Tomato Planter

I’m done with tomato cages.  Forever.

Every year I’d buy a few more because the old ones were wearing out.

Every year I’d try my hardest to keep a growing tomato plant inside them.

Oh sure, they looked nice all lined up, or in a grid pattern.  But honestly, I would often get frustrated with them.  And I absolutely hated pulling the smelly frozen vines off of them after they froze.  Pulling them out of the ground when we were done often had to wait until the next year once the ground was frozen.

Some of them were strong enough to hold up the sleeping bags and thick blankets that I’d drape over them as fall approached.  Some of them weren’t.

I was ready for something new.

 

So in true homesteader fashion, The Farmer got to work for me.  In roughly half an hour, he came up with this tomato planter.

Be done with tomato cages forever! This simple DIY tomato planter will last year after year and you won't have to store old cages or buy more as they break.

 

You may not think it’s beautiful, but I sure do.

All this wood is leftover from other projects.  The base of it is made from corral wood left over from the chicken coop we made last year.  They are about 5 feet in length.  He then used 2 x 4’s for the vertical supports and overheads.

I didn’t necessarily need it to be a raised bed, but it just turned out this way. Since the garden is rotated with the chickens every year, I needed something that was easy to pick up and move to the side I’m planting.

 

I’ve got 12 of my tomato plants in it right now.  There are four under each overhead.

Be done with tomato cages forever! This simple DIY tomato planter will last year after year and you won't have to store old cages or buy more as they break.Once tomatoes start forming on each plant, I’m using baling twine to carefully tie to each plant, and then tie it up to the overhead so it stays nice and tall.  They are tied loosely so that as they grow bigger, I’ll shorten the baling twine.  The goal is to keep it as straight and tall as I can.

 

I like this setup as it allows me easy access to the plants.  I’m able to trim the suckers and get to the tomatoes pretty easy.

 

Last year I lost 30 tomato plants in a 15 minute hail storm.  It’s sure changed our diet this last year not to have any tomato sauces.  The plan right now is to use some hardware cloth (left over from making a water pump screen from one of our wheat fields), to put over the top.  It won’t stop any sideways hail, but the planter is only a foot away from the deer fence, which I let the weeds grow up around, so there will be some protection on one side.

I also love how hefty this structure is.  When fall comes, I’ll be able to throw a couple sleeping bags over the top and won’t have to worry about it collapsing onto the plants.

Overall, I’m very excited.  I just need to find enough scraps to build one or two more now…

Are you looking for quality heirloom tomato seeds?  This links to my favorite family owned heirloom only seed selling company.  I plan to get the white tomatoes to add to my garden this year.

33 Comments

  1. Cool idea! I hate tomato cages too, and it seems like all the store-bought solutions aren’t good enough. Good job to your husband! I’d love to see how things progress.

    • Thanks Kristi, It’s my second year using them and I’m pretty excited.

      • I am impressed with your solution. Would they work with indeterminate plants? Mine easily top 6-7 feet. Lost the entire crop to racoons. I think I will try a modified version of your holder. I’m going to “wrap” chicken wire around the outsides leaving some room for me to move around the bed, leaving one side that I will be able to enter. Add a domed top and Voila, a coon proof cover that I can move from bed to bed as I rotate the crops. The basic frame will stay in place where it can support other crops. Wish me luck!

        • Absolutely–much better in fact. You’d just have to have higher supports.
          Since we have a large three-sisters field outside our main preservation garden, the raccoons usually just stick to that and I don’t have that problem with my tomatoes. Good luck with your dome contraption–and let me know how it works.

  2. I love this Deborah! Last year I had Jeremy cut down a bunch of saplings and I made teepees out of them over the plants with string around to hold up the plants. They didn’t work very well because a wind would knock them over. Jeremy bought cages this year, but even he said they won’t work well.

    • Hmmm…. Great minds think alike… We have some pretty serious weather here, but I’m hoping these will hold. It will be my second year using them. If all works out, you can have my old tomato cages 🙂 .

  3. So glad you found something that works better. Homesteaders are the most innovative folks ever!

  4. What a great idea and it looks super strong, hope to see update photos of how the tomatoes are growing. Thanks for sharing. Blessings

  5. What an ingenious idea! Good job. Thanks for the great photos and instructions.

  6. What a great idea! I totally despise the wire cages myself!!!

  7. Congrats, it is a great idea!
    I came over from the garden party where you were featured.
    I think this is a very practical way to raise tomatoes. I had seen something similar many years ago, in a Greek village. Professional farmers were not using cages but instead tied the tomatoes in a similar way to yours. 🙂

    • Isn’t learning from other cultures wonderful?! I love to go and visit the farms whenever I travel to other countries. I am actually most impressed with the less developed countries. Those farmers are so stinking smart! Have never been to Greece. Sounds like I need to take a trip one day…
      Thanks from coming over.

  8. I really like these. I will be making some of these for next year. Great job!

  9. Sounds like a good idea. I’m going to have to give this a try next year. I tried running horizontal bailing twine between two t-posts and weaving the plants between, but it just doesn’t seem to be doing the trick. This looks like it could work a little better!

    • I’m glad you mentioned that, because I’ve wondered how well that would work. I appreciate your testimony. This worked well for me this year. I had to tighten the strings every couple weeks, so a good slip-knot is a must. I also had twice as many tomatoes than normal (I lost last year’s to hail). I was perfectly able to get to each plant and cut the suckers without having to look through and try to manipulate my hands and scissors through the wire. This is definitively a keeper.

  10. I noticed your website on Frugal Mama and the Sprout. I love her site and ideas. So with her referral, I wanted to see what you are all about. I think we have many things in common. For instance, the way you make do, with less meat, or with a poor year for tomatoes…etc. Having tons of money would not change me. I like fresh food, that I grow or make. The same is true with food choices in respect to meat and fish. It is all about being willing to do all that you can, to eat the best quality foods for your family. We do ice fish, hunt, trap, and garden in a big way. Now that our family is gone, we do not need as much, so sharing is certainly something that gives us joy. Like you it is exciting to see what it is you can do to provide for your family. I already know that I will be back, visiting your site. We do not use tomato cages any longer. We still grow our tomatoes in rows in the garden. We have two rows of tomatoes and they are set up like brick work….interspaced. We have put a post between the two rows, at each end. We have a really taunt line and from it, we drop twine to each plant. The post at each end support all the plants. It is easy to remove suckers and fruit. Works beautifully. Suffice it to say, we no longer require the cages and we drape a large tarp over the rows… supported by the heavy posts. I thank Frugal Mama and the Sprout…for providing a link to your site.

    • Well Gail, I’ll have to thank her too! 🙂
      I love bailing twine–use it on everything! I’m intrigued by your technique–sounds a bit like this planter only with twine as the upper support instead of wood (if I understand you correctly). It sounds as though we do have a lot in common, and I’ll enjoy having you around here.

  11. I would love to see some pictures of the process of using the baling twine and how you move it up throughout the season.

  12. 6 years of fighting tomato cages AND using the Florida weave method, neither sturdy enough. Showed this to hubby and he said easy done. Looking forward to having these up with my tomato’s. Brilliant idea! Thanks for sharing !

    • Thanks Debbie–I hope it works out for you. I was thinking of trying the Florida weave with part of my tomatoes this year just because I’ve never tried it. But now you have me second guessing myself. I’ll take your warning 🙂 .

  13. Antonio Mesquita

    June 3, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    I have two questions; How many strings do you use for each plant? Does the branches will not break off, with the weight of the tomatoes, specially if it’s a beef tomato/ Thanks!
    Antonio M.

    • The main stems always have their own string, and then any branch that gets heavy also has it’s own string. I would say each plant has 4-5 total. Yes, even with beefsteak tomatoes. (Baling twine is super strong.) It’s a gentle process. I was worried about breaking plants my first year too, but as long as I’m gentle and picking tomatoes when they are ripe it appears to be fine. So far, I don’t think I’ve broken any branches off.
      Great question Antonio.

  14. If you have any of the dreaded tomato cages left over, I’ve found they work really well upside down to support perennials as they grow up through. My husband bound the 3-4 stakes together at the top with some wire and I drop the cones over my sage, peonies, monarda, etc… the plants grow up through them and the wires pretty much disappear in a couple of months under the growth.

    • Great ideas Norma! I still have some. I use them on my peppers and peonies, but I’m definitely going to try sage with your suggestion next year–thank you!

      • Can you tell me how tall the 2×4 s are in your garden? I am wanting to try this.

        • They are about four feet tall (guessing). If I made more, I’d make them taller. I think I’d want them at a height that is easy for me to tie them at.
          I’d love to see a picture of yours when you’re done Super G.

  15. I Will to try. Thank . It’s good idea

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