Tomato stakes and trellises are sometimes used, but tomato cages have become an overwhelmingly popular choice for home growers. Be they homemade or storebought, sturdy, open cages give plants room to develop, provide strength and support for branches burdened with fruit, maintain economy of space and keep a fragile harvest healthy and unblemished.
Tomato plants fall into two categories: Determinate and indeterminate. Determinate plants have been bred to grow to a specific height—perhaps three to four feet—and then bloom. Fruit tends to ripen all at once on these “bush” plants, and the compact size makes them popular with gardeners with limited space. Indeterminate plants continue to vine and produce fruit throughout the season, growing anywhere from 5-10 feet tall or higher, depending on the variety.
Selecting the right cage for your tomato plants may not be as simple as it seems. Found in many gardening supply stores, the 3-foot tall, cone-shaped variety may be adequate for some determinate plants, but usually aren’t sturdy enough to handle indeterminate plants—the prodigious growers will soon outgrow the small confines, causing them to topple. Cages should be 14-18 inches in diameter with a height of 4 feet for determinate plants and at least 6 feet for indeterminate.
Start early. Tomato plants grow fairly quickly and placing cages around mature plants can be difficult to manage without damaging the plant. Once seedlings are established, place cages around the young plants, taking care not to damage developing roots.
To install cages, center the cage around the plant and press down firmly to set the tines into the soil as deeply as possible. For larger cages, stakes may be driven into the ground and tied to the cage to add stability.
As the plant grows to fill the cage, carefully guide the branches though the cage weave as needed to allow the plant to grow without crowding the developing fruit.
Originally: Tomato Cages 411