You can easily go without tomato cages in your garden. In fact, tomato cages are not at all necessary and here is what I use as a substitute for a tomato cage in my garden.
You do not need tomato cages. This is not a popular opinion, but it is true. Tomato cages are one of the most challenging things in the garden and a few years ago I set out to learn new ways to support and encourage tomato growth during the seasons without using a tomato cage. You won’t only spend $5-10 or more if you head this way In tomato cages, but you’ll be left with a way to store them! I promise you there are other alternatives to the way you approach the tomato cage or in my case get rid of it completely.
Frustrated because with every storm in late August my tomatoes were dropping all over the tomato companion plants no matter what I did and adding more and more support, I decided whether to plant the tomatoes I needed to figure out a different method.
So below I will share:
- Why do you need tomato support
- Why tomato cages are not necessary
- My way to support tomatoes
- Materials you need to support tomatoes
- What to do with extra tomato cages
Why do you need tomato support:
Tomatoes need to grow upwards. Although they can grow in the ground and will actually establish root systems to do so, they are less likely to accumulate disease and have problems if you develop them vertically. It also saves a lot of space in your garden. Another reason is that many of the pests most harmful to tomatoes will come straight out of the garden (hello pinkworm), so by planting them vertically and pruning the tomatoes regularly, then placing tomato companion plants with them, you’ll be ready for the literal treatment of a big tomato crop. Supporting them is not just an option but a necessity in reality.
Why tomato cages are not necessary:
Tomato cages are very difficult to work with. I said there! They will flop over and need support by the time your plant is ready to harvest. I’ve tried many cages and wasted a lot of money only to be disappointed when a big wind comes in. Surely there are great DIY options out there like this tomato . cage replacement, which might work fine but in the end I find that none of them worked the same way I mention below. Not to mention the challenge of storing tomato cages. You can skip all of that and, if you like, be resourceful, even compost some of the materials when you’re done.
My easy way to support tomatoes:
I use a very simple, low-material method to support and grow my tomatoes vertically. Using this method along with regular pruning, tomatoes are not only supported, but they are incredibly productive and easy to harvest. They require minimal maintenance during the growing season plus some occasional pruning to encourage light and air flow as the plant expands. This method works for both determinate and indeterminate tomatoes. this is what I do:
- Plan in advance: This is the main thing. For this method, you’ll want to place the tomatoes in a row of some sort. Below you will find an example of designing a loft bed for this method with the accompanying plantings. Placing the plants in a row creates an option for this system to work better.
- Once the plants are 18 inches – 24 inches in size: Monitor the tomatoes using a wooden or plastic pole holding the tomatoes. Then use a tomato clip or use hemp or cotton twine to loosely tie the plant to the stake. Allow it to grow and keep doing it.
- After 4 weeks of growth: Place a T-post every 4-5 feet in a row depending on the size of your tomato bed. Have the slits facing out in the same direction to use as a thread support.
- Start your weave: This method is called florida weaving. You can see how it works in the chart below. You will do one weave every 8-10 inches the plant grows throughout the entire growing season. Have them harnessed to support the heavy twigs and fruit.
- Continue as the plants grow: As the plants grow, they will continue to weave and tie the plant to its stake.
Materials you need to support tomatoes without tomato cages:
This method requires very few materials and many can be stored vertically by the garden during the off-season. They take up very little space compared to fitting tomato cages together in an odd location so you don’t crash into heights in the winter months. Here are the materials you’ll need:
If you build our DIY garden fence, you will likely have many of these materials from creating that too.
What to do with extra tomato cages:
I think the misconception about Tomato Cages is that they are just for tomatoes, but the truth is that they do a lot of help in the garden with other plants that don’t grow to the same height but still need support. Here are some plants you can use a tomato cage in place of your tomatoes:
- pole pills
- sugar snap peas
- Large flowers such as sunflowers or Snapdragons
- Big Cosmo Bush Support
They still serve great purposes, but they are not very good at supporting tomatoes. That’s the truth and this method above will be very helpful in trying stress-free tomatoes in your garden this summer.