Build your own tomato cages
Hi Ken, I am confident that if anyone can answer my question, it is you.
I am tired of spending good money every year or two on tomato cages. Either they rust and fall apart, or the joints break where they are welded. On one occasion, by the time I returned home from buying them, one broke when I removed it from the car. Another issue I have with them is they are made so cheaply that they fall over when the plants get large.
Do you know where I can purchase tomato cages that are sturdy and built to last? Frustrated in Rising Sun Hi Frustrated, I can totally sympathize with you, as I also grew tired of having to replace my plant cages every couple of years. If you take a close look at the welded junctions on the cages (and I use the term “welded” lightly), you will notice that the amount of solder used to secure them is at best inadequate. Like everything else we purchase these days, plant cages are built to fail to keep us buying them every couple of years.
As you are most likely aware, there are a variety of plant cages on the market. If the prices were as cheap as the construction, it would not sting as bad. I have seen some sell for as much as $16 each, and they are as cheaply made as their $5 counterparts. My answer to your question is no – I do not know where to buy high quality plant cages that are built to last and give you your money’s worth.
However, I do have a solution for you.
A couple of years ago, I finally had it, so I set out to construct my own. Making your own plant cages takes a little effort, but in the long run, you will save a lot of time and money.
Tools and supplies you will need: • Heavy gauge wire used as a structural support for newly poured cement • 1/2-inch metal electri
cal tubing • Plastic cable ties • Tape measure • Work gloves • Scissors • Hacksaw • Hammer The first step is to determine how many cages you will need. The number of cages you need will dictate how to purchase the wire. The most economical way is to buy a 150-by-5-foot roll, which will cost you $100, and will yield 30 cages. Most folks do not need that many cages, so you may want to speak with your gardening friends about splitting the cost.
If you are unable to find friends or neighbors who are interested in building their own cages, and you do not need 30 of them, you do have an alternative. You can purchase 5-by-10-foot sheets of the heavy gauge wire for $8 each.
You will want to start by measuring and cutting the wire into 5-foot sections with a hacksaw. The wire is quite thick and sturdy, so if you have an electric metal cutoff saw, use it instead of the hacksaw. After you cut the wire, roll it into a round and vertical cage, and secure it along the seam with the plastic cable ties to maintain the cylindrical shape. Snip off the ends of the cable ties with the scissors.
These cages differ from most because the majority of the store-bought cages are round at the top and taper off at the bottom forming a cone shape. Your homemade cages will be equally as round at the bottom as they are at the top. Place the cages over the plants, and secure them by snaking the 1/2-inchby-5-foot piece of metal tubing down through the wire squares, hammering them into the ground about 18 inches deep. I use two pieces of tubing placed on either side of the cage. The metal tubing can be purchased in pieces at any home improvement store for about $2. It is cheaper to buy the 10-foot sections and cut them to size, but for the amount of effort involved, it is just as inexpensive to purchase them already cut into 5-foot pieces.
Your new cages will be sturdy and last for many years to come. Keep in mind that some of welds will eventually break, but can be easily repaired with the use of the plastic cable ties, depending on where they break. In addition, the cages will rust over time, but because of the thickness of the wire, it will take many years before the integrity of the cages is compromised.
Be sure to wear your work gloves to avoid injuries. The bottom line is: If you use the sections, the approximate cost of each cage is $7, and will still be standing after the purchased cages have been recycled.
If you choose to purchase the roll of wire, your cost drops to about $6 a cage, inclusive of the electrical metal tubing.
*** As promised, this weeks’ column is offering another contest to win a free, threein-one light, pH and moisture meter, by answering my gardening question. The first person to correctly answer my question wins. As always, Cecil County Master Gardeners and their families are not eligible to enter.
When it comes to insects in the garden, many folks have difficulty identifying if they are good or bad bugs. Can you name two beneficial garden insects?
Good luck. The Cecil County Master Gardeners and I thank you for helping create a healthy environment that will last for years to come. Happy gardening, Ken Fischer Please submit all your gardening questions and available photos to kfischermaster firstname.lastname@example.org.