IT’S THE TIME OF YEAR WHEN I DRAG OUT THE TOMATO CAGES and set them into the ground where my new transplants are settling in—an exercise that used to involve disentangling a mess of inadequate but space-hogging devices that took up half the garage. Not the last few years; not since my Texas tomato cages arrived.
You may recall I posted about these collapsible, heavy-duty, supersized strokes of genius a few springs ago, when I started A Way to Garden. Since then, I see Texas Tomato Cages have become more widely available…but just in case you missed the news, a little reminder. They come in two diameters, and with or without second-story extensions that can have them tower as high as 6 feet. (And no, I don’t get a commission; I don’t even know the manufacturers. I’m just a satisfied customer.)
Those are some of the 24-inch wide lower halves set into place (photo above), with one of the (folded flat) tops leaned beside the bed; below are five tops piled together awaiting action, so you can get the idea of what I mean by “folds flat.” Once you put the top portion on, the cage is above eye level, by the way; I don’t leave them like this, with the wire tube that receives the top half exposed (except for the purpose of showing you how they work in the photo).
Hand those undersized things you’ve been using down to your peppers and eggplants, and think big and strong, like they do in Texas. You can also fashion similarly tough supports from concrete-reinforcing wire, but they won’t collapse neatly for winter storage.
Alternatives: Stake or trellis your tomatoes (the pros and cons of which I discuss in this post from the archive). Whatever you do, get your tomatoes up off the ground for their health, and for better yields. Don’t believe me? Scroll down on this page to Oklahoma State’s chart comparing tomato training systems, and then also see what the University of New Hampshire has to say on the matter.
And remember, when Lycopersicon esculentum is the topic, you can also browse through everything I know about tomatoes here. How about them you-know-whats?