When it comes to staking tomato plants, we really thought we had one of the best solutions ever.
By simply taking a wooden stake, and attaching a section of welded wire fencing to it with “U” nails, we created the perfect low-cost, open-faced tomato support.
We aptly named our dual-support apparatus the Stake-A-Cage. And, have been using them to stake our tomato and pepper plants with ease for 10 years.
Check out our podcast on how to grow the best tomatoes on the block!
Until this year that is, when we added a new twist to our trusty old Stake-A-Cage. And as you’ll see in the details and video below, we think it makes them better than ever!
Making Good A Little Better…
As good as our old stake-a-cages were for our pepper and tomato plants, there were a few slight drawbacks.
The first was that they could be hard to store with the stake and cage attached. Each fall, we hung them on the inside of a barn wall, or stored them in crates.
But with over 60 stake-a-cages, the wire and stake combo took up a considerable amount of room. Especially with the slight curve of the welded wire fencing.
And finally, it could be a little difficult pounding them into the ground with the stake and cage attached together.
But all of those problems, as tiny as they were, have been solved with our newest version.
The New DIY Stake-A-Cage – The Perfect Way To Stake Tomato Plants!
After 6+ years of use, many of our 4′ hardwood wooden stakes were beginning to wear out on our old Stake-A-Cages. And replacing them gave us the perfect opportunity to try out a new design.
One that is stronger, easier to use, and way more convenient to store!
Instead of cutting and attaching welded wire fencing for the cage portion, we opted this time for galvanized feedlot panels. For about $20 for a 16′ long 50″ tall panel, they are an incredible heavy duty bargain!
Using bolt cutters, we snipped panels off into 16″ wide sections. We kept the 50″ length for large tomatoes, and cut them in half for smaller tomato and pepper varieties.
The longer 50″ sections will be perfect for to stake big heirloom tomato plants like Brandywine, Black Krim and Mortgage Lifter. While the 25″ tall panels will support our Jalapeno, Banana Pepper and small paste tomatoes with ease.
Attaching The Panels
The 4 gauge wire is much stronger and more rigid than welded wire fencing. And even better, completely flat. It will make tying up plants a cinch! (See: The Best Way To Tie Up Tomatoes)
Now, we simply drive in the tomato stake without any cage attached. Next, we take one of our sturdy cattle panels and use two re-usable zip ties to secure it the stake. One zip tie at the bottom, and one at the top.
Strong, quick, and ultra efficient. Not having the panel attached means driving the stake in is easier than ever.
But best of all, it makes fall cleanup and storage a cinch. When the tomato plant crop is done, the zip ties get removed, and the panels and stakes can be stored separately.
So what is the overall cost to stake each tomato plant?
We purchase 4′ surveyor stakes with a pencil point from Zaenkert Surveying Essentials (www.hardwoodstakes.com), a supplier in Ohio, at a cost of about $3 per stake. The sharp point is just so easy to drive into the ground.
A Look At The Cages In Action…
We get 8 to 10 full-size supports, or 16 to 20 smaller supports out of a single 16′ section of a feedlot panel. That makes the per-grid cost anywhere from $1 to $2 per unit.
Overall, the cow panels add about .45 cents more per support vs. the welded wire. But even with that, the total cost to stake each tomato plant still works out to about $4. And that is an amazing bargain – considering the galvanized grids can be used almost indefinitely!
All in all, a great value for $4 to $5 dollar stake-a-cages that will last for years and years. Especially considering flimsier commercial stakes and cages can be $10 to $15 each!
Here is to an even better way to stake your tomato and pepper plants, and to a great garden season. For more gardening and DIY advice, be sure to check out our YouTube channel at Old World Garden Farms on YouTube
Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary!
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