The flimsy wire cages sold for tomatoes often keel over during the first big thunderstorm, taking your tomatoes with them. So, at the Organic Gardening test garden, we made extremely sturdy cages of wire mesh. These cages contain even the most unruly of tomato plants and hold their own during summer storms.
Here's how to make them:
1. Start with a piece of welded wire mesh 8 feet long by 5 to 8 feet tall, in order to make a cage 2 1/2 feet in diameter and 5 to 8 feet in height. Make sure the mesh squares are large enough to fit your hand through (at least 5 inches square) for harvesting. Welded wire mesh is available at hardware stores.
2. Lay the strip of mesh flat and, using wire or bolt cutters, snip off two rows of horizontal wires from the bottom and one row of vertical wires from one side to make tines.
3. Then bend the mesh into a cylinder (it's easier with two people) and crimp the ends around each other to fasten the cage together.
4. Set the cage over the plant and push the tines into the ground. Thread a stake through the wire mesh and hammer it into the ground for extra sturdiness. If you make cages with graduating diameters, they will nest inside each other for easier storage. Tip: Start your season earlier by wrapping clear plastic around the cage once it is in place. You can also pull a large, clear plastic contractor-sized garbage bag over the frame. The plastic creates a greenhouse effect that warms the air inside the cage. It can be removed or rolled down as the weather warms.