How to Build the Best DIY Tomato Cage

woman harvesting tomatoes from diy cage in garden

We gardeners love our tomatoes! You seldom see a vegetable garden without at least one tomato plant growing. And they’re remarkable plants if you think about it. You plant a small seedling in spring, and then by the end of the summer, the plant is a huge monster producing more tomatoes than you can possibly eat.

That’s some amazing growth in a few short months!

The rapid growth and towering size of the plants make choosing a tomato cage a hot topic. Cages come in all shapes and sizes…and a lot of those shapes and sizes don’t work very well.

If you’ve ever grown tomatoes you know that the most common varieties are indeterminate, which means they keep growing and producing fruit until frost kills the plant.  This means the plants will most likely be over 6 feet tall by the time frost hits in most climates.

Therefore, the tallest tomato cages you can possibly use are the best choice for indeterminate varieties!

tomato harvest from garden

Determinate varieties grow to a shorter height and then produce all of their fruit during a short window. Depending on the variety you often don’t need to cage or trellis them at all. Not sure which kind of tomato you have? You need to look up the variety online to find out whether it’s indeterminate or determinate.

The puny tomato cages you see for sale at many garden centers and hardware stores aren’t going to cut it for tomato plants that are going to get over six feet tall.  Your tomatoes are going to flop over, fall down, and probably take the cages with them.

Do not buy these cages unless you’re going to use them for determinate varieties. They are way too short. Here’s an example of a cage you should not use for an indeterminate tomato plant.

example of a tomato cage that doesn't work

Just say no to small tomato cages.

I’ve tried my share of tomato cages over the years and have finally settled on the one I think is the easiest and most reliable – the DIY tomato cage.  It takes a bit of work up front, but I’ve had my cages for over 12 years and they show no signs of wearing out.

I’m going to walk you through the process of making your own DIY tomato cage so you can say goodbye to tomato plants that fall over every season!

diy tomato cage in garden

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How to Make Your Own DIY Tomato Cage

The cages are made from concrete reinforcing wire that’s rolled into cylinders. It has big openings that allow you to easily stick your hand in to harvest even the biggest mother of all tomatoes!

Step 1: You’ll need to source the concrete reinforcing mesh in your area. I got mine from the local big box store.  It comes in various sized rolls. The biggest roll, 5′ x 150′, is very heavy to move and should make 20+ cages.

 

rolls of wire to be made into tomato cages

Concrete reinforcing wire at my local big box store.

Step 2: Once you get the roll home, you’ll need some beefy bolt cutters and gloves for the job. Borrow a bolt cutter from a friendly neighbor or buy one here.

Step 3:  This is likely a two-person job from this step on. Recruit a friend who also grows tomatoes and have a DIY tomato cage making party!

Fully unroll the wire and calculate how many cages you want to make.  You’ll need to hook the wire to or around something to keep it from rolling back up. I pounded a metal post into the ground and hooked one end of the roll over it.

My cages have 9 squares in each circumference and this works perfectly with my 18 inch spacing of my tomato plants. You can get away with less if you want to squeeze more cage out of the roll.

Step 4:  Cut out each cage by using the bolt cutters to work your way down the width of the wire.  You’ll want to leave one side cut flush to the vertical piece running down the length and one side cut with the horizontal pieces sticking out. This sets you up for the next step.

 

building a tomato cage

Step 5:  Roll the piece you just cut out into a cylinder. Bend the long horizontal pieces on the one side of the piece around the end that’s cut flush to hook it together in a circle. See photo above.

Step 6: Once you have your wire in a cylinder, cut off the bottom ring to create stakes to stabilize the cage in the garden bed. (See photo below.)

Continue these steps until you’ve created as many tomato cages as you need for your garden.

build your own tomato cages

 

Step 7: If you haven’t planted your tomatoes yet, do so now. (Read the 8 steps for expertly planting a seedling here.)

Step 8: After planting, simply lower a cage over each tomato plant and use your foot to drive the stakes into the ground. In my garden, they don’t need any reinforcement to keep them stable throughout the season. But, if you live in a very windy area you might want to drive a metal t-post into the ground and secure the cage to it.

 

DIY tomato cage

Ta-da! That was pretty easy, right?!

From here on out, there’s not much you need to do. The tomato plants tend to grow up naturally into the cage.  Sometimes I tuck back in a stray tomato sucker that’s reaching too far out of the cage, or clip a particularly heavily fruit-laden branch to the cage so it doesn’t break. (I love these garden clips.)

I recommend pruning your tomato plants to keep them healthy. Check out this video I shot in my own garden while pruning my plants.

Of course, there are no perfect trellises or cages. Every one I’ve tried has it’s own pros and cons. The benefits of the tomato cylinder are:

  • easy installation once you get the cages built
  • low maintenance after the cages are on the plants
  • the longevity of the cages

These three things far outweigh the cons for me. I built my cages one summer over a decade ago and I’m still using them to this day!

tomato cages in the garden

Well into the season and the plants are still looking neat and tidy.

The downsides of these DIY tomato cages are:

  • the upfront cost of making the cages (depending on your budget)
  • storage over the winter when you’re not using them – they take up a lot of room
  • they can tip over in high wind areas if they’re not secured

In my opinion, the upfront cost is worth it because they last so long. Their storage is somewhat inconvenient, especially if you have a small yard. I leave my cages standing in a back corner of my lot when they’re not in use.

If your garden is in an area that’s exposed to wind, there is a chance your cages will tip over once the tomatoes get tall and heavy. You’ll want to secure them with posts pounded into the ground or tie them to a fence or other structure. You can put one post between every two plants and use twine or zip ties to secure them to the post.

Since tomatoes are such a beloved vegetable plant for so many of us, it’s definitely worth it to invest a little extra time, energy, and money to make sure you have a great cage that will keep your plant healthy, off the ground, and producing lots of gorgeous tomatoes all season long.

How do you like to trellis your tomato plants?  Have another DIY tomato cage design tos hare? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below this post.

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Comments

  • We’ve used this method for years. We have a windy site and the plants quickly become top heavy, so we hammer two rebar rods down opposite sides of each cage and about a foot into the ground to keep them in place. Failure to do this almost always results in epic tipovers since the tomatoes in my garden always outgrow the cages.

    • Hi Betsy – How do you attached the rebar to the cages?

      • Use zip locks to tie together. Also, use zip locks when making the cages. Cut both sides flush and zip lock together. Avoids having sharp ends of the wire and at end of year you simply cut the zip locks and store cages flat.

        • I love that idea, Russel! It would go a long way towards making them much easier to store. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • I like the v shaped tomato trellis from GArden Supply. I bought my first five from them and then my husband made the rest I needed from rebar as they can be expensive. But a great design. Never fall over and store easily.

    Margie

    • Margie – Do you have a link to the trellis you use that you can post here so we can all check it out?

  • I love this idea. I have always used vertical 2x2s with a point at one end to drive it into the ground, and then tied the plants to it as they grew up. I think the up front time investment in doing these cages might be well worth trading for the time spent tying up plants every 1/2-1 week. We already have a “storage corner”, so what’s a few more things added to it!

    • Jordana – Thanks for your comment! I used to have trellises that forced me to come back every few weeks to tie up and it’s hard to keep up! I like these because I don’t have to think about them again.

  • Brillant .. thank you for sharing. I’ve been battling those tomato cages for too many years- they drive me batty! I can’t wait to give this design a try.

    • Thanks, Bren! Battling is a good word – those cages often take a lot of modification to work properly. Let me know how it goes!

      • Use your old tomato cages for your pepper plants. Mine benefit from the stability of the cage even though they are not such heavy plants. Works best for chili type peppers.

        • That’s a great idea, Regina! I have done that in the past, but now use bamboo stakes to hold my peppers up.

  • Jenifer Wilde-McMurtrie

    Going to try a combination of the wire only not cut it! Tomato wall with a “Florida” type weave….I dunno why ANYBODY buys those dang stupid cages! But we scored sheep panels at a yard sale for $2…enough for the maters AND cukes!

    • Livestock panels are great – your scored a deal on those! I do use them for a few tomatoes as well as peas and beans. Keep us posted how they work out!

  • I love your cages. I struggle every year on how to keep my tomatoes from falling over lol.

    I just designed one using stuff I had around my farm. http://bit.ly/2136pIq

    If mine doesn’t work out, I’ll be trying yours out!

    • The nice thing is that tomatoes get so huge is such a short time. The bad thing – they get so huge! Thanks for sharing your DIY cage.

      • I am ready to give this a shot. So when you say you bought a 150ft roll and it makes approx 20 cages I presume you cut them in lengths of 7.5ft if my math is correct. Please confirm.

        • Not sure, John. I didn’t measure the lengths, I counted the squares. I always end at the edge of a square.

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  • I have used this method for years. They are also great for climbing plans such cucumbers and squash.

  • I made my own tomato cages like this 3 years ago, and they are AWESOME! I’d never go back to the flimsy things they sell in the store. I fill them with shredded leaves in the fall and use them as mini-compost bins so I don’t have to store them in the garage over the winter.

    • That’s a great idea, Vicki! I leave mine out in the yard, but now I see I could actually be using them for something more practical like compost. I may just steal your idea.

    • I love the composting idea!

  • Years ago I found the Ultomato cage. I found them in a store once, then order online or with Home Depot/Ace Hardware if I need to. They have lasted 10? years, use 5 foot coated steel stakes, and they come with heavy duty plastic connecting bars. The beauty of them is you can move the connectors as the plant grows to support it. It is super easy to store and takes up only the room the stakes take. I store mine in a tall kitchen wastebasket standing on end – light and compact. Since we made a huge garden space (32′ x 20′?) I use extra 5 foot stakes with reflecting ribbon tied on the tops throughout the garden space which keeps deer out. Even at night the ribbon reflects enough city light to spook the deer away. I use 8-10 in this space and store the stakes with my Ultomato stakes. Happy gardening!

  • Linda Lucarelli

    My boyfriend is outdoorish and brought home a roll of fencing from the woods 3 years ago. The farmer was glad to let us repurpose it .We cut the bottom horizontal wire for stakes and zip tied together so we could store them off season. We still have the original 30 cages.

  • My grandpa made cages like this 30 some years ago! He was a construction worker and he made them out of leftover end pieces- so his were free! I have 5 of them and they are still going strong! So much better than tying them to cattle panel, like I have to do with the rest of my plants. Thanks for this post, I’ve never seen anybody else make these cages.

  • I’ve been using cages like this for several years. To minimize the storage space, I made half of the cages one section smaller. So now I have five 9″ diameter cages and five ~8″ in diameter. I store the smaller ones inside the larger.

    • I LOVE this idea, Craig. It would really cut down on the storage space, which I think is one of the negatives of this method.

  • Rick Bennett

    I have always used one inch pvc piping to tie my plants to. I will be making cages this year. PVC does not rot or rust and is strong enough to hold the plants. They are not damaged if left out all winter till the next season. I tie my plants to the stakes with rubberized material I bought on amazon and at the end of the season just cut it off and toss it out. The 120 yard roll is not that expensive and it expands as the plant grows. Here is what I bought.
    KLOUD City Different Length and Width Elastic Cord/Elastic Band/Elastic Rope/Bungee (White 120Y Length 5mm Width and Silver treezer)
    Sold by: Kloud City
    $10.59
    Thanks for the tips!

  • I have these except mine are made from hog wire. It has the same strength and dimensions as the rebar but it doesn’t rust. I also use these in my raspberry bed ( the bramble kind)to keep them upright and
    healthy.

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