As I mentioned in my last post, watching my tomatoes grow has been like watching a cute little lizard morph into Godzilla. They’ve been ripping up their bamboo stakes and flinging them back at me while growling for more water and sunlight.
Honestly, the tomato cages available from garden centers today are super cute. The traditional wire cages now come in fun colors, and I was sorely tempted to go funky and fun. But instead I decided to keep things simple and continue with my woodsy natural theme — and finally put to use some more Pinterest-inspired ideas.
Here’s how this all came together.
For one cage, I used:
- 4 1x1x boards, cut to 4-foot lengths
- 10 3/8-inch dowels, 18 inches long
- drill press with 3/8-inch drill bit
- wood glue
- 1 1/2-inch-long screw
I wound up using the miter saw to cut my boards and dowels to the length I wanted, and I put a 45 degree angle at the end of each 1×1 to make it a little easier to shove in the ground.
On each board I measured and put marks at 3, 17 and 31 inches. Then I rotated the board 90 degrees to the next side and put marks at 10 and 24 inches.
To get a straight hole, I used the drill press. After clamping my board in place, I sank holes all the way through the board at each mark.
Once everything had been cut to size and drilled, I began assembling essentially two separate ladders. I dabbed a bit of wood glue onto the end of the first dowel, using a paper towel to evenly apply it to the end, then I placed it into the first hole. The mallet came in handy for sinking the dowels in flush through the board. I proceeded to do that with the remaining two for that side. Next, I dabbed wood glue onto the end of each of those three dowels and set a second board onto those three ends, again using the mallet to make sure everything was flush.
That gave me one “ladder,” so I repeated the process again with the two other boards and three more dowels.
With my first ladder lying flat on the ground, I went through the glue-and-stick dowel process for the four holes now facing up. Then I simply added more glue and mated the second ladder onto the ends of those four dowels. Voila:
For my garden, I liked the natural wood look, since it matches what’s already out there. But I had toyed with the idea of using copper instead of wood dowels, or even using the fabulous copper metallic spraypaint that Rustoleum offers just on the dowels for a bit of fun. I also think 1-foot-long dowels might have worked, or even longer dowels but having them stick out several inches to create a trellis for plants outside of the box, so there’s definitely room to adapt this easy design.
Almost as soon as I had my cage in place and had stepped back to admire it, the monster plant toppled it. I simply don’t have enough dirt just yet to hold either of these things upright. So ultimately I wound up sinking a screw through one leg of the cage and into my raised bed, just enough to keep it upright. I didn’t want to go crazy with attachments as I figure next year I’ll rotate crops to keep from depleting the soil of nutrients.
So there you have it! A simple yet distinctive way to keep your tomato plants growing upright.