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Have a great invention to help with gardening? Are you the self-reliant type that prefers Building It Yourself vs. buying it? Share and discuss your ideas and projects with other members.

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Old April 26, 2020   #1
elight
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Default Adventures in tomato cages

Had a new idea for a DIY cage. At my last house, I bought the giant roll of CRW from Home Depot and made the round cages. But since I only needed 8, I ended up giving away probably 75% of the $200 roll, and it was a huge pain to transport, cut and store. I left the cages behind when I moved.

This time, I bought the concrete mesh panels instead, measuring 42"x8'.

I figured if I tied the ends together with zip ties, it would give me a circle with a 13" diameter which didn't seem like much. So instead, I cut them in half, and used three halves to make a triangle. This triangle has an inner area of 162 sq. inches (since the cut results in the loss of one of the 6" sections), versus the circle's 140 sq. inches. But the shape is uniform, and they can store flat in the off-season.

I think the CRW roll was only 5' tall, compared to 7' here. Cost is $13/cage. I'll need 6 of them, so also more cost efficient than other options.

Hope this helps someone!

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Old April 26, 2020   #2
PhilaGardener
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That looks inventive, and the flat storage is a big plus! Please give us some updates over the growing season!
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Old April 26, 2020   #3
whoose
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Default Interesting

I still have 2/3rds of a roll of the small mesh and hoping to find someone to take it. Your idea is interesting if I did not have mine build I might try it.
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Old April 29, 2020   #4
elight
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You could maybe use the mesh rolls in a similar fashion although you'd have to flatten the sections (maybe under a piece of plywood with a car parked on top). The benefit would be flat storage. It also occurs you me you could make a square cage by adding a fourth section and double the internal volume.

At some point I'll post a diagram showing how I cut and attached them.

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Old April 29, 2020   #5
brownrexx
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They look really nice but I have discovered that when my plants get that tall they tend to topple the cages so now I drive metal stakes into the ground beside the cages and zip tie them.
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Old April 30, 2020   #6
elight
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I was thinking I would place a furring strip (or similar material) across the bed horizontally, threaded through the cage just above the second-to-lowest rung, and screw it directly into the bed frame. Might need two pieces per cage to provide stability but still relatively cheap as a 8' piece of material costs less than $2.

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Old April 30, 2020   #7
Goodloe
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I have used CRW cages for several years, but the 5' height has always presented a vertical support problem, especially with the big indeterminate varieties. This year, I elevated the cages 2' on 3 T-posts to give them a height of 7'. I grow 3 plants around the outside of each cage...
20200410_184247.jpg
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Old April 30, 2020   #8
elight
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Interesting. Are you pruning to a single stem?

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Old April 30, 2020   #9
brownrexx
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elight View Post
I was thinking I would place a furring strip (or similar material) across the bed horizontally, threaded through the cage just above the second-to-lowest rung, and screw it directly into the bed frame. Might need two pieces per cage to provide stability but still relatively cheap as a 8' piece of material costs less than $2.

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Sounds like a great idea. I do not prune my plants at all and they really become top heavy late in the season and we get a lot of wind here too.
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Old April 30, 2020   #10
GoDawgs
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elight View Post
I was thinking I would place a furring strip (or similar material) across the bed horizontally, threaded through the cage just above the second-to-lowest rung, and screw it directly into the bed frame. Might need two pieces per cage to provide stability but still relatively cheap as a 8' piece of material costs less than $2.
It works pretty well. I stack two cages over each tomato, tying the upper cage to the lower one. Then I just put the wooden strips through the cages where the upper and lower cages meet and then tie the cages to the strip. Because I have the buckets on pallets to keep the fire ants out of them, I also tie the strips to the pallets. It creates one giant, very heavy unit that has never blown over.



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Old April 30, 2020   #11
elight
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Great idea - strength in numbers.

At my last house, I used round 5' CRW mesh cages and don't think I ever had one tip over, despite the fact that I had shallower beds (maybe 8" compared to 12" now), and didn't do anything to reinforce them. But that was Central Florida which is notorious for its lack of wind (outside of hurricanes), and also the short spring/fall growing seasons meant that the plants probably never got as large as they do at the end of the season in a mid-Atlantic climate.
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Old May 1, 2020   #12
JRinPA
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First off..wow $200 for a roll of CRW? I have bought...three over the last decade and they were right around $98-$107 for 5' by 150'. Florida versus PA? I don't know what the reason would be. That's a shame.

I have not tried triangle cages but I can understand the desire for fold flats. Sometimes I put mine away, and sometimes they stay out all winter. Last year they were right by the house and under the view, I guess, so those ones stayed out. But I have arranged them into a crescent roll quite a few times and horsed them in and out of the shed, fall and spring.

I love the CRW cages more less standard. Mine are 18-20" diameter x 5 ft, which is 10 or 11 squares overlapping one square. I trench in one tomato, center the cage over it, and often put basil around the edge. I must say, that idea of three plants surrounding a cage with a pipe in the middle for (compost/fertilizer/water?) is intriguing.

Mostly the cages won't fall for me, with the bottom row cut for 6" of spike into the ground, but it has happened on occasion with late summer winds and top heavy plants. When I just have a single cage exposed I will usually hammer one rebar in the ground on the windward side and zip tie the cage to it.

Besides round cages I have tried a three layer flat lattice on one particular bed. Basically drive a perimeter of 6-8 stakes in and suspend the wire "sheet" up horizontally at 2 ft, 3.5 ft, 5 ft high, like a stack of waffles. Something like that, I only did it once season. Saw that on here a while back and had to try it. The plants grow up through it and have ultimate fruit support. It works great, really great if you want to devote the whole spot to tomatoes and let them go, but just about requires a helper or two to assemble. That or a lot of quick clamps to help. That was on an 11ft x 3.5ft bed with 11ftx5ft CRW "sheets" from the roll and kind of reverse bent to be flat enough.

Another way I really like to use CRW is to make a box instead of cages. That has become standard for me for peas and cherry tomatoes. I took those unrolled flat 11x5 CRW from above and bent them into a U with a 1 ft center. One rebar at each "corner" makes four posts for a 5 ft long box, or six posts to support a 10ft box of two 5fters together, etc. Those you can easily suspend a foot higher to make the U six foot tall. Pic of that included with peas...peas came down after harvest in mid June and tomatoes were on the morning sun side and filled that up nicely by August.

I still have about 80+ ft of the last roll of CRW. It was not bought for gardening, but now leftover and could use it. I'm thinking about using it to make more of these U boxes, or maybe a foot higher (13 ft bent U), spread the bases out a bit, and grow tomatoes under that instead of florida weaving my long rows this year. I could do single or double stem that way, just drop strings from side or top for each leader.

If I did not have plastic trellis net already bought, I would do this at the above 11ft just for the peas. 11ft U is the ultimate pea trellis. There is no sag in those U boxes and the 6" solid grid is easy to pick. The white plastic trellis netting sags when the peas get tall and heavy, requiring another support every 8-10 ft. Plus the white...it stands out and doesn't disappear visually like that rusty wire does!
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Old May 3, 2020   #13
Durgan
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Default Tomato string support

26 June 2018 Tomato Support
Posted on June 26, 2018 by Durgan
http://durgan.org/2018/June%202018/2...0Support/HTML/ 26 June 2018 Tomato Support (overhead strings)
Strings were added to new branching of the tomato plants as required. The various branches bearing fruit are supported by strings tied to an overhead structure. Sucker are not removed. Strings are added throughout the growing season. The fruit encounters no obstacles and is free growing. I tried all the various support systems over the years and found this overhead system to be the best IMO.
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