Has any tomato cage ever truly worked? I’ve tried them all and each has sagged, broken, been outgrown, or simply fallen-over by the time the plants are full and laden with fruit. Last year, we put a T-post next to each cage, but even then, it was more fail than success.
This year I decided to try growing them on a cattle panel. So far, I LOVE this method of supporting them! Early in spring, BOF and I placed a 16′ cattle panel (supported by a T-post at each end) down the center of the of the two rows dedicated to tomatoes. I spaced the plants just 3′ apart on alternating sides of the panel. In other words, there is only 18″ between each plant!
Why I love it:
1) Easy #1. If you have a helper, one cattle panel and two T-posts is far faster and easier than 10+ cages, supporting guy wires and props, etc.
2) Cheap. Used T-posts and cattle panel are fine for this and almost free.
3) Stable. Oh so stable. The wire is far thicker than any commercial cage and T-posts (pounded 2-feet into the soil) far more firmly fixed than any cage’s shorter, flimsier wires.
4) Easy #2: It’s easier to access the plants from either side. (Looks nice too.)
5) Can’t be outgrown. No matter how long the branches, there’s always someplace to weave the new growth into the trellis.
6) Super romatic. My trellis writes me personal notes, occasionally sends flowers for no reason, and turns down the bed each night. No, that’s a lie; HWA does those things. No, that’s a lie too.
As the plants grow, I “train” the branches through the rectangles in the panel, which isn’t difficult as long as I don’t let any branch get so long that it has to be significantly bent to get it through. And, so far, the panels are doing a superb job of supporting the plants – even on our windiest days. The 18″ spacing may be to close — I’ll let you know.
So…. it is early in the season yet, but I feel I’ve finally found a solution to supporting tomatoes. And if it also allows me to grow more plants in the space, it is a win-win-win.