Since tomato plants are quite top-heavy, they’ll need a ton of support to ensure they yield large and juicy fruits. So, aside from giving them proper care, what else can you do?
Installing tomato cages is one of the best ways to give your tomato plants the structural support they need.
First time hearing about them? Well, read on to learn more about tomato cages!
What are tomato cages and how do they work?
Essentially, a tomato cage is a gardening aid that will support your tomatoes’ growth (we want them growing upward!) and prevent any of them from dropping to the ground before they’re ready.
Tomato cages come in all different shapes and sizes. The most popular types are ring-style, cone, square, and triangular.
The best time to install tomato cages is as soon as possible when your plant is just a seedling to avoid disrupting its root system.
To install, firmly set your tomato cage 5 to 10 inches underground and center your seedling at least three inches away from the cage. For extra measure, drive stakes into the ground for extra support and stability.
Why should I install a tomato cage?
Seasoned gardeners highly recommend installing cages around your tomato plant because of how flimsy their stems are. So, when fruit starts to grow, the additional weight puts too much strain on the stem, causing the plant to droop.
Hence, tomato cages are the perfect solution to give tomato plants the structure that they need. They’re also a relatively affordable long-term solution to provide enough support for branches to carry the fruit.
What are the different kinds of tomato cages?
These are the most popular among beginners as they’re typically easy to assemble. They are also customizable as you can remove or add layers depending on how tall your plant is.
The ample distance between each ring ensures enough room for your tomatoes to grow freely, which makes them a good choice for growing large tomato varieties.
Since the cage is uniform in size from top to bottom, this ensures that your plant is given equal support from all angles.
Similar to the ring-style cages, these have rings, too. Their main difference is that cone-style cages are narrower at the bottom and flare at the top.
Because of this, they’re ideal for smaller tomato varieties only as they can’t provide enough support at the top for heavier breeds.
Like the ring-style cages, these are usually easy to assemble and have customizable layers, which means they can accommodate your plants’ requirements.
What’s great about square-style cages is that it’s fence-like, which gives your tomato plant additional posts to hold on to.
The distance between each layer is quite spacious, which makes them great for larger kinds of tomatoes as they don’t restrict their growth.
Reminiscent of a tripod, these triangular cages are tighter at the top and flare at the bottom.
Since they’re typically made of bamboo, they’re weather-resistant and sturdy, which is great for long-term use. However, customization is quite limited as you can only shorten your poles.
Unfortunately, they’re not suitable for larger tomato breeds as there’s little room.
How tall should a tomato cage be?
The height requirement of your tomato cage depends on the kind of tomatoes you’re growing.
If you’re growing determinate tomato varieties, which hit a max height and set all their fruit in one go, then you’ll need a tomato cage that’s around 4 feet tall.
For indeterminate or “vining” tomato varieties that continue to grow even after production, you’ll need a tomato cage that’s at least 6 feet tall.
Since each tomato plant is different, it’s best to keep an eye on its growth rate and accommodate its needs accordingly.
When should I install a tomato cage?
It’s important to highlight that the best time to install tomato cages is as soon as possible. In particular, when your tomato plant is just a seedling at barely a few inches high.
Aside from being easier to assemble while your plant is still small, installing a tomato cage early decreases the likelihood of disrupting its root system.
What will happen if I don’t use a tomato cage?
As mentioned earlier, tomatoes have pretty flimsy stems which start to droop when tomatoes get too heavy. Hence, they need a ton of support to keep upright.
If you keep your tomato plants on the ground, it makes them susceptible to various pests that will munch on their foliage and fruits.
Giving your tomatoes good structural support also lessens the stress on the roots, allowing your plant to comfortably yield a bountiful harvest.
To boot, keeping your tomato plants upright also promotes air circulation, which prevents diseases.
How do I install my tomato cage?
Since your tomato plant will be getting most of its structural support from the cage, it’s essential that they’re installed properly and firmly to prevent your plant from toppling over.
Here’s how to install a tomato cage:
- Dig a few inches so your tomato cage is underground about 5 to 10 inches deep. This ensures they’re situated firmly and won’t easily topple over when it’s windy or raining.
- Center your plant and ensure that it’s at least three inches away from the cage to give it room to grow freely.
- Put your cage over your plant and push it firmly into the ground. For larger tomato cages, you can drive stakes into the ground for extra support and stability.
Are tomato cages necessary?
While they are immensely helpful, tomato cages aren’t necessary since there are other ways that you can provide your tomato plants with the structural support they need. But which one takes the cake?
|Tomato Cages vs…||Comparison|
|Single Stakes||Stakes are a cheaper alternative to tomato cages because they’re essentially just sticks that you drive into the ground. |
Stakes are also best used for determinate tomato varieties as you can’t really elongate the stake once it’s been firmly planted in the ground.
However, some tomato cages can also be elongated by purchasing additional levels. Cages also offer more stability since they’re balanced and distribute their weight better.
|Double Stakes||While a tad similar to its singular counterpart, double stakes are a tad more structurally sound as they utilize 2 stakes that are tied together.|
Hence, they’re a better option for larger tomato varieties that require more support.
Though compared to cages, they aren’t as balanced or structurally sound.
|Trellises||Trellises offers great support for tomatoes, especially indeterminate varieties that continue to grow after producing fruits.|
Apart from that, you can easily tweak them to better fit your tomato varieties, the shape of your garden, and so on.
They’re also structurally sound and provide enough support and space for your tomatoes to grow freely.
Aside from having the option to purchase ready-made trellises, you can easily afford to make it yourself with a couple of planks, pipes, and string laying around.
What are other ways I can use a tomato cage?
What’s great about tomato cages is that they aren’t solely for tomato plants. Once you’re done harvesting your tomatoes, you can repurpose the cages for other vining and climbing plants.
Here are a few plants that could also benefit from the support of a cage:
That concludes our comprehensive 101 on tomato cages. Say, have you decided what style of tomato cages you’ll be using in your garden? Let us know how it goes!