These wood tomato cages are easy to build and provide excellent support for growing tomato vines.
This is part of a series on 5 Best Tips for Growing Tomatoes.
Tomatoes and Tomato Cages
I have been growing tomatoes for decades, but I never invested in proper cages until recently. Why? I kept kidding myself I’d just try a few more varieties each year, and then move on to other veggie adventures.
But you can’t stop. There are 15,000 varieties out there and each is more intriguing than the next.
If you’re going to grow these guys, do yourself a favor and give them the support they need.
There are two basic types of tomato plants: bush (determinates) and vine (indeterminates). Most bush tomatoes (determinates) can cope without support, but it’s the ever-growing vines (indeterminates) that truly benefit from some surrounding structure. If you’re new to this, Tomato Growing for Beginners provides a good overview.
Cages benefit tomato vine plants. As the fruit grows and the branches become heavy, they are very prone to breakage from handling, rain, or wind. Or, in our area, hail.
If you learn to rules of pruning (see How to Prune Tomatoes and the Sucker Myth), and provide a cage, your tomato plant has its best chance of providing maximum healthy fruit.
This book is also an excellent resource:
These cages are made from wood but there are also excellent options for building tomato cages from wire panels.
I’ll walk you through how I made this cage.
How to Make Tomato Cages from Wood
Supplies and Materials
These cages are 5-feet tall and 18-inches wide. This size suits the usual height my tomatoes reach by the end of the growing season (6-feet).
The width is also right for fitting around tomatoes planted in 14-inch diameter pots.
I always suggest working with the lumber size so there are not wasteful off-cuts.
See what you can get at your local lumber store. It may be pressure-treated or untreated. For this project I used untreated spruce strapping. It’s inexpensive (good) but prone to twisting and warping unless stored properly before building. It’s fine once it’s screwed in place.
- (4) 2x2x60-inches (2×2 lumber cut at 5-feet long)
- (16) 1x2x18-inches (1×2 lumber cut at 18-inches long)
Hardware & Tools
If you have a nailer, use that instead of deck screws.
- (36) 2-inche deck screws
- Drill bit for predrilling holes
- Electric drill
- Measuring Tape
- Sandpaper / sander (optional)
- Wood stain / paint
- Paint brush
1 Cut lumber.
2 Assemble two main rails.
Each main rail has two 2x2x60-inch pieces and four 1x2x18-inch pieces.
The horizontal rails will extend passed the 2x2s to allow room for the side rails.
The easy way to measure the placement is to use a piece of 1×2 as your measure (see ‘temporary wood spacer’ in photo):
Always predrill your holes so the screws will not split the wood.
Attach the top rail first.
The top edge of the second rail is positioned 14.25-inches below the lower side of the top rail.
The top edge of the third rail is positioned 14.25-inches below the lower side of the second rail.
The top edge of the lowest rail is positioned 14.25-inches below the lower side of the third rail.
3 Attach side rails to two main sections.
Use of the wood spacer for the main rails left a nice spot to add the side rails:
Attach the top side rail first. Then the bottom rail. Then the other two.
Here’s another view of the construction:
Organic Slow-Release Tomato Fertilizer
4 Paint or Stain
I like using a cheerful paint or stain color that contrasts with the tomato plants. This makes it easier for pruning (read about pruning tomatoes here) and adds some zing to the garden.
Here’s one in light green:
These cages are very sturdy, and the wood rails allow the use of additional wood or twine to further secure the tomato plants as needed.
When not needed for tomatoes, they work as supports for numerous other vining plants in the garden as well.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛