Tomato Cage Death Match!

In one corner, we have the single stake!  (Cheers! boo’! hisses!)  Great for square-foot gardening (sfg) since it takes up little space, costs up to $8ish per sturdy, metal stake at 7 feet tall (can be a lot less if you go shorter, folks!), needs constant tying and attention, need for pruning debatable.   In the other corner, we have the tomato cage!  (Cheers! boo’! hisses!) Upgraded models from the spindly little things abound, promising abilities to fold flat for storage, being more sturdy than the past, no pruning needed, but still falls over, and is never sold tall or sturdy enough.  Tomato cages…fight!  Wait, what’s this?  That spiral thing has joined the single stake’s side and wall of fencing and string method has joined the cage’s side!  Look at all those options!  Who will be the most cost effective?  Who will be the easiest to work with?  Who will hold up to winds and heavy tomatoes?  Which contender won’t look horribly ugly in my front yard?  And the winner is….I don’t know!  Sigh.  And here I thought, even after looking into this many times before, that I could somehow look up a couple of reviews over lunch and just run out and grab what I need.  Turns out, people seem to have their preferences, no clear winner.  More so, nothing seems good enough to me.

My conclusion from all this?  I need to learn welding.  I want to build my own contraption.  Preferably out of a feedlot panel, since that seems to be the strongest, does not rust option.  And at $20 a pop, that’s pretty cheap.  It’s just that it comes in a flat, well, panel and is 16 feet long, which is too long for the space I have, and only 5 feet wide, which would be too short.  So, welding it is.  Now’s seems like a good time to start, and this website seems excellent for a beginning look: http://www.tractorsupply.com/content/knowhow/welding/tools_welding_expert_advice  My other thought is, I wonder if a metal bed frame would do the trick?

In the meantime, I might go this route, since it is something I can actually do now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWsA80jfIyc&feature=fvwrel   My concern is just that it still needs staking and is still not strong enough to stand up to the test. Plus, it’s so similar to what I do now, and I know that is insufficient.  I have 3 versions of tomato wrangling at the moment.

First version includes me making a cylinder out of garden fencing and staking it with some wimpy bamboo polls.  Positives: plenty of room to grow, branches go through openings and that holds up the branches.  Negatives: bamboo is obviously insufficient to anchor the cylinder, but its all I had on hand.  The openings in the fence are not big enough to squeeze my hands through to weed of get at all the tomatoes.  I have to lift the entire thing off to weed and put it back in again.  This is guaranteed to fall over in a few weeks from the weight of the plant.  It happened last year.  Hence me looking for a new option.  I have considered doing this with a smaller cylinder.  Not sure how much that will help.

Second version is a wall of the fencing stuff and then using string to tie the plants to it.  Positives: easy to weed and get to tomatoes.  Sufficient for the job, and if no other method proves itself absolutely worth chasing after this season, I will convert the rest of the garden to this system out of time and creativity restraints and cause I have most of what I need for that right now.  Negatives: hard to get the wire fencing on the poles and get the fencing to be taunt.  Thus, the fencing just bends to the weight of the plants.  I thought planting on either side of the fencing would pull the fence in opposite directions.  But, plants don’t obey and just leaned whichever way they wanted.  A solution is to add more stakes to attach the fencing to.

The third method I have are these round things I got from my mom.  Positives: they were free.  Oh, the legs come off to store flat.  I tried these with green peppers once and they did ok.  Negatives: Do next to nothing for tomato plants.  So short, the detachable legs wiggle and wobble.  Yes, I realize I have them over tomato plants, but I had to give them some kind of support because the tomatoes are already growing!  The surprise tomato plants pull ahead!

The search continues.  May there be an epic conclusion in the near future with the discovery of a superior tomato holder up thing. Much work to be done, and SOON since, like I already said, some are growing tomatoes already and some which I planted when I didn’t know what they were are wandering away from their original spot in the search of more sunlight.  Learning as I go.  Happy gardening!

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2 responses

  1. I would love to use cattle panel cages, but 1. I have no trailer and I’m not going to rent a truck just to get them home and 2. They are enormous and I have no place to store them except in the garden, all the time, 365 days a year.

    Oh, and 3. Like you said, they aren’t quite tall enough.

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