Sticks and Strings

Ten days ago I had a dilemma: I needed tomato cages for my quickly-growing, quickly-slumping tomato plants.

But then I had another dilemma: Manufactured tomato cages are a joke because they simply aren’t wide enough to accommodate the plants.

And so I was left with a final dilemma: I would need to build my own cages…but how?

In my mind, fashioning a homemade wire cage sounded easy-cheesy.  My mom used to do it all the time with whatever fencing materials we had lying around.  Unfortunately, I am not the wonder woman that my mom is, and it only took me two minutes to realize that fashioning a homemade tomato cage is a [insert word of choice].

After wrestling for half an hour with a roll of wire fencing I purchased from the local hardware store, I gave up.  My tomatoes would just have to sleep on the ground and then wither and die.

I allowed myself to sit and pout for the rest of the morning before I came up with another idea that I had read once in a gardening magazine: I would scrap the cages and simply stake my tomatoes. 

Dave and I had oodles of strong, smooth (and FREE) crepe myrtle branches that I pruned last spring which I cut into roughly 6′ poles:

We also had oodles of nasty, old (and FREE) t-shirts which I cut into strips:

So with my sticks and strings, I got to work and after a couple of hours I had this:

I slid the branch poles as far as they could go (about 1 foot) into the soil, being careful not to rip through the plants’ root systems.  Luckily, I have sandy soil which made the job much easier.  I couldn’t imagine plunging a pole into clay soil!

Once the stakes were in, I secured the plants to the stakes using the strips of old t-shirt:

I tried to make my ties around every “Y” along the stem since these parts are the thickest but also require the most support.

So far, everything has held up wonderfully despite the windiest of days.  Phew!

I’m glad the cage idea didn’t work out because materials would have added up fast.  I’ve since learned that the staking method produces less fruit than the caging method, however, the staking method didn’t cost me a dime, and it helped me reduce clutter in the rag bag and in the woodpile!


Want more genius ideas on how to make the most of your home?  Visit Pancakes and French Fries every Thursday for the William Morris Project, a drive to make everything in our home beautiful and, more importantly, purposeful.


Another great idea for an old but perhaps beloved t-shirt?


12 thoughts on “Sticks and Strings

  1. You are such a smart and resourceful girl, Leilani. Panty hose are good as well! I found some trellis’s on sale at Lowes that may be useful when things get taller. Now if I could just figure out which bugs it is that are biting holes and eating my leaves. Let me know if you have need for gardening items. I have lots of unused smaller containers that could be useful for someone.

    • I hear you about the holes in the leaves. I am already down two cantaloupe plants!! I’ve started spraying the leaves with diluted soapy water and cayenne pepper.

  2. What a smart use of something that you’ve already got! Love it. And those tomatoes are already huge! Mine are just teeny-tiny seedlings without fruit on them yet…perhaps June will be sunny in Vancouver.

    • Thanks! But it’s a give and take here, Jenn. Yes, my tomatoes are getting big early…but it was also 100 degrees in April.:(

      • It was 46.4 F yesterday (8C). I almost turned on the heat. 100 degrees sounds like some sort of paradise right now…although, I’d probably die from heat exhaustion.

      • After the summer we had last year (80+ straight days of 100 degree heat and no rain), we are all a bit nervous down here that it got so hot so early. Eek!

  3. Great way to use what you have – a both clever and resourceful solution. And I too am jealous of your tomatoes. Ours are still teeny little seedlings in the pot, despite having been planted 5 weeks ago.

    • Where do you live, Ms Amy? I am actually surprised at all the tomatoes! I planted them Easter weekend, though, and down here, the Farmer’s Almanac says to do your planting on good Friday.

  4. Way to use what you have! My mother-in-law always has beautiful tomatoes, and I’m pretty sure she stakes them and ties them with fabric scraps, too.

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