Friday, June 29, 2012

DIY PVC Tomato Cage

Novice gardeners that we are, our first actual growing season has yielded some humbling lessons. The first? That those tomato cages they sell at hardware and garden stores are an utter waste of time and money. Our tomato plants outgrew them almost instantly, which was awesome (our tomato plants were thriving!) and a problem (our tomatoes are falling over themselves and snapping at the stalk!). Obviously, something had to be done. 

Enter: a desperate Google search while standing in the aisle at Lowe's, and this post on Instructables about how to make a tomato cage from PVC pipe. Ten seconds later we were in the PVC aisle; twenty minutes later we were on our way home with the necessary materials; a few days later we had easily constructed the ultimate DIY tomato cage.

Tomato palace.

Supported stalks.

So far, it's working well - a million times better than the flimsy tomato cages we had been using. We've been loosely tying the stalks from the plants onto the intersections, and it's holding up really beautifully. This system gives our plants plenty of space to stretch out, while at the same time letting in the light that the fruit needs to grow and ripen. The only downside is that PVC won't last forever - with damage from the sun and the elements, Nathan estimates that it might last two years. But two years is okay with me - especially if it means we have time to think of a more sustainable solution, without risking our spring crop of tomatoes. Whew!

Do you use any creative alternatives in your garden? How are your tomatoes doing? And does anyone have a good salsa recipe? Thanks, and happy Friday!


  1. I wonder how long a wooden cage using treated materials would last? Or maybe stringing some heavy wire between T-posts. Tomatoes go nuts. Back when we were doing a lot of gardening they'd pop up everywhere because there would be bits of tomatoes and tomato plants in the compost we used. Those above-ground beds are looking great! Salsa. Yum. We always use the basic Mexican recipe: tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, and cilantro. Sometimes I like to add green chiles and some lime or lemon juice. If you like cold cilantro, it's always better to let it sit in the fridge over night. If you like it warm, sautee those ingredients together. Mmmm. Heartburn.

  2. Holy tomato cage! My wire cages hold up ok, as long as I stake them, but that square PVC idea looks a lot better for my garden. Definitely can't wait to see what happens as the season progresses!

    1. So far we've had the most success with our tomatoes. Still waiting on those bell peppers! The plants are tall and flowering, and yet - no veggies!

  3. lol. I meant cold salsa, not cold cilantro. Mexican garden salsa is the best.

  4. I apologize, but have you announced the shabby apple giveaway winner?

  5. Nope! I meant to but ran out of time this week. I'll announce it tomorrow - sorry to keep you waiting!

  6. My husband took woven wire fencing and made tomato cages
    about 20 years ago and we are still using them. After gaden
    season is over we store them in the barn loft. Just make them the size you want them, cut them with wire cutters, and fold the open end into the closed side and bend and wrap around. The wire is stiff and be sure to wear heavy work gloves and saftey glasses.

  7. This post is very timely for me, as I am growing my first patio garden, including two tomato plants, this year! Good times. I'm glad you guys found a good solution for your plants this year, and I'm looking forward to more garden stories. I'm hoping to write a little post about my patio garden adventures, just for fun :-)

    Also, this recipe is one of my favorite salsa recipes. It comes from my lovely sister-in-law, Amanda.

  8. My regular tomato cages are doing fine it's the deer and raccoons that are doing them in. Earlier this week my heirloom tomato plant was on the ground with a broken pot and all 10 green tomatoes gone! That one was the raccoons. Last week it was a deer eating all the yellow cherry tomatoes, leaving the green ones. This deer has also munched the tops off of the buttercup and balloon flowers, and nibbled on almost everything else that it can think of.

    So, am thinking something much bigger - on the scale of a greenhouse but with wire wrapped around it. It would have a door so I could go in and water everything and give me enough room for about 4 tomato plants and maybe some peppers along with what ever other plants he's munched. Using wired mesh with openings 2"x4" should be ok. It's not as flimsy as chicken wire and the holes are not big enough for the critters to get thru them. PVC will be the base because it's light weight and if I put the bottom end poles in buckets with cement, it should hold them down so nothing can tip it over - read that as a momma raccoon and four babies. I rent so everything has to be moveable.