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How To Build The Ultimate Tomato Cage For Under $2….The Stake-A-Cage

With just a few simple steps, you can have an abundance of tomatoes in this year's garden!
Our Roma tomatoes tied up neatly with the Stake A Cage

Our Roma tomatoes tied up neatly with the Stake A Cage

You may chuckle at the name – but “Stake-A-Cage” really is the best way to describe the trellis system we came up with a few years ago to effectively and  inexpensively tie up our tomatoes and peppers.  We get a lot of questions about it on the blog – so we thought today we would explain it in detail, along with details at the end of the post on how to make your own.

A few years back, with the garden planted, and about 45 tomato plants growing quicker than we imagined – we knew we needed to give them support and fast! After suffering sticker shock at the prices of tomato cages and stakes in the store, we decided to see what we could come up with ourselves.

We had some left-over welded wire fencing from building the outdoor run for the chicken coop, along with wooden stakes we had used to stake out the area where the coop and barn would go.  So – in desperate need to tie up some tomato plants that were falling over – we used wire cutters to quickly cut the fencing into small grid panels.  Next, we attached them to the wooden stakes with fencing nails we had on hand – and the Stake-A-Cage was born.

The cages full in late summer.  As you can see - they support the massive growth with ease

The cages full in late summer. As you can see – they support the massive growth with ease

After we put a few up – we started realizing that we had something!  Not only did they go together easily – they looked great and had a lot of advantages over the commercial cages or old wooden stakes we had used in the past.

For starters, it combines the best of the two old ways used to tie up tomatoes;  the strength of strong wooden stake with the ease of a wire trellis cage.

Although stakes are strong in the soil – it’s always been hard to tie the vines to them as the plants grow larger throughout the season.  And although cages provide a better support for the tomato plants – they become hard to pick through as the plants grow.  Not to mention our cages always seemed grow right out of the ground and topple over as the season progressed.

Staking allows for good growth and easy picking and weeding

Staking allows for good growth and easy picking and weeding

Hence, the use of the Stake A Cage.  The support of a 4′ long wooden stake – attached to an open-faced wire mesh grid. Strong and durable and cheap! It combines the durability of staking tomatoes with the ease of a cage.  Better yet, by keeping the wire grid flat and not making a true cage – you can tie your tomatoes easily to the grid – and when it comes time to pick – you won’t have to reach through the cages to get to the goods. The fruit and vegetables are right in front of you – and easy to harvest.

We have used ours now for three seasons and they are still going strong – and you can make them yourself with little effort for about $2 a piece!  That’s a far cry from the $5 to $25 you can pay for cages, stakes and trellises found in the stores!

How To Make Them:

We made smaller stake a cages for our peppers as well - here, our banana peppers are neatly tied to the cage

We made smaller stake a cages for our peppers as well – here, our banana peppers are neatly tied to the cage

Materials Needed:

Wire Cutters, Hammer, A Chop Saw or Jig Saw

2×2 Lumber For Stakes

Fencing Nails (Sometimes referred to as U – Nails)

30″ High Welded Wire Galvanized Fence with 2″ x 4″ Mesh Grid  (You can buy a 25′ roll which makes enough for about 16 cages for tomatoes, or 25 for peppers)

A simple weld wire screen on a stake, and you have the ultimate tomato trellis

A simple weld wire screen on a stake, and you have the ultimate tomato trellis

The Stakes:
There are a couple of options to make or buy your stakes.   If you are starting from scratch, the easiest option is to buy inexpensive 2x2x8 framing lumber at your local home improvement / lumber store (usually for around$1.25. each)  If you buy them in the standard 8′ pieces, you can simply cut in half to make 2 from each board.

After using up the grade stakes we had on hand, we made the remainder of our stakes from scrap 2×4′s and 2×6′s.  Running them through the table saw lengthwise to make 2×2′s and then cutting them into 4 foot pieces.

To make a sharp point on the stakes – we then used a chop saw (jig saw works great too) to cut angled points into the end of one side. If you angle all four sides – it makes for a sharper point to drive into the ground.

***One extra note here:  Since we use these in the garden and around our plants – we have always  used regular, untreated lumber.  Yes, it’s true that it will not last as long as treated lumber – but if you store them each winter – you should be able to use them for a good 5 years.  When they do start to go bad – you can simply remove the metal grid, and put on a new stake for the next 5 years!  The wire mesh is galvanized, so it will not rust and can be re-used over and over.

Standard Fence Nails work great to secure the mesh to the stake

Standard Fence Nails work great to secure the mesh to the stake

Once you have your stakes ready – the rest is a piece of cake!  Roll out the galvanized welded wire roll, and using wire cutters  - just snip off 18″ wide sections for tomatoes, or 12″ sections if you will be using them for peppers.

Center the wire grid on the stake with the bottom of the wire about 16″ from the bottom of the stake.  (This is to allow the stake to be driven in to that depth)  Then nail in 3 fencing nails, securing the wire to the stake.   You have your very own Stake-A-Cage!

If you would like to receive our DIY & Gardening  Tips every Tuesday – be sure to sign up to follow the blog via email in the left hand column, “like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

- Jim and Mary

80 Comments on How To Build The Ultimate Tomato Cage For Under $2….The Stake-A-Cage

  1. We are looking for ways to build tall heavy-duty cages for tomatoes. And we need to be able to get the fruit out (the 2×4 hole in the fencing is not big enough nor do I think it will be strong enough). We grow a variety of tomatoes for organic preservative/sodium free sauces, salsas and soup base (even ketchup). Two of our favorite varieties we grow get to be HUGE plants that grow over 6ft tall. Regular cages are too short and not strong enough especially once the fruit grows (average 5-6″ on a yellow brandywine which are very dense and heavy fruits; or a heavily loaded san marzano pear type that takes a while to ripen). I prune the plants once or twice a month in July and August to encourage flowering to have a high yield harvest. So, in a way we are creating our own frustration. By September, the cages are all wrecked and the vines are all criss-crossed back and forth in layers or I’ve even wrapped back through the bottom to come out the top again. I’ve used different types of stakes to add support and extend the height; regularly use rope “tent stake” style to keep them from tipping over. We need all the tomatoes we can get and if the plants up-root themselves or break, it’s gone and that’s food we don’t have for our table. Also, living in the waterlogged Pacific NW coast presents another challenge as we usually have a short “dry” growing season and we can’t start over on a new plant. Open to any helpful ideas and advice that can save us some money! I need something that will last the season and can be reused instead of buy $15 failures (x10 plants) every year.

    • Wow – it sounds like you have some fantastic tomato plants! The only thing i can think of is using actual cattle panels and cutting them down and attaching then to metal fencing stakes. Cattle panels are around $20 for a 4 x 16′ section – and you could cut them into 18″ or 24″ wide strips x 4″ high and attache them to 1 or two metal stakes. It would probably run about $12 per stake/cage – but they would last forever. Jim

  2. How do you tie the plants to the fencing grid? Can you post a picture of how you do that and explain what you use for ties? Thanks

  3. Fifteen years ago I made tomato cages from the wire used under driveways because it is very sturdy and taller than most rolls of wire. It is a little expensive for a roll, but they last for years and you get about 8 out of a roll, so in the long run the cost equals out. I decided how big I wanted to make my cages, then using wire snips, I cut the wire next to a cross wire leaving pieces extended. Roll them up, using the extended wire, bend over the over end to close the cage. They are still good and I also use them to stake my cucumbers, pole and running lima beans, and peppers. To hold them in the ground, I drive long tent stakes in the ground, making sure the hook is over the bottom of the cage. The openings are large enough to stick your hands through to pick the vegetables.

  4. Thanks for the great idea for tomato and pepper cages!

  5. Kathy Evans // September 27, 2013 at 10:33 pm //

    What material do you use as ties?

    • I would greatly appreciate if you could tell me how far apart do you plant your tomatoes? I noted that you plant your peppers with them, how far apart are they? I think I planted mine to close, I’ve gotten a fair amount of tomatoes but not for canning. I am purchasing the stake-a-cage material so I can be ready for next growing season. Thanks for any input.

      • We plant our tomatoes about 36″ apart form plant to plant between rows – and about 20″ apart in the rows. I hope that helps! Jim

      • Thank you for info, I’ve read most of your starting a “Raised rows garden” very informative, but where I live in far west Tx we have no straw, is there something else that you can use besides leaves I have very few trees so that’s not much help either, I did find pulverized top soil. Any help is very much appreciated! Love your site

    • Ozark Mtn Nana // January 27, 2014 at 8:18 pm //

      I use old knee high stockings or cut up panty hose legs to tie up our tomato plants. They do not dig into the plants and hang on to the wires until we pull them off in the spring to use them again.

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