from the employee owners at Gardener's Supply Co.

Tomato Cages and Ladders Face Off

tomato cage and tomato ladder

Cindy and Kathy at the photo shoot.

Like many good ideas, it all began with a casual hallway conversation. Back in the office after a sunny May weekend, Cindy and I were talking about which gardening chores we’d managed to cross off our lists. We had both planted our tomatoes that weekend, but she had put up tomato ladders and I had put up cages. We started laughing about how she would never even consider using cages for supports and how I would never consider using ladders. Others within earshot chimed in with their own opinions about the merits of each support system. It seemed clear: Either you were a cage-person or a ladder-person.

Our art director, Susan, overheard us talking and a light bulb went on. “Let’s set up a face off and photograph it for the catalog,” she said. “We could do it in one of the beds in our display garden!”

We enlisted our extraordinary staff gardener, Sarah, to set up and maintain the bed throughout the summer months. She made sure the tomato plants were well fertilized and had plenty of water. By early September, the plants were heavy with fruit and the photo shoot was scheduled for one day after work. Susan, the photographer, our photo stylist Martha, and Cindy and I met in the display gardens just outside our offices.

What’s your favorite tomato support? Do you prefer Tomato CagesTomato LaddersRainbow Spiral Supports, wooden stakes or something of your own invention? Although homemade tomato cages and ladders have been around forever, ready made tomato ladders and cages have come a long way!

Cindy and I figured we’d been asked to be there as “expert advisors” about the merits of the two different systems. What we didn’t realize was that Susan’s plan was to feature the two of us just as prominently as the tomato supports.

There was no time for special outfits and no one around to style our hair. The two of us got planted right in the bed with the tomatoes and it was all over but the crying in about 10 minutes. (Strange to see how you can look your age on the outside and still feel like 35 on the inside…).

Read Tomato Support Techniques to learn more.

-Kathy LaLiberte, Director of Gardening

102 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    March 10, 2008    

    I have used both and like the access I have around the plant when using a Tomato Cage over the ladder. Plus, I personally think I can hold more on the cage than the ladder. I have actually pushed my luck and over stuffed a cage with two to four plants per cage. This is something you cannot even try with the ladders. Granted, the cages are not recommend for it, but I have done it and had good luck.

  2. March 10, 2008    

    I use cages primarily, but in the past I have planted more tomatoes than cages and used wooden stakes and jute twine to build row supports.

    I like the natural look, but nothing works as well as then cage. -Joe

  3. Anonymous
    March 11, 2008    

    Cages are far much better in my opinion as it protects the plant from all directions, especially from the wind and being blown over.

  4. Anonymous
    March 11, 2008    

    I use a hog panel that was cut and laid lengthwise using t-posts to stabilize. Works great and I use old pantyhose strips for tying. You can spread them out to distribute the support and not have a tiny area that string does which can cause bending or breaking of a stalk.

  5. Anonymous
    March 11, 2008    

    None of the commercially available supports for tomatoes that I have found so far are tall enough for my plants. They regularly grow to 7 feet and often 8 feet. The tomato ladder once installed is only 45″ above ground. That’s fine for determinates, but not for my favorite heirloom indeterminates, which I train to a single stalk. So I use 2′ x 2″ wooden poles firmly anchored in the ground before setting out the plants.

  6. March 11, 2008    

    I find that using 1/2 electrical conduit pipe is the best way to stake up tomatoes. Buy a 10` piece of pipe, cut it in half to two 5` pieces. They are easy to drive in ground.If your plants exceed the top of you pipe buy a coupling and add a short peice of conduit to the top. They last for years seeing they are galvanized and are easy to store, inside or out.

  7. March 11, 2008    

    I do not use any of the commercially available tomato supports. My plants are typically 7 to 8 feet tall or taller so the commercial ones do not provide the support I need. I have tried wooden stakes but do not any longer. I have found, for me, that 61/2′ T posts work well for me.

  8. Susan
    March 11, 2008    

    I think I have used everything possible! My 30 year favorite is a cage made from concrete reinforcing wire-about 3 feet in diameter-with a tee post or two to hold the top heavy plants. The cages are 5 feet tall and the ‘holes’ to pick through are plenty large. With determinates, I plant two or three plants per cage. These cages are super for rampant plants like cherry tomatoes. I usually plant a few marigold seeds inside the cage when I put out the transplants. The plants are still going strong when the fall frosts kill them. Susan, NW Ga

  9. Anonymous
    March 11, 2008    

    I use tomato cages which find work fine for me. I also prune my plants so they do not grow so large, and this results in larger and more tomatoes. If I need additional support for tomatoes, I use spiral supports which also do a very good job of controlling the plants. Happy gardening!!!

    Bj in IL

  10. Anonymous
    March 11, 2008    

    We use cages as the wind is a big factor on Block Island. the cages help the yousters get a firm grip on growing and protect the plants as they get bigger . We did one summer have palnts that grew taller then the cages but they sort of flopped over and were fine.

  11. Anonymous
    March 11, 2008    

    After years of experimenting with various methods, I stumbled across a combination that really worked for me. I bought the heavy-duty ladders from Gardeners Supply last spring. It was time to rotate the location for my tomatoes so I planted them in an old 3ft. x 12 ft. flower bed that runs parallel to my chain link fence. I planted each tomatoe plant between the ladders and fencing. By the first week in July, those plants had already sprawled through the ladders in front and over the top rail of the fencing behind. The top rail of the fence helped support the heavy plants as they proceeded to put out 6 ft. runners in addition to the main stems of the plants. The combination of the heavy-duty ladders and fencing made the fruit accessible from all directions. I used old panty hose to help tie the massive runners for extra support along the chain link fencing. You can be sure I’ll be using the same technique again this year as I harvested 6 bushels of tomatoes from only 4 plants last year.

  12. KL
    March 11, 2008    

    I just remembered there’s another thing that I really like about the cages. They make it easy to wrap fabric around my tomato transplants to protect them from wind and cold. There’s a fuller explanation of this technique in my article entitled “Weather Protection for Eager Spring Gardeners”(You’ll have to search on this name on gardeners.com because HTML links don’t work in this comment field.)
    Thanks for all your comments, everyone!

  13. March 11, 2008    

    We use cages, then when the plants grow above the cages, we use metal stakes at the end of each row, string metal wire across them, then support the tomatoes with pieces of old nylon stockings tied to the wire. We live in NOrthern Vermont, so in the spring when the plants are first put out, we place small white plastic garbage bags over the cages (tied with the bag ties and soil on the bottom edges), with holes on top for air and water to make little hot houses.

  14. Anonymous
    March 11, 2008    

    I use cages and then I drive support poles into the ground by each corner and attach the cages to the poles. I also trim up the plants to keep them from taking over the whole garden. Someone mentioned the cages allow you to wrap and protect your plants early in the season. I have done that and it works really well. A couple of clothes pins and everything is snug and safe.
    I use the ladders for my cukes but don’t find them enough support for any of my tomatoes. Luckily we have choices!!!

  15. Anonymous
    March 11, 2008    

    I use a stake and cotton ribbon. Nothing metal or even vinyl coated as the coating comes off eventually. I certainly DO NOT use something that costs $60!

  16. bill w.
    March 11, 2008    

    yeah, me too, i’ve been growing “big boy” and “big girl” tomatos, i can’t remember if they’re “determinate” or “indeterminate” but they grow HUGE, over my head, i’m 5′ 11″, and they grow at least 4′ wide, prolly wider. many years ago i got some bamboo root cuttings from “the bamboo man” and have been able (surprisingly) to grow bamboo here in s.e. new york state, i’ve been using bamboo poles to stake up my tomatos. i rip strips of fabric from cotton (underwear) to tie ‘em up. it’s a hassle, i’m sure more of a hassle than using cages, but my tomatos grow so big and tall i can’t use cages. the bamboo lasts only one season in the ground so it’s good i’m able to grow more. i have to use a lot of poles because in strong wind the plants can overwhelm and break the poles and my plants flop down on the ground. :-(

  17. Anonymous
    March 11, 2008    

    My favorite tomato support is a rose pillar. They are stronger than the other supports and encircle the entire plant.

    Another good support is a homemade one made of rebar. Get a big piece, bend it into a circle and wire it together. Very sturdy and durable. And you can remove the wire and store it flat during the winter. If Gardener’s supply would market such a item, I would buy it.

  18. Anonymous
    March 11, 2008    

    We put our tomatoes on trellises and it works great and they look very nice too!

  19. March 11, 2008    

    Cages seem to keep my plants upright regardless of size. They’re less attractive, but hidden by mid-to-late summer.
    Ladders work well for non-bushy plants below 4′ tall, but they aren’t tall enough for a full season’s growth. Also, the red ones faded to pale orange after just one season.
    Spirals are useless, they don’t stay upright after midseason, not enough support for even cherry-types.

  20. March 12, 2008    

    All this in-the-garden feedback is extremely helpful. Thanks for the comments and keep them coming!
    -Kathy

  21. Anonymous
    March 12, 2008    

    I like to plant huge indeterminant varieties of tomatoes, so we usually use giant cages we construct out of foundation wire and support them with about three stakes. I’ve used spirals and stakes for smaller tomato plants with good luck though. My ties are strips of old t-shirts.

  22. Anonymous
    March 12, 2008    

    I used the red tomato ladders for the first time last year and I love them! They are easy to install, don’t rust and coordinate with my red tomato mulch nicely. In the early season, before fruit sets they give my garden much needed color and harvesting is a breeze since I don’t have to reach in and root around for the ripe ones. At the end of the season I no longer have to wrestle with folding and storing cages. They are easily removed and fit snugly together. To save floor space I have installed a hook and hang them on the wall of my garage.

  23. Anonymous
    March 12, 2008    

    In Yardley, PA we use a combintation of cages and stakes, but the best for us are the green plastic covered stakes (most garden centers have then) and then for “tying” we use the plant velcro tape. The green stakes come in varying heights and the velcro tape is used year after year.

  24. emailyogi
    March 12, 2008    

    I plant tomatoes and cucumbers in the same 12×6 ft victory garden type bed. The cages help me keep the bottom part clean, so I can manage the meandering cucumbers. The cage helps me use the space effectively.

  25. Anonymous
    March 14, 2008    

    I use three or four 8ft rebar stakes and zigzag tie and surround with twine,etc. It gives plenty support and room to roam. Tomatoes are happy and huge in my garden haven. :)

  26. Anonymous
    March 14, 2008    

    In all Acctuality my Fence is the BEST

  27. Anonymous
    March 16, 2008    

    I used your tall tomato cages for the first time last year. At the end of the season, I was on the phone with one of your people and at that time I made the comment “builled them wider and taller. What a teriffic crop I had. I recently ordered an extension to see if it will fit what I have. If it does, I will order them for all my cages. Naturally, I wil order long staples for all.
    Saul Gurman
    Beverly Ma.

  28. Anonymous
    March 18, 2008    

    I use tripods with bridges between them to which I tie down to the tomatoes. These bridges are 6-7 feet off the ground and if the plants reach that height (they frequently do) I lay them across the bridges. This works for all types. In Sept/Oct it starts to look like grape arbors. There’s no outgrowing the cage, ladder, etc., which used to happen frequently. Also, the ground hogs can’t pull over the tied up plants.

  29. March 19, 2008    

    We love the cages; they are easy to put up, keep the garden neat and organized. However, like a previous Blogger commented, we think they should be taller (say another two feet) and wider (six inches). We’ve found stacking cages not always effective, especially when we have high winds go through or if the plants get top heavy — the upper tier will sometimes pitch over. Are you listening Gardeners Supply? Consider making bigger ones.

    There is one thing we do not like: they do not store easily. Forget putting them back into the boxes they are delivered in! In addition, the bottom spikes that go into the ground get bent in our rocky and heavy Northern Kentucky clay soil and that adds to storage woes because they tend to stick out in strange angles. We have a Florida winter home and I’m ordering some cages for our garden there. We’ll see how they do in the much sandier soil we have there.

  30. March 19, 2008    

    Hi Kentucky Gator,
    Kathy here. We are eagerly reading every comment on this blog. Thank you for all your great feedback
    about our the pros and cons of our products. This is exactly the information we need to make them better — more useful to real gardeners.

    Being a cage-user myself, I know they’re are a bit unwieldy to store at the end of the season. Start by bending the legs back into straight (my soil is hard and stony, too). Next I lay 3 or 4 cages on top of each other and use 12″ lengths of soft ties to bind them together tightly at 2 or 3 different points. Each stack gets hung on a nail on the wall in my barn. If they’re bound tightly together, the stack is actually relatively easy to store and easy to transport back out the the garden in spring.

    Clearly taller cages and ladders are in order. I know our product development folks are hearing that feedback loud and clear.
    Do keep your ideas coming!

  31. Anonymous
    March 19, 2008    

    I have tried everything and nothing really works – cages aren’t tall enough, stakes pull out of the ground and also aren’t tall enough – tried stakes with twine interwoven- plants just pulled the whole thing over-bought 6′ stakes – they were too short – so I gave up – just don’t plant tomatoes anymore – too discouraging

  32. Anonymous
    March 27, 2008    

    I have both the Tomato Cages & the Ladders, but I do prefer the cages. I use the Ladders for my raspberry plants. They are pefect and I just ordered 5 more. As far as the tomatoes, I hang all my tomato plants & pepper plants. I get the most beautiful peppers & they all turn red! We have a deer problem, so hanging my peppers & tomatoes solves that problem. Also the plants are inside a fenced in garden that I do use the ribbon that goes around & sprayed with a deer repellant.

  33. March 27, 2008    

    I tried both last year – your cages and your red tomato ladders – and I liked them both. I used the ladders in a veggie-theme foundation planting, and they added height and color while I was waiting for the cherry tomatoes to cover them. I did need to trim back the tomatoes a few times when they got a little rambunctious, but I thought the ladders did a great job of supporting them. The cages mostly did a great job too, in the vegetable garden proper. The heavy-fruited ‘Brandywine’ plants had some trouble with the wind, but those with smaller fruits stayed straight and tall all season.

  34. Anonymous
    March 31, 2008    

    I don’t really use eiter. I garden in a very small space on the side of my house, and have adopted a trellis against my house as my best option. Basically I trim back some of the extra foilage and branches like they do in greenhouses. I use twine to gently guide the “limbs” up as they grow. I do use a cage that I have cut open and flattened out in front of the trellis for added support in the beginning, but most of the support is from the trellis. The trellis is about 10 feet high and 8 feet long. By the end of the growing season (mid to late october here) My vining tomatoes have made it to the top, and the bush type have made it about 2/3rds of the way up. Incidentally I usually plant at the end of April so it is a long season.

  35. April 1, 2008    

    I create my own cage/fence using bamboo poles and tying them together with cable ties. Once the plants get large enough, I tie them to the bamboo using strips cut from panty hose. This seem to be the most versatile for me.

  36. Anonymous
    April 1, 2008    

    I use remesh – 10 gage wire “fencing” with 6″ squares, 5 ft tall, used in construction to reinforce concrete slabs (driveways, sidewalks). Hard to cut into 6-1/2 ft lengths, roll into cylinder, twist wires to build cage), but they’re STURDY, long lasting,tall and you can reach thru to bring out a tomato. Use 5 ft pcs of 1/2″ rebar driven into ground for additional support.

  37. Cindy
    April 1, 2008    

    Every cage we have purchased has been toppled by the wind. We have had to tie them with crossing support strings staked into the ground. I bought my first set of ladders last season, and love them. They are much stronger than the cages I can purchase in the area. For peppers, we tie them to fiberglass rods from the hardware store.

  38. Anonymous
    April 1, 2008    

    We have used the tomato ladders for a couple of years now. Each year we add another one or two in our space constrained garden – using them to support peppers and eggplants as well. They are great. I also trim my plants so they don’t get too unwieldy – this aids in better production.

  39. Anonymous
    April 1, 2008    

    Papa George here, I use cages but this year I am going to try something new. I’m going to tie my tomatoes to a small rope attached to a heavy 20 foot piece of pipe laying on the ground and a 1/2 inch piece of conduct attached the top of a 8 foot “T” post at each end of my 20 x 4 foot raised beds. I’m going to put a couple of 8 foot pieces (1 foot in the ground) by 1 inch PVC pipe with a “T” on top to run the conduit through for support. I will tie the plants to the rope that is tied to the conduit and tied to the pipe on the ground. I will tie the plants to the rope with old panty hose about a foot between each tying.

  40. Anonymous
    April 1, 2008    

    The absolutely best system we ever used for tomatoes was a trellis built with 4×4 and 2×4 lumber, something like a very open fence. The 4×4 posts were spaced about 6-8ft apart, with 2×4′s about 16, 32 and 48″ off the ground running on both sides of the 4×4 in parallel, so there was a space
    between where the plants could be slipped through. When they hit the top,or threw off side branches we just guided them horizontally. Except for an occasional horizontal tie (with panty hose), nothing else was ever needed. It was strong, pretty, wind-proof and easy.
    When we relocated the garden, wood costs had gone up so we have tried both home made and purchased cages and the ladders. The ladders are wonderful in containers like whiskey barrels and in parts of the garden that are tight…we use extra strips of panty hose to keep them “inside” the ladder V, as we have some strong winds.
    The cages are now the all-around winners, though…less attention and plenty sturdy IF we support them with a tall plastic-coated 6′stake (as mentioned above)in alternate corners. The new taller ones, and the Bean cage, work the very best for our giant heirloom plants and those long-vining grape tomatoes.

  41. Roger E Rowcliffe
    April 1, 2008    

    I make my tomato cages out of 6 ft tall cattle fencing. I buy a 150 ft roll of it and then cut it into 8 ft long pieces and fasten the ends together with 1/4 inch copper tubing crimped onti one end and slide the other end into it, that way they are eazy to disassemble atfter harvest time and put away. They last for years as mine have lasted for 9 years so far and will be going up here soon again.

  42. April 1, 2008    

    I have used cages, ladders, and spiral posts, but my all-time favorites are 8-foot fence posts. As the plants pss the tops of the cages or the ladders, i always wound up losing about 30% of my tomatoes,except the grape or cherry varietals. I also sometimes put the posts extra close together for some varietals that really grow to as much as 14-16 feet tall. These I have bridged across to the next post, and get some great fruits.

  43. April 1, 2008    

    We have been using 10′ 2x4s… my husband uses a post hole digger to get them 1.5–2′ in the ground, and they definitely do not fall over. I use strips of old pantyhose, tights, and orphaned socks as ties, and before the end of the growing season, they are up past the tops of the posts. You’ve got to give your plants something to aspire to!

    I would love to try the Gardner’s Supply ladders, if they were 2′–4′ longer. I need something tall!

  44. jsw45807
    April 1, 2008    

    My favorite way to support tomatoes is to espalier them. My hubby built me 6′ tall frames with a top cross bar 4′ wide and I stretched nylon mesh with big holes (4″ x 4″) so you can reach in and harvest. Air circulates and the sun hits all parts of the plant because there is no shade! Rotating them in the garden requires husbandly help, but once they’re moved to a new location, they’re good all year.

  45. April 1, 2008    

    My tomatoes are planted in 2 rows about 20′ long. I have dug in a 4″x4″ by 8′ at each of the row and a pole at the mid point of the row. Then I run a wire the length of the row at the top of the poles and another one about 8″ above the ground. When I transplant my tomatoes I run a piece of twine between the top wire and bottom wire above each plant. As the plants grow I wrap the stem around the vertical twine. Its real simple and quick. No having to spend time tying to poles with twine or stockings or whathaveyou. No metal structures to weed and cultivate around and through. Easy access for picking off sucker branches. Other than the main poles the structure is virtually invisible giving a neater appearance to the garden

  46. Anonymous
    April 1, 2008    

    I use wooden surveyor stakes to hold up my tomatoes. They are the perfect height(6 ft.) for my plants. They are strong, rugged,and have rough sides so the tie-ups don’t slip. They are pointed on one end so they go in and come out easily. They don’t give you plants metal burn and they are recyclable. They cost less than a buck apiece (36 for $23)and I get three to four years use out of them. For tie-ups I use old shirts and old tee shirts and they get recycled to. I just love to go out and tie up the braches and watch them babies grow!

  47. Anonymous
    April 1, 2008    

    I use cages but sometimes I have to stack them three high since my plants grow so tall. The weight of the plants also tends to bend them. There is no way I could ever use a ladder. I mainly grow Italian paste tomatoes of an indeterminate type.

  48. Anonymous
    April 1, 2008    

    I use cages and stack them but I used to have a problem with the cages tipping over and breaking the plants. Now I tie the cages together on all 4 sides with pieces of string and they hold up to the strongest winds and the heaviest plants.

  49. Anonymous
    April 1, 2008    

    I made my own cages last year (also my first year growing tomatoes) since I was told commercial cages would be too small. They worked great, but getting a little tight on the plants by the end of the summer. This year I plan on making a “tomato arbor” with the same wire fencing I used last year. This way the (I hope) the plants will get better ventilation and I can grow lettuce and other part shade lovers underneath.

  50. Anonymous
    April 2, 2008    

    Texas cages that I purchased at the Gardener’s Supply Outlet store for $5.00 allow me to grow 8 foot tomato vines. These cages stack on top of each other. I would like more but haven’t seen them recently.

  51. Anonymous
    April 2, 2008    

    I usuallly use metal stakes for my tomatoes. I use cages also with the stakes as I live in a high wind area and have to fight to keep my plants safe frome the wind beating them. I usse cloth ties to tie them to the stakes if I run out of cages.

  52. Sandy
    April 2, 2008    

    I have tried stakes, cages, and spirals but for many years now I’ve used trellis netting. First I screwed metal fence posts on opposite sides of my raised beds. Then I attached trellis netting stretched as tightly as possible between the posts. This netting has 6-inch squares which allows for attaching the vines almost anywhere. It lasts for many years, which is a plus, because it’s not easy to do.

  53. Anonymous
    April 2, 2008    

    I use wooden stakes, reinforced with 3/8″ rebar because the ground underneath my garden soil is too hard to drive a wooden stake into. (We call it “Southern Maryland Cement.”) But, I’m will try Dick the Trombone Player’s idea and use 1/2″ electrical conduit. I grow determinate and indeterminate plants. I sucker all the plants and cut the indies off at five clusters of blossoms, because I’m more interested in tomatoes than I am in tomato plant.

  54. April 2, 2008    

    I’ve used many types and I really like the ladders. I do lash a pole across a few of them for extra support. Though they are still a bit small for some of my indeterminate growers. I would like to see some larger or taller ones though or a way to extend them in a sturdy way.
    The color on the red ones does fade after one year, though I don’t think that the red color is that big a deal, just looks nice.

  55. April 2, 2008    

    Oh I forgot to add, one of the biggest plusses of the ladders is that they clean up,stack and store very easily for the winter compared to a lot of others.

  56. Anonymous
    April 2, 2008    

    For the past five or six years I have used bamboo teepees constructed of 6 or 8 ft long bamboo poles tied with twine at the top. I plant two to three tomato plants around the base of each teepee. Then, once a week, I loosely tie the growing plants to the poles with natural twine. At the end of the season, all I need to do is pull the teepees out and store the bamboo for next year. The tomato plants and twine go in my compost pile.

    This method requires a bit of work (tying the plants up every so often), but the teepees are tall and strong enough to support the plants, and they look great as well.

  57. Anonymous
    April 2, 2008    

    Boulder CO has some very strong winds. I use circular cages made from contrete reinforcement wire (about 6″ mesh) with the open wire ends stuck in the ground. Then I use one old broom or mop handle pounded a foot or so into the ground with the wire cage securely tied to the pole. The poles don’t break and the cages with plants are not blown over or tomatoes thashed in the wind. My best method and used for 20+ years.

  58. Anonymous
    April 3, 2008    

    I have built my own 2′x2′ tomato frames. They are made with 2″x2″ wood, 1″x2″ wood, and have a metal concrete post bolted to each leg so they will shove down into the garden soil 8-10″. This keeps the wooden legs off the soil and keeps them from deteriorating. My frames also have bolts with wingnuts on the legs and top which I use to attach clear 2′x2′ vinyl pieces so they also become large hotcaps for transplants earlier in the spring. These pieces are simply removed when the weather warms up and they’re stored for use the next spring. I wouldn’t use anything else!

  59. April 3, 2008    

    I like cages but I have found that the store bought ones are not tall, wide or strong enough. My plants grow to 6′. Once my plants mature the store bought cages are bent over. After one good storm the legs are bent the back legs are pulled out of the ground and the plant is laying sideways on the ground. Plus like someone else stated horrible to store. So I built my own, one continuous cage support. Once out of wood which roted to quickly. So I screwed together the 6′ green metal stakes which worked well. I made it 12 ft. wide, 2ft. deep and 5 ft high leaving 1 ft. to anchor into the ground. with 2ft. cross sections.
    I also tied string inside the sections to catch the new sprouts, I found this helps to prevent them from leaning over and growing out the sides.
    I leave it up all year so there is no need for storage. I lift it out to rotor till once a year. After reading everyones else’s idea’s I think I will redo it this year using pipes making it 6 ft. tall maybe painting them red.
    I have found this to be completely maintenance free except for occasionally redirecting a branch.

  60. Anonymous
    April 7, 2008    

    I live in Penna. and have grown tomatoes for 40 years and was always tired of the commercial staking systems that would not hold up my plants come the end of the season when the plants were loaded with fruit. So, last year I made a system by driving fencing stakes into the ground running down the middle of my garden( where I put the tomatoe plants). These are 7 ft. stakes. Then I attach galvanized fencing to the post with plastic wire ties. I pull the fencing really tight but have it up off the ground by a foot. I plant my tomatoe plants at intervals all along the bottom of the fence. As the plants grow I tie them to the fence with fabric strips. My tomatoes are clean because they never touch the dirt and they are very easy to harvest. No bending to find the best tomatoes under the leaves on the ground.
    I will do the same this year for my tomatoes.

  61. Anonymous
    April 15, 2008    

    Last year I began using tomato cages and 8 foot plastic covered rebar with twist ties. As the tomatoes grow larger, I force the branches up to the top of the cage. Above the top of the cage, I use a roll of twist ties together with the rebar. My cages are funnel shaped – smaller at the bottom and larger at the top. I actually place the rebar down through the rungs of the cage with the rebar outside of the lower rungs and inside of the upper rungs. This method helps to keep the cages from falling over.

    Unfortunately, my tomatoes grow higher than the rebar and the tops fall over. I might try keeping them pruned back and force the growth into the lower portion of the plants.

  62. Anonymous
    April 15, 2008    

    Customer John Berryhill here. Am testing ladders this season. My cages are well rusted after 30 Minnesota years. I might consider two ladders per plant to create a cage type environment. I like the heavier gauge on the ladders. Also the ability to drive them into the ground with a little foot action.

  63. Anonymous
    April 15, 2008    

    10′ 1/2″ ELECTRICAL THINWALL CUT AT
    7′. 7′ PIECES FOR TOMATOES AND 3′
    PIECES USED FOR PEPPERS OR OTHER.
    ALL HAVE 1/8″ HOLE DRILLED IN THINWALL ABOVE GROUND. DRIP IRRIGATION SUPPLIED FROM TOP OF ALL POLE OPENINGS.

  64. Anonymous
    April 15, 2008    

    Tomato cages are the best way to suppport my tomato plants over the past 45 years I have used this method. I buy a 50 foot roll of 4 foot high turkey fencing, i cut it into five foot lengths and fold into a cirle using the end pieces to connect the circle, by folding over I cut out three 4″ x 4″ windows. eight of these cages last about 10-12 years. They stack on their side easily after the growing season. The tomatoes never touch the ground. it is a ‘green way” to plant tomatoes and the cost is minimal.
    4/15/08 Farmer [George] Jones

  65. April 15, 2008    

    Here in southeastern Iowa, we are blessed with wonderful dirt, and with fertilization and my home-made tomato cages, I have huge, sturdy plants and tremendous yields. We made our cages many years ago, some from concrete reinforcement wire formed in a circle, some from 1/2 of a cattle panel formed in a triagle, both kinds fastened with wire to hold their shape. I secure them to the ground with T fence posts, then wire the cages to the posts. This method will withstand heavy winds, and seems to protect the plants when they are small and just getting started. The triagle cages are great for Italian “Roma” type tomatoes, which don’t usually grow quite as big and tall as traditional varieties.

  66. Anonymous
    April 15, 2008    

    I don’t use any support – I grow them in the hanging containers and just let them hang-the only problem is they grow 12-15 ft long so I keep having to raise the hangers-I’m running out of tall things to hang them from!
    Carole
    Half Moon Bay, CA

  67. Anonymous
    April 15, 2008    

    I like the round red tomato ladders that Gardener’s Supply used to carry!!! They could be connected and held a lot more than the new green ladders.

  68. Anonymous
    April 15, 2008    

    I use home made tomato cages, made of concrete re-enforcement wire, available at your local home depot type store. The commercial cages are too short; my tomatoes grow at least 6 feet tall. We made our cages about 35 years ago and they are still going strong. Added bonus: deer won’t stick their noses between the openings to eat your plants, although they will prune them into pillars. However, deer fences work better for that.

  69. April 15, 2008    

    I was lucky enough to get my ladders from the inventor and really loved them but found that sometimes I needed to use two ladders to make a cage when I had an especially productive tomato plant.

  70. Anonymous
    April 15, 2008    

    Wooden or bamboo stakes and jute twine seem to work just finefr my few plants. The biggest problem has been the !!#*% groundhog which I’ve not been able to trap.At least HE’S eating well.

  71. Jan
    April 15, 2008    

    I too am a fan of the cages made from concrete reinforcment wire One roll from the home improvement store for about $60 will net you at least 5-6 cages. I am going to make some more this year. Storage is an issue so i just leave mine standing in the garden all year.

  72. Anonymous
    April 15, 2008    

    I use square cages, with an 8′ ground rod in the corner for extra support. I also stack and tie the cages, so I wind up with about a 7′ tower, able to withstand the largest and heavyest of plants in almost any kind of summer wind storm. It’s a little bit of work putting them together and taking them down, but I have had some huge plants with very heavy loads not fall over in bad weather.

  73. Anonymous
    April 15, 2008    

    I have Gardener’s Supply green ladders. I use them (the tall ones, I should mention) for bell peppers. Most of my determinate tomato plants and certainly the inderminate ones are too tall for the ladders. I use stakes (rebar works great)and use twine or netting. Old hammocks, especially backpacking ones work also.

  74. Anonymous
    April 15, 2008    

    I use 7′ stakes and tie my tomato vines to them with string. When the tomatoes grow beyond the top of the stakes, I tape another stake on at the top. I can reach about 10′ high on a stepstool. If the cold weather didn’t come, I wonder just how much farther and how much longer I could continue to have all my beautiful tomatoes.

  75. Anonymous
    April 15, 2008    

    I have used both in the past, but I think I prefer cages. We get some horrendous winds up here (altitude 2376 ft) and they blow down the tomato plants in the ladders. Last year, several branches broke off during thunderstorms – and they were loaded with tomatoes. Sigh. I’ll probably use both again this year, but I’ll tie the plants tightly to the ladders and hope the whole thing doesn’t blow down. :-)

  76. Anonymous
    April 15, 2008    

    My garden is narrow and long, 4 feet wide and 40 feet long (down along my neighbors fence). I put up posts and a fence so I can weave my vines and tomatoes through the fence. I’ve tried cages and ladders, but they’ve tipped over in high winds.

  77. April 15, 2008    

    I’ve tried so many ways to support tomatoes to keep them off the ground and make it easier to pick them. Last year I used the ladders with bamboo poles lashed horizontally between them at each step of the ladders. I trained the tomatoes to the bamboo “arms”. It was a lot easier to pick the tomatoes rather than reaching into a jungle, and not one fell down.

  78. Anonymous
    April 15, 2008    

    I love the ladders. I’ve learned to use 3 for every two plants…the middle one helps support the “leaners” from both plants. I’d be a sucker for taller ladders, once Gardner’s Supply offers them! (hinthint)

  79. Anonymous
    April 16, 2008    

    My tomatoes are in raised beds made of concrete blocks. I use tomato cages because they hold the new plants so well. The beds hold 15-20 cages. At the corners I have bamboo poles which I am replacing with metal fake bamboo. I wrap the bamboo with builder’s cord. The cages hold the plants until they are too tall, then they grow to the top of the bamboo. The bamboo and cord keeps the cages from falling over and keeps the tomatoes out of the paths.

  80. Terry L Henschen
    April 16, 2008    

    I have made my own cages out of 6′ concrete support wire useing wire with 13 squares around. After using these cages all my tomatoes grow over 6′ tall and are extremely easy to pick the tomatoes with very few being on the ground. TLH

  81. Anonymous
    April 16, 2008    

    I used to use stakes, and I tried the el-cheapo wire cages…neither worked. Now I use some hard core, heavy duty (kinda spendy, too) gorilla cages that really hold some heavy producing plants !!!

  82. Anonymous
    April 16, 2008    

    I use 4 metal fence posts to surround each tomato plant, with rope wrapped around the posts to support the plants. I’ve tried cages, but the tomato plants are too big and heavy and snap off the soldered rings and/or the weight of the plant bends the stake parts of the cage and then the whole plant falls over.

  83. Anonymous
    April 16, 2008    

    I’ve tried almost everything, with nothing really doing a very good job when the tomatoes are producing well. Then I hit upon the perfect solution for us. We purchased a 12 ft long cattle panel at a farm supply store–they are made of very heavy gauge wire, and set about four metal T-posts to support it, tying the panel with wire or twine. Then as the tomatoes (planted at the base) grow I just tie up the stems with jute twine, which decomposes in time. Tomatoes and even peppers can be planted on both sides of this panel, and we just leave it up all year even though it could be taken down in winter if desired. In good yield years this panel is almost entirely covered with tomato vines and plenty of fruit for canning, freezing, and donating to friends. I also use duct tape to fasten a plastic ID tag to the wire above each plant. The tags are easy to read and can be cut off after the vines are finished for the season. This worked so well I purchased a second panel for beans and cucumbers as nothing is too heavy for the panel. I live in Northeastern Oklahoma and we have our share of dangerous storms, rain, hail, wind, tornados. And although fortunately our tomato support hasn’t had to deal with tornadic winds, it has stood up to everything else.

  84. Anonymous
    April 16, 2008    

    I have never been one to prune my tomatoes, so they reach enormous proportions. Year before last there was a cat fight in the garden and I found all 6 plants knocked over in their 5′ tall round cages. (all 4 metal legs bent under their weight) I was in tears. Last year I used an old portable dog kennel that I configured into a capitol letter I down the middle of the 10 x 4 planter. Two huge plants on each side and added supports of twine on front as needed. I have never had such an abundant crop and I am looking forward to my yummy mini romas and heirlooms again this year!

  85. Anonymous
    April 16, 2008    

    We have gardened for over forty years and have tried every method under the sun to assist, control and/or manage tomato plants.
    We are happy to use the ladders and the cages. They are easy to use and store. The cages allow for more air circulation for the plant. The ladders seem to confine the plants to some extend. Yield has been very good with both methods.

  86. Anonymous
    April 16, 2008    

    I was quite disappointed with the performance of the ladders. I used 10 of them last year for the first time. When I recieved my order I was quite surprised that the ladders weren’t as wide as I expected they would be but decided to use them any way. After using them for a season I feel I will go back to some sort of cage this year because I had difficulty keeping my plants up in the ladders. I think the ladders may have a better application for something like pole beans or something similar. I have the red ones and they do look good in the garden though.

    Happy gardening
    Hank the gardener

  87. plantman810
    April 16, 2008    

    I have tried almost every imaginable method of growing the hundreds of different tomato cultivars that I grow, and the best way to grow tomatoes in my opinion is to use the green vinyl coated steel stakes. They don’t rot, they don’t fall over, and they are tall enough to support the heirloom cultivars I grow that are indeterminates.

  88. April 18, 2008    

    Thank you one and all for your great ideas and feedback! Thanks to you, we have a couple new concepts in the works for 2009.
    We’re also in the process of creating a way for you to upload photos of your tomato supports. Stay tuned. We’re eager to see what some of these creative solutions look like!

  89. April 18, 2008    

    BTW, If you have used our tomato ladders and left a comment here about wanting a taller version, please send me an email with your name, email address and physical address. We’re looking for 2 or 3 people to test a prototype of a taller version. Send your email to my attention (Kathy LaLiberte) using this email address: info@gardeners.com
    Thanks!

  90. Anonymous
    April 18, 2008    

    I use the ” French ” tripod for my tomatoes .Bottom line: It is three 5 ft. stakes attached with a wire a one end. In the tripod position they support tomatoes- folded they require the absolutely minimum space.

  91. Anonymous
    April 21, 2008    

    Do any of you have photos of your tomato support contraptions? We’d all love to see them — I’m sure. Please post of photo of your supports in the Photo Center, which has a new album called Tomato Support Techniques. Click on the link near the top of the right-hand column, or use this link: http://photos.gardeners.com/thumbnails.php?album=192
    Thanks again for all the feedback!
    -David

  92. Anonymous
    April 29, 2008    

    I have used both cages and post. I made the cages from left over fencing with the square openings. I really like the cages but made a mistake and place some of the large heirloom type tomatoes in them. When it came time to harvest the tomatoes, I couldn’t get the large tomatoes through the squares and had to stick my hands under the tomatoe and move them up to one hand to the other until I reached the top of the cage. It took a long time to push each one of my hands through and I even had family members helping by catching them at the top so I could start all over again. After doing this the first year, I put Romas and Cherry type tomatoes in the cages I have now. Smaller tomatoes can be removed with no problems like before. I also use stakes. I bought 5 ft. wooden handle discards from a local shovel handle making factory. I drove these in the ground about 4 to 6 ft apart. After this I stapled a thin closeline type wire from post to post. I planted the tomatoes between the post and as they grew I tied the vines with soft ties to the wires. The smaller determinate type tomatoes really worked well with these but I did do my Heirlooms too since it was the only thing I had at the time to use. I managed to grow tomatoes in the 1 lb. to almost 2 lb size range. This year I will again use cages and poles, selecting the plants for each style of support .

  93. May 19, 2008    

    Hi folks,

    If you can, please share photos of some of the support systems you’ve described in these comments. Use the link at the top of this post to get to our Photo Center, where you can share your own shots — or look at what other gardeners have devised.

    Thanks,
    David Grist
    Gardener’s Supply

  94. Anonymous
    May 27, 2008    

    I had to vote 2x because I use both tomato ladders (for the indeterminates and cages (for the determinates). I use valcro strips and clips to tether wayward branches to the ladders. I also made homemade cages from 5 ft sections of road mesh.

  95. Anonymous
    May 30, 2008    

    I’ve been using the tomato ladders with the cheaper cylinder wire tomato supports as a deer fence surrounding our mini timato garden. Fortunately, the tomato garden is against the side of our house. The deer are awful this year; they are eating everything in sight, even plants that are supposedly toxic or not tasty to them. I always had beautiful natural white penstemon flowers that hummingbirds love, but this year, they too are being eaten by deer.

    I have to cover my petunias, impatiens, and potted plants every night to protect them from deer.

  96. May 30, 2008    

    Deer damage can be truly heartbreaking. For difficult situations like yours, fencing seems to be the only dependable solution.
    We offer two types of inexpensive, easy to install deer fencing that might work for you. Search on our website for “deer fence” and you’ll see the two options. If deer browsing pressure is really severe, there may be nothing you can do to deter them. But if there are other things to eat, this tall mesh fence may be enough to safeguard your plants. Good luck!

  97. Anonymous
    June 1, 2008    

    I use a method a friend taught me. I make trellises from two 10 foot sections of 1/2 inch conduit, trellis netting and 18 inch rebar. Bend both sections of conduit at 7 1/2 feet. Connect at the top. Thread trellis netting over the frame. Pound rebar half way into the garden bed and slip the conduit ends over it. I prune most of my tomato plants to one stem and attach them to the trellis with padded wire or twist ties.

  98. June 8, 2008    

    I have about twenty of the tomato ladders which I like very much. I prune my entirely organic plants to keep them orderly. I think it encourages them to produce more, rather than putting their energy into just growing tall, and allows for air circulation to keep them healthy.

    I also use tomato ladders to guard and support young clematis vines I want to grow on arbors or fences, but which all too often seem to get damaged by lawn mowers or trimmers. This year I also used one for a Black Eyed Susie vine to help it go out a post. It’s doing extremely well.

  99. Jack
    March 22, 2009    

    Jack: I like the cages. My raised beds are 4 by 8 and 3 by 20 feet. I use fencing 6 foot high with 6 inch mesh. I buy a 50 foot roll and cut pieces 5 foot. This gives me an 18 inch diameter cage. I tie my cages together with bailing twine, with fence post set on each end. If I have more tomatoes plants than cages I stagger the cages and use bailing twine tied between cages to create an additional place tp plant. I live in zone 9. I put 4 mil plastic over the tomatoes and am able to harvest in January.

  100. March 22, 2009    

    Hi Jack,
    Sounds like a great technique! If you have a second, would you briefly describe your tomato growing schedule? It is so difficult up here in Vermont to imagine how the cycle works in zone 9. Thanks!

  101. May 18, 2009    

    I have tried everything and nothing really works however I do like the cage consept but they are not tall enough unkess you are willing to pay $20.00 or more.I googled tomato support and found the perfect tomato cage that actually is desighned to clamp on a stake so you can set it at any height you want. The cage is called The Tomato Ring. It is a galvanized ring molded to a clamp.I don’t beleive that there is anything on the market that can work any better to support large tomato plants than this.Why arent people using this thing? Mary Ann

  102. Disneylandman
    April 28, 2010    

    I recently discovered a product called Trell-o, which is rather ingenious. It’s a pyramidal, wood support, and multiple Trell-os can link together to form a network. I just set it up over my tomato plants, and it’s the first attractive, sturdy solution I have seen. Can’t wait for the plants to grow!

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