My very first tomato plant was a hybrid variety that I bought on impulse at a flower fair in the last few weeks of my senior year in college. I named it Mater, and it lived quite happily in a large container on the back porch of our house, safely ensconced in a shiny new tomato cage.
The next year, there was Mater the Second and a few squash plants. The year after that, there was Mater the Third, and even more vegetable plants. What began as an impulsive little purchase had grown into a steadfast interest in gardening. I think the tipping point was the year I realized that if I bought seeds instead of plants I could get so many more plants for a fraction of the cost!
Because my Mater and its back-porch progeny did well with a tomato cage, I assumed that the legion of tomato plants I was starting from seed would also do well in tomato cages.
Naturally, then, I thought I was so clever when I bought 20 used tomato cages off of Craig’s List for $20. What a deal, right? They sell for anywhere from $2.00 – $8.00 per cage, depending on where you’re purchasing them, and here I was buying them for a dollar a pop. I was sure I had scored a brilliant bargain, until this happened:
The tomato cages started falling like dominoes under the weight of my ripening tomato bounty and some were straining so hard against the weight of the plants that they had split apart at the seams.
Evidently, even determinate tomatoes can out-grow a tomato cage, and when paired with loose, sandy soil like what I had in my raised garden beds, the plants will literally pop the cages right out of the dirt! Rebar reinforcements help, but after this summer of #tomatofails I plan on relinquishing the tomato cages, too.