I'm a big, crazy contradiction.
Yesterday, I bought a $19 orchid plant for my bedroom because it was beautiful and made me happy. And then I go and do a post on how to build a tomato cage for under $4 because I'm too much of a tightwad to splurge on the metal cages.
Whoa is me.
I guess we all choose to splurge where we see fit in our budgets and tighten the belt where we'd rather not blow a lot of our hard earned money. Truthfully, tomato trellises weren't too high on my priority list. Mainly because they're all pretty bad, anyway. Even the ready made kind are known to break, sag, bend, and flop over. So this year, I figured I'd cut my losses and try and build some myself.
Oh DIY. How you get the better of my sometimes.
I am happy to report that we're about a month into these cheap homemade tomato cages and they seem to be doing the job well. Even though the plants aren't yet heavy with fruit, the structures are still standing and as strong as they were when I made them. And with the horrible wind we get up on the hill, that's a good sign.
And did I mention they were cheap? Okay good. Just didn't want you to miss that point.
How To Build A Tomato Cage
1. Locate the best sunny location in your garden for the tomato plants. Roughly draw a circle 4 feet in diameter in the soil.
3. Drive the remaining stakes into the drawn circle, evenly spaced. The points should all be facing inwards – resembling a teepee of sorts.
4. Use a large piece of twine to bind the bamboo stakes together in the middle. This is where the support of the structure is, so make sure to take time and do it well – wrapping each stake carefully and tightly. I like to start with two and wrap them together. Then I had the third and warp that in. Then the fourth, etc. Adding one at a time can help to ensure they all get bound tightly. I'd like to say there's a perfect method for this, but frankly I'm too lazy for that, so my cages quickly became a “wrap-it-until-it-feels-tight” kinda thing. I just kept going and going and going until it felt right to end it with a quick knot or two.
Oh ya, baby. See that incredible engineering?
5. Plant a tomato plant at the bottom of each bamboo stake. As the tomato plant grows, take time to prune off suckers and bind the main stem to the bamboo stake with small pieces of twine. The bamboo will help to create a support for the plant as it grows.
Here are my tomatoes a month in. They've already been trellised to the tomato cages twice:
This year we are growing all heirloom varieties – Tommy Toe, Italian Heirloom, Yellow Pear, Brandywine, and Gold Metal. It's the first year that I've completely started every single tomato plant from seed so this gardener has her fingers and toes crossed that they yield high and produce delicious fruit!
I feel these tomato cages are a great reflection of life on our homestead. We're learning to adapt and overcome in the face of adversity – learning how to problem solve, work within in our budget, and keep within our means. Purchasing fifty tomato cages for our plants was out of the question financially. Luckily, these bamboo stakes sell for just a few bucks a package (ours came in packages of six) and the twine was just a few cents worth. I estimate that each tomato cage (which will support five tomato plants) costs us about $4, with the local garden supply price that we paid for the bamboo.
Considering a metal cage sells for about $15 and will only support one plant, I consider that a huge financial savings!
The bonus is that the bamboo stakes can be easily moved, easily replaced, and easily upgraded to a heftier size of bamboo stake if your tomato plants demand a stronger trellis.
I sure do miss that giant patch of bamboo we had in our backyard when we lived in Alabama. Girlfriend could sure use that free resource in the garden right about now! Green beans, peas, and cucumbers are all getting this same trellis treatment!
Here's to a year of great tomato harvests – from my garden to yours!