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DIY Tomato cages & Vine support

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

Tomato & Vine Support

It’s no secret that most people think you need tomato cages to support your tomato plants. You do need to support them, but there is always a more affordable or even free option. I could finally afford and purchased tomato cages last year. However, I could easily just throw my money away. That's basically what I did. I purchased about 12, 3 prong tomato cages from Walmart last year. First, I struggled to even get them in the ground. I tried placing them first, then planting. That idea didn't go too well. Second, I tried planting my tomatoes first, then placing the cages on top. It took me having two extra volunteers to successfully get them in the ground, without tearing up the tomato plants. One of the welded rings snapped making it almost useless for support. For the amount of money I spent, I could have bought enough seeds for a whole year of gardening. So to say I was frustrated over my own decision is an understatement.

3 Prong cages I purchased

This year I want to go back to my roots. My cut bamboo, and $1 wire from the dollar General have NEVER let me down. I live in Arkansas. We get some pretty fierce thunderstorms about the same time every year when I am planting the most in my garden which is April/May. The cages I purchased were nearly blown from the ground every time a storm came through. One thing I noticed about my old way of supporting my plants with the grid lines of wire, is that they never moved during a storm. A few other advantages I learned with this method;

  1. As your tomato plants grow, you can easily intertwine their branches with the gridline of wires for more support when bearing fruit.

  2. I was able to grow 25 plants in one 5ft X 15ft non-raised bed. With the cages, I could only fit 12.

  3. My plants seemed to thrive more from the grid method over the cages.

  4. It’s fairly easy to assemble and maintain.

  5. It was cheap. The wire is $1.00 and bamboo is everywhere. If you cannot find bamboo then green or fresh limbs would work just fine. Lots of people would happily offer you free bamboo if you trim it back for them.

So now the fun part! I'm joking, you will break a mild sweat. In these pictures below I show the layout of where I placed the bamboo sticks for my tomato bed last year. I drove these bamboo sticks into the ground when it was wet using a post driver gently. I wouldn’t do it any other way as it was enough work getting them in the ground while it was wet. This also seemed to help suction them into place rather well. They didn't seem to wiggle much if at all. Once I got them all in the ground, I waited a day or two for the ground to dry. I didn't want to compact my soil inside my bed or play in the mud. After everything had dried, I grabbed that $1 plant wire. I cannot remember how much wire I used, but I pick up about 4-5 rolls per year. I find myself using this wire for everything so I like to keep it on hand. I've seen it in other stores, but not nearly as cheap.

First, start by tying one end of your wire to one corner bamboo. Run that wire around your bamboos bottom notch, slightly above the notch line where it is a tad wider. Then, twist the wire several times. Move on to the next bamboo stick moving horizontally from left to right, and twisting each time to secure it. You will repeat this until you reach the next corner post. Once there, tie off. Go down each row of bamboo and repeat this process of moving horizontally for the bottom notches. After that is done, you will repeat this process for each notch in the bamboo, stopping at the height you desire your support to be. I made my support grid as tall as my bamboo. This was about 5.5ft tall. I'm 5’3 so this was my limit. When you've completed all rows, you will then want to repeat this same process moving vertically up your rows. I suggest doing the inside and working outwards for this. You will notice this gives you that grid-like pattern around each plant all the way to the top of your desired height. If any of your notches seem to have wider gaps than others, and you'd like more support, you can add wire in between the notches like you see pictured below. It does not need to be perfect. I left slack in mine to have wiggle room as they grew which paid off.

It is obviously still very much winter outside. I will be updating this post later in the spring when I plant with a full tutorial of how I create this grid-like support system. That way you all can have a more detailed video tutorial of how I do this, and you can laugh at my pain (Arkansas humidity). If you know of other effective and affordable ways to create support for plants, please comment and add your method. You never know when your idea could help someone else. Good luck & happy gardening!

01/31/2022 Update-

If you follow us on Facebook, we have posted a screen shot of Garland County Arkansas's Swap shop, of a listing where a sweet lady is giving away free cane. This can also be used to support your plants and best of all she is offering it for free. You can find a link to our public Facebook profile at the top of our website page, and once there you will see the post. If you live near by and cannot figure out how to get in touch with this sweet lady, or you do not have a Facebook, but want to try to score some free cane for plant support, use the contact us feature on our website. We would be happy to help you. Please be sure that if you use any cane or bamboo that you strip it of all leaves and seeds prior to placing in your garden. This stuff can spread like wild fire.

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