Tomato cages are apparatuses used to house tomato plants and offer support to the delicate plant and fruit. The cage can help lift the tomato plants slightly up off the ground and away from the soil, which may be able to prevent the tomatoes from rotting. Lifting and supporting delicate tomato plants with cages may also reduce the chances of insect infestation. Gardeners may be better able to apply insecticides directly to the ground just beneath the plant without affecting the tomato plant itself.
When tomato seeds or a small purchased tomato plant is planted directly into the soil, it is generally not put into a tomato cage. A tomato plant will usually be left to grow for approximately six weeks or long enough for the plant’s roots to properly attach to the soil and for the fruit to grow larger. Once a tomato plant starts to increase in size, a tomato cage can then be constructed around it to add support.
To construct a tomato cage by hand, wire fencing is usually rolled out and positioned to a height that is similar to the height of the tomato plants. The wire fencing is then wrapped around the circumference of the plants. The bottom of the wire fencing can then be stuck into the ground in order to remain upright. If cold weather or wind is present, a lower portion of the tomato cage may be wrapped in plastic to help protect the plant’s roots.
Tomato cages are also available preassembled. These may be useful for beginning gardeners or for those who do not have access to the tools to make their own cages from wire. Preassembled cages are generally available in a variety of sizes and materials, so a gardener may be able to more easily find a shorter cage if he or she is only growing one small tomato plant. Handmade tomato cages may be more convenient for people with several large tomato plants because they can customize the height more easily instead of estimating the required size for a preassembled tomato cage.
A possible alternative for tomato cages is the use of a trellis. A trellis is a structure, similar to a lattice, that is constructed against a wall or supported by posts. Wire is then run between the two ends of the structure so that the tomatoes are partially held up by the wires as the plants grow taller. For smaller tomato plants, short wooden stakes can be inserted into the soil. As the plants grow, twine can be used to lightly tie the branches close to the stakes for support.