When you support tomato plants and pepper plants properly, good things happen in the garden!
Keeping your tomato and pepper plants off the ground plays a big role in the overall success of your crop. In fact, for as much effort as most gardeners put into having good soil and healthy plants, it can all be for not if plants are not supported properly.
First off, when you support tomato plants properly, it allows them to withstand the forces of Mother Nature. Nothing is more disheartening than watching a promising harvest ruined by a mid-summer storm. Heavy wind and rain can easily topple weakly supported plants loaded with ripening produce.
In addition, the added light and air flow that comes from proper support prevents disease and pest problems. By having tomato and pepper crops up off the ground, air and light more easily circulate through plants. This promotes ripening, and helps keep mildew and other diseases at bay. As for pests, keeping plants off the ground makes it harder for them to reach and damage foliage. See : How To Prune Tomatoes For A Great Crop
So what is the best way to support tomato plants and pepper plants? A stake? A tomato cage? Well, we happen to think it’s a combination of both. Even better, you can make them at home and save big!
Our Easy and Inexpensive DIY Answer To Support Tomato Plants: The Stake-A-Cage
Although tomato stakes and cages offer some support to plants, they both have disadvantages. First and foremost, they each can be incredibly expensive for the home gardener. Good quality stakes or cages can range from $5 to $20 or more! They also can both be hard to work with.
With stakes, it can be extremely difficult to tie off branches. Twine or rope can easily slip and fall, and large branches are hard to tie off to a single post.
Cages can provide a little more all-around support, but their closed-in style makes it difficult to reach the plant. That makes it hard to both tie off, and to eventually harvest your crop. In addition, many commercially available cages have limited strength, and easily grow right out of the soil with the plant.
So a few years back, we created our own homemade version that combined the strength of a stake, with the broader support of a partial cage. By making a homemade 2 x 2 stake from inexpensive framing lumber, and securing an 18″ wide x 30″ section of rolled fencing to it with fencing nails, you end up with an incredible open-sided stake and cage.
It simply works wonders in keeping plants strong and healthy, and making it easy to harvest. Best of all, you can make them for about $2 to $3 a piece! Here’s how:
Tools / Materials
To make the stakes, use inexpensive untreated 2x framing lumber. Most home improvement stores carry 2 x 2 furring strips that can be cut in half to form two, 4′ stakes. You can also purchase 2 x 4’s and run them through a table saw lengthwise to make 2×2’s. A standard 2 x 4 x 8′ can make four stakes using this method.
To create a sharp point on the stakes, use a jig saw to cut angled points on one side.
Rolled Fencing Wire:
For the open cage portion, we use 30″ high welded wire galvanized fencing rolls with a 2″ x 4″ mesh grid. A 50′ roll will make about 32 cages for tomatoes, or 50 for peppers. Most farm and home improvement stores will carry 10′, 25′ and 50′ rolls. If you really want to go strong, you can also use heavier grade cattle panels. They are extremely durable and will last forever, but they are more expensive. Product link : 50′ Roll of Welded Wire Fencing
Assembling The Stake A Cage
Roll out the galvanized welded wire roll, and using wire cutters, cut off 18″ wide sections for tomatoes, or 12″ wide sections for peppers.
Center the wire grid on the stake, leaving 14″ at the bottom of the stake open. This allows the stake to be driven in to the ground up to 14″, providing plenty of strength as plants grow. If you make smaller stakes for peppers, you can leave about 10″ at the bottom.
Once you have the fencing section in place, attach 3 fencing nails. One at the top, one in the middle, and one at the bottom will secure the wire to the stake. And your tomato Stake-A-Cage is complete!
Happy Gardening, and Tomato Growing! – Jim and Mary. If you would like to receive our DIY, Gardening and Recipe articles each week, you can sign up to follow the blog via email in the right hand column above, “Like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. This article may contain affiliate links.