If you plan to grow large vining tomato plants, you may want to use tomato cages. What exactly is a tomato cage, though, and how do they work?
What is a Tomato Cage?
A tomato cage is a generic term for a tomato plant support, that supports the plant on at least three sides. A tomato cage can be round, square, rectangular or triangular, although square tends to be the most popular.
Some tomato plants have a vining growth habit, others have loads of fruit, and yet others have huge fruits. And then of course, there are tomato plants that have two or all three of these!
You don’t want tomatoes – plant or fruit – resting on the ground. It’s too easy for insects to find and munch, not to mention plants on the ground are more susceptible to tomato diseases. That means either staking or tomato cages are your best options in most cases.
When to Cage Tomatoes
Many tomato plants can be staked, with one or perhaps two stakes. Then tie the plant’s branches to the stake(s) at various heights so that the plant stays upright.
But there are plants whose growth is too tall or “sprawly”, and they need more support than one or even two stakes. This is where tomato cages can come in handy. (Of course, you can cage any tomato plant you like.)
Determinate tomato plants bear the vast majority of their fruits in a short period of time. These plants can get very top-heavy, and sometimes stakes don’t provide enough safe support for all those ‘maters!
I usually stake most of my tomato plants, but the bigger plants get caged, as I’ve learned through experience. Don’t be like me and have a tomato plant split because the support from the stake just wasn’t enough. Tomato cages give support at multiple points instead of just two or three.
Big Tomato Cages
There’s another tomato cage that I have just ordered in preparation for The Great Tomato Experiment is the tomato tower with nylon trellis. It’s a larger type of “cage”, rising to 6 feet tall – great for the larger tomato varieties. Which I fully expect to have with the experiment!
I prefer the square cages, but I am open to experimentation. 😀 I do like tall tomato cages, though, and they tend to be harder to find.
Now there are plenty of tomatoes that can be staked, like the smaller determinate plants. For these tomatoes, you can use a stake or a tomato pen (like the first photo on this page). You’ll want the pen 30 to 40 inches tall, or a stake 3-1/2 feet tall for these varieties.
Hope this gives you enough information on whether you can stake your tomatoes or if you should have tomato cages for them. Either way, enjoy eating your delicious homegrown tomatoes!