We call it the Stake-A-Cage. You may chuckle at the name – but it really is .  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.

Our Roma tomatoes tied up neatly with the Stake A Cage
Our Roma tomatoes tied up neatly with the Stake A Cage

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 our trusty Heavy Duty Bolt 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 The Stake-A-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 TwitterThis post  may contain affilate links. 

– Jim and Mary

 




80 thoughts on “The Stake-A-Cage – Build The Ultimate Tomato Support For Under $2

  • March 5, 2014 at 12:27 am
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    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.

    • March 5, 2014 at 4:55 pm
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      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

  • January 27, 2014 at 3:46 pm
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    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

  • December 22, 2013 at 6:30 pm
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    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.

  • December 17, 2013 at 5:24 pm
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    Thanks for the great idea for tomato and pepper cages!

  • September 27, 2013 at 10:33 pm
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    What material do you use as ties?

    • September 30, 2013 at 7:54 am
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      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.

      • October 1, 2013 at 9:20 pm
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        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

        • October 17, 2013 at 7:27 am
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          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

    • January 27, 2014 at 8:18 pm
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      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.

  • September 19, 2013 at 4:17 pm
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    Do you curve the wire around or just leave it straight? It’s kind of hard to tell in the picture’s.

  • September 10, 2013 at 11:41 am
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    Wish I had seen this before I planted my garden. I will be ready next year with my new tomato stakes. Thanks for the information.

  • September 8, 2013 at 3:43 pm
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    We have our garden in front of our house. I used this design with redwood (stained appropriately for edibles) and wire coated in green PVC. It looks amazing! Thank you for the design.

  • July 18, 2013 at 1:03 pm
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    I made these cages this year with success. My tomatoes are growing up and over and producing a ton of tomatoes. The stakes are staying put ( not lifting out of the ground like the cheap wire ones you buy at garden stores). Tomatoes are much easier to see and pick. Also made smaller ones for my peppers. I am not a carpenter but the directions were very easy for me to follow and make. Looks like a keeper for years to come!

    • July 18, 2013 at 1:17 pm
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      So glad they worked out! We love how easy it is to pick them as well – and they certainly hold up over the cages in the stores! Thanks for letting us know!

  • June 26, 2013 at 2:26 pm
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    Hello – I am working on my cages, have 12 made so far. I do have a question for you – I am curious about the 36″ height – it seems not tall enough. How do you handle it if they grow taller past the top? Thanks – Tim

    • June 26, 2013 at 3:26 pm
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      Tim – The 36″ height works really well for almost all of our Roma and Celebrity varieties – we do however make a few taller for our Big Boy type tomatoes that grow larger. When our’s have grown to the top they are usually strong enough with the support to grow a few inches above with no problem. Hope that helps and good luck with the crop!

      Jim

  • June 12, 2013 at 10:51 am
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    How do you drive the stakes in the ground without splitting them? I Cut an untreated 2×4 down to 2x2x4, cut a sharp point on chop saw and still struggled to get them in the ground.

    • July 1, 2013 at 12:34 pm
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      Lowes carries 2x2x8’s in the very rear wall of lumber area – $1.72 ea. I cut in half, point w/chop saw, and then use my regular heavy sledge to put them in. I guess it can depend on the wood, but none of mine split so far. My soil gets real hard down near that 8″ level or so, so the 12-13″ drive seems to hold.

  • June 4, 2013 at 11:01 pm
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    I have a bunch of odd pieces of leftover rabbit cage wire 1 inch by 2 inch grid. Would these work?

  • May 18, 2013 at 9:54 pm
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    Is there any difference between a trellis for cucs versus a trellis for tomatoes?

  • May 10, 2013 at 1:48 pm
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    My husband and I just built 52 stake a cages!! Thanks for the awesome idea

  • May 5, 2013 at 9:08 pm
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    I’ve been using the same tomato cages for over 20 years now. We started with one roll of concrete wire. Cut enough off the roll to make a complete circle, probably two feet wide. Cut the raw edge of one side to make prongs to bend over the other side making a circle. On the bottom, same thing, cut prongs from each of the downward facing wire so we could push the prongs into the soil to help hold the cages upright in case of strong wind.

    Now over 20 years, still using the same cages. I don’t have to tie anything up and no fruit is spoiled on the ground. Everything just grows right up in the cage. My tomatoes usually top out at about 6ft or so, over my head anyway. Good old chicken compost. At the end of the season, I clean the cages out and stack in my garden till the next Spring.

    • May 5, 2013 at 9:57 pm
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      Now that is the ultimate re-using story! And yes, chicken compost is amazing isn’t it?!!!!

      • May 10, 2013 at 11:27 pm
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        I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Where might I find chicken compost?

  • May 4, 2013 at 7:20 am
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    How do you handle crop rotation with this system? Love the idea, but with some of the new tomato viruses that have popped up, crop rotation seems to be the only way to prevent the spread of the disease.

  • April 29, 2013 at 11:32 am
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    Instead of fencing wire could I use wire hardware cloth? I don’t have need of a whole roll of fencing in my very tiny garden.

    • April 30, 2013 at 12:35 am
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      Hardware cloth is THE way to go when you want it to last. It’s the best material to use on the bottoms of your raised beds to keep burrowers like gophers out of your crops. As long as you have it securely fastened, it will serve you well for years to come, even if it’s buried.

  • April 29, 2013 at 10:54 am
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    Rebar and concrete reinforcing wire work nicely. The concrete reinforcing wire is sturdy enough to stand up under the weight of the heaviest producers, high enough after you bend it into a circle to support very tall plants, and the gaps between the wires are large enough to reach through to harvest your crops. Most places that sell rebar have rebar cutters and will cut it up into stakes for a small fee and you can always just use a cutoff wheel instead.

    Stakes only need to be a couple feet long so you can drive them in around a foot and have about a foot of stake against the cage to secure it with using rebar wire or whatever you choose. It all rusts but that just ensures that your soil won’t be deficient in iron.

    Of course you can always just secure the reinforcing wire between a couple posts without bending it into a circle so that you have a flat trellis for the tomatoes and whatever other vining plants you might plant with them, too.

  • April 29, 2013 at 7:41 am
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    Question for you… I noticed in your photo that you alternate rows of tomatoes and peppers. What is your reasoning for this?

    • April 29, 2013 at 8:02 am
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      That is a great question – not everyone notices that :). We alternate because the tomatoes tend to grow much bigger as a plant than the peppers – and by alternating them – it allows for more sunlight to reach them and help ripen and give more airflow overall to the garden. We also spread them out like that to avoid the possibility of spreading disease in case the plants become infected or infested with bugs….we can keep it from spreading so quickly. Little things but they all add up to make a difference. – Jim

  • April 28, 2013 at 5:08 pm
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    I use cattle panels and T-posts. Panels are 50” by 16′ and the spaces are about 8 -10 inches square. I often grow cucumbers and smaller mellons on the trellis (tie them up in little hammocks made with panty hose or fabric). Same idea, just make sure of you need to reach throuh that the space is big enough for your hand and the biggest tomato.

    • April 29, 2013 at 8:04 am
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      That is a another perfect way to do it! I love hearing all of the ways people come up with to trellis them! Jim

  • April 28, 2013 at 12:39 pm
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    I’m going to give this a try using the rebar I use every winter to line out long driveway with solar lights ( make ti easier to know where to plow the snow from) These are stored away for the summer taking up space in the shed anyhow. Zip ties to the rescue and will probably use two pieces of rebar per “stake ” for added strength 🙂 Thanks for the idea!!!

    • April 29, 2013 at 8:17 am
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      That sounds like a perfect way to do it! Good luck and let us know how it works for you! Jim and Mary

  • April 11, 2013 at 12:50 pm
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    Do you also weave the branches through the squares for support or do you just tie them? I can’ wait to try it this year!

  • April 4, 2013 at 8:34 am
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    Great idea! I have cages made from wire used on concrete. I think I will cut them in half or thirds. They should be easier to store too! Thanks!

  • March 27, 2013 at 9:01 am
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    How do you store these when the planting time is over? I’m in Michigan and as you know we only have about 6 months of actual garden time.

    • March 27, 2013 at 9:12 am
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      Luke – we pull them off, and store them flat on top of each other in our barn in a corner. They don’t take up to much space at all that way. I am beginning to think with the cold weather here in Ohio we are going to only have 4 months to grow! 🙂

      Jim

  • March 12, 2013 at 8:18 pm
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    can the same idea be used for pole beans ? and spinach ? both are vines type plants , so what would you say about it : ) ?????

    • March 12, 2013 at 8:35 pm
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      We actually used ours last year for our climbing beans and it worked great. Im not sure about the spinach – it is the one vegetable I have never liked and never grown :):)

  • March 12, 2013 at 8:02 pm
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    Just looking for clarification, you don’t actually close the circle? I have tried to make these but I closed them off with zip lines. What about 4×4 blocks rather than the 2×4?

    • March 12, 2013 at 8:38 pm
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      Mary – you are correct -we do not close the circle. I think the 4 x 4 blocks would work well too – we just happened to have the 2 x 4 fencing around the first time so have always stayed with it. Jim

  • March 8, 2013 at 10:02 am
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    Is it really a cage? Hard to see up close! It looks like a stake nailed to a piece of fencing like a trellis, not a circular cage, is that correct?

    • March 8, 2013 at 10:05 am
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      Ronnie – That exactly what it is. By using rolled fencing – the fencing has a tendency to curl a little giving the impression of a cage. It works wonders to tie up tomatoes.

  • February 22, 2013 at 9:55 pm
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    can the same idea be used for pole beans ? and spinach ? both are vines type plants , so what would you say about it : ) ?

  • February 9, 2013 at 6:00 am
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    Absolutely brilliant! It’s amazing what you can come up with through trial and error.

  • January 23, 2013 at 2:17 pm
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    Hi,
    We found you from the Six Sisters Blog Hop. You have some great ideas and we would like for you to share with our readers too. We are hosting our first link party tomorrow and we would like to invite you to link up with us. We have a fun blog to co-host with us. Hope to see you there.

    Thanks!
    The Busy Bee’s,
    Myrna and Joye.

    http://thebusybhive.blogspot.com/

  • January 16, 2013 at 7:24 pm
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    my ex-wife and I did this with our garden for years — it was actually her idea. And, yes, it works great!

    • January 18, 2013 at 6:26 am
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      That’s great Jimi! Isn’t it amazing how well it holds up the tomatoes for easy picking!

  • January 15, 2013 at 7:14 pm
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    I was just reviewing the cost of the traditional cages. The products sold are not as sturdy as they used to be. Pretty cheap thin metal. Mine come apart after 2 seasons as they are not soddered together well. So here is a great solution. Thanks…. it is on the honeydoo list for this winter. A great winter project. I need 10 for tomatoes and 10 for peppers. thanks!!!

    • January 16, 2013 at 4:51 pm
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      How close do you plant to the stakes? And do you have any suggestions on keeping cucumbers off the ground. Love your blog… alot of great ideas.. we usually till, but my husband will have to have stomach surgery in a few weeks, so the raised beds for me is going to great. Thanks again…

      • May 6, 2013 at 9:06 am
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        Michelle…I am just a family gardner, but my husband and I bought some of that white plastic trellis for our cukes. We got a 2″ x 2″ x 8′ post and cut it in half, pointed the ends, and hammered them into the ground. We bought a 4′ x 8′ piece of white plastic lattice and cut it in half. We then used the zip ties that hold computer wires together to attach the lattice to our poles and then put a couple of nails into each post to attach it to the box itself, just for extra strength. You just weave their little tendrils through and around the lattice and they grow just fine.

        Hope this helps with your cukes.

      • May 6, 2013 at 9:25 am
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        we plant about 4 to 6″ inches in front of the stakes – good luck with your garden this year!

      • June 20, 2013 at 9:35 am
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        For my cucumbers I took a welded wire livestock panel (purchased at TSC – Tractor Supply Company), staked it with iron T-posts (raising the fence panel about a foot or so off the ground and cut wire strips out of coat hangers to tie panel to stakes. Then as cucumbers start to sprawl out and vine, I just wove them up the fence panel. SO MUCH EASIER TO PICK and makes a lot more room in my tiny little garden. I also do the same thing with my peas and after switching from bush green beans to pole beans, now I use the same method for them too. With having a very tiny space for my gardening, yet canning most of the food we eat, I needed space. And up is the only way I could go! Hope this helps

    • January 18, 2013 at 6:24 am
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      It is amazing how cheap they build the store bought cages and stakes now! Good luck on this year’s garden!

  • January 15, 2013 at 4:29 pm
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    to what side do you put the cage. my rows run north to south……or does it matter?

    • January 15, 2013 at 4:38 pm
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      Hi Terri – we have our cage on the north side behind our plants – so the sun has full view of the plants. With the open grid – it probably wouldn’t make too much difference – the light would still get through to the plants. Hope that helps! Jim

  • January 15, 2013 at 1:48 pm
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    I’m so happy you did a post on this! I just came across your blog a few days ago and had already pinned your Stake-A-Cage idea, but now I know how you actually do it. Thanks so much! Do you ever have an issue with the tomatoes getting too tall for the cages? My Mom’s tomatoes got crazy tall last year, and 3 feet wouldn’t have been enough. Any solutions if they get out of control?

    • January 15, 2013 at 3:23 pm
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      Becky – we do grow some bigger types of tomatoes that get a little larger than the 3′ grid. For those – we just made some larger ones with 5 to 6′ stakes and a longer grid. It works great for bigger plants! Glad the post was timely for you! Jim

  • January 15, 2013 at 12:55 pm
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    What flippin fabuloso idea! Such a simple and obvious solution and yet I never would have thought of it! No need for Toms to be tied to stakes and suffering broken stems where they flop over – your system gives them complete support.
    I don’t grow Toms to the degree you do as the climate here doesn’t really agree with them but this system is definitely a must for even just a few plants.
    Thank you for sharing this.
    Linda

    • January 15, 2013 at 1:34 pm
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      Linda – It really helps keep the plants up and helps them ripen a lot quicker as well – thanks so much for stopping by the blog!

  • January 15, 2013 at 12:44 pm
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    Do you trim your tomato plants regularly so that you are only growing one main stalk? We had a plant that grew everywhere this last year, it was about 4′ tall and 3′ to 4′ foot across and 2′ deep, the first time I cut it back! But it didn’t produce many tomatoes. One of the guides I read said to trim all the “sucker” branches off and just grow the main stem up. What advice can you give me from your experience? Thanks!

    • January 18, 2013 at 6:23 am
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      We trim only the bottom suckers off to allow a little light and air to the bottom of the plant. It makes it easier to water at the base level – and I really believe keeping those bottom areas clear keeps away a lot of wilt and pest problems. As for the top – we let the plants spread out beyond the main stem. Hope that helps! Jim

  • January 15, 2013 at 12:36 pm
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    What a great idea….I will be making use of your wisdom this season..Thanks. As far as how to tie the plants I use the green velcro that comes in rolls 1/2 inch wide. I cut it into 4-6 inch lengths. You can buy it at a store like Home Depot, or Walmart. what is great is that you can move and re-use and re-tie easily over and over during the season as needed. It is so much easier than any kind of string.

  • January 15, 2013 at 11:56 am
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    How deep do you drive the stakes?

    • January 15, 2013 at 11:57 am
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      We drive them in about 14 to 16″ – right down to where the cage bottom almost touches the ground – this way you can tie up the plants earlier and it gives them added protection.

  • January 15, 2013 at 11:33 am
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    Now why didn’t I think of that? I love this idea, so simple yet so much better than the store-bought tomato cages! I love your blog!

    • January 15, 2013 at 11:52 am
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      It really is simple to do and works so well! Glad you like the blog!

  • January 15, 2013 at 9:31 am
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    What do you use to tie your tomato plants to the cage? I have tried a few things without much success

    • January 15, 2013 at 9:37 am
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      Casey – We have tried a lot of things over the years as well – and what seems to work best for us, and at very little cost – is to use a thick all natural yarn. We can buy a 500′ spool for under $5 – and can even get in green to blend in with the plants. It has worked well the last few years. Jim

      • April 28, 2013 at 11:41 pm
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        I’ve used pantyhose, works great! I just cut horizontal across the legs, get a bunch of rings and cut the rings. If its not long enough, I tie two or three together. It doesn’t dig into the plant and the knots never come loose.

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