One of the simplest ways to support tomatoes is with cages -- tall cylinders of wire mesh. Cages have quite a few advantages besides just being a protection for the plants.
Advantages of Caging:
There will be less time needed to remove young shoots, pruning branches or training the plants up the cage. Most of the time the plant can be left alone.
* The plants grow naturally and support themselves as they get big and the branches start resting on the mesh.
* Caged tomato plants develop enough foliage to provide plenty of shade for ripening the fruit. The shade protects tomatoes from sun scald.
* The shaded soil underneath the plant retains more moisture. Even moisture in the soil reduces blossom end rot and cracking problems. That's especially important for gardeners in the hot and dry climates.
Besides having advantages, there are some disadvantages of caging too. These are as follows:
Disadvantages of Caging:
* Requires extra cost.
* Cages require more space than stakes.
* By late summer, indeterminate tomatoes in small cages will tend to fall over from the weight of the fruit.
How to Cage
Garden centers sell tomato cages, but you can easily make your own. They should be strong, at least five feet tall (to handle most varieties), with holes big enough to get your hand in to bring out nice, big tomatoes! Otherwise, it looks a little odd heading out to pick tomatoes with a pair of wire cutters!
Sturdy galvanized wire mesh is a good choice for making cages that you can use for years. The cages can be from 12 to 30 inches in diameter; use the larger cages for vigorous, indeterminate-type plants. You need about three feet of mesh for every foot of diameter. Fasten the cages on two sides to short stakes driven into the ground to prevent them from toppling over.
Short, one- to two-foot-high fencing can be used to hold up smaller, determinate varieties. Though it's not necessary to support these varieties, so it's up to individual whether to cage them or leave as it is.
Extra Mileage from Cages
Here's an easy way to give your caged tomato transplants a boost early in the season. (You can adapt the following suggestions to plants you're growing unstaked or with other kinds of supports.)
When you put the tomato plants in the ground, set the cages over them immediately and secure the cages with small stakes or push them firmly into the ground if you can.
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