for your tomato plants!
- Step One: You need to make sure you’ve chosen the right type of tomato cage for your plants based on the guidelines we gave you above. Consider the area where you will be planting your tomatoes and how much strength you want from the tomato cage before you purchase or build one.
- Step Two: Make sure you’re putting your tomato cage in an area that will allow your tomatoes to get enough sunlight. This will allow your tomatoes to have an optimal growing setup since once you set the cage up and plant your tomatoes, you aren’t able to move it around.
- Step Three: Make sure that you are placing the tomato cage into the ground correctly because that’s the only way to make sure the cage gives sturdy support to the plant during the entire growing season. To install the cage, you’ll place it around your tomato plant as centered as possible. Then, you’ll push the metal tines (or stakes if you’re using a teepee style) into the ground as far as possible, making sure they get very deep into the soil. The deeper the tines go into the ground, the more sturdy your tomato cage will be, and the lower your chances are that it will topple under the weight of your plant. It’s also important to do this early on in the season because it’s much easier to train tomato plants to grow up the cage when they are younger than when the vines have gotten bigger and sturdier.
- Step Four: Tomato cages work because, as your plant grows, you tie the plant to the wire or wood stakes and train the plant to grow up the cage. When you’re tying your tomato plant to the cage, use material like nylon, dental floss, or rubber bands to do so. These materials will keep your plant in place but won’t be too hard or damaging to the fragile vines so they will keep them from breaking as the vines get heavier.
- Step Five: When you go out to wrap your vines around the cage or tie them to the cage, trim off any leaves that don’t look great. This will allow your tomato plant to send its water and nutrients to better vines, allowing you to have better tomatoes at harvesting time. Many experts say to trim off about a third of your tomato plant’s leaves during the early growing stages, and you will end up with a larger tomato harvest at the end of the season.
- Step Six: As the season comes to an end, wait until your tomato plant has almost completely died off before trimming it down. Once it’s very brown or yellow, you can begin cutting the vines of your plant off of your plant support cage until you’ve trimmed the plant down to the ground. This allows your tomato cage to be free from the plant and removed for the winter. Then, if the cage is still in good shape, you can put it up and use it the next season.
The good news is it’s incredibly easy
to use a tomato cage as long as you follow these instructions. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be surprised you ever grew tomatoes without cages!
How to Adjust a Tomato Cage Throughout the Season
Placing the tomato cage is only the first step to properly using them. To have the most success with your tomato cage, you will have to adjust
them and the tomato plants throughout the season, making changes to adapt to the plant's growth. As your tomato plant grows, you will want to either wrap the vines around the cage or tie them to the cage.
It’s super important to be gentle during these wrapping times because the plants are more fragile when they’re younger.
Take special care not to remove any blooms or small tomatoes when you’re wrapping the vines around the tomato cage. Then, as the plant grows, simply keep an eye on the vines. If you find that some vines begin drooping too much, guide them further up the tomato cage to take some weight off the vine itself. You’ll also want to do regular pruning to remove any parts of the tomato plant that aren’t growing well, allowing for less crowding as the plant expands.
Cleaning and Storing Tomato Cages
Once the growing season is over and you’ve properly removed your tomato plant from your cage, it’s important to properly clean and store the cages until the spring. Cleaning your tomato cages properly keeps bacteria and diseases from being carried over to the next growing season, which could be detrimental to your harvest if not removed. Plus, proper storing allows your tomato cages to avoid rusting, making them last for multiple seasons before needing to be replaced.
Let’s talk about the right way to clean
your cages first. Cleaning your cages properly only takes three steps! First, you will want to scrub the cage with a brush and soapy water. This will allow you to remove any dirt or other debris left on the cage. Next, you will want to make a solution that is nine parts water and one part bleach.
You’ll then spray your whole cage with this bleach solution, which will kill almost everything left on the cage. Finally, you’ll wrap your tomato cage up in clear plastic and place it outside in the sun for about a week, which will kill anything that the bleach may have left behind.
Once you’ve cleaned the cages, you’ll need to store them. The best way to do this is by keeping them in your garage or shed. This allows the tomato cages to stay out of the elements, which will keep them from rusting!
Discover and Shop the Right Plants at Neverland
Tomato cages can be complete game-changers in the world of gardening, as long as you know how to use them properly! Remember to choose the best style for your garden and to make sure the tomato cages are placed deeply into the ground to secure them. During the growing season, help your tomatoes by training them to grow up the cages instead of on the ground, which will make for healthier plants overall! Plus, tomato cages can be used for many other types of vegetables, including cucumbers, peppers, peas, and beans!
If you’re considering growing tomato plants or any other vegetables, make sure to check out Enter Neverland
for all your gardening needs! Regardless of your gardening experience, we have all the tools, plants, and seeds you need to grow the garden of your dreams!
Visit Neverland today for more tips and useful resources. Plants bring a lot of joy, so we strive to help you have the best plants growing experience possible!