My father watched me work and I guess he had the same issue in his garden. Being the brilliant man he is, he came up with a solution that was low tech and works. I've used this technique for the last 3 years, my neighbours and friends are now beginning to use this solution and it seems to be quite popular. Now I've been asked by some other associates to produce a bit of a tutorial so I thought I might share the joy.
The simple solution is cylinders or tubes made of square weld mesh, held in place with a garden stake and a cable tie. Simply placing a cylinder of mesh over a tomato plant and holding it in place with a stake means you don't have to do any significant work except keep the weeds down and pick the tomatoes.
There are commercial tomato cages available but they mesh isn't as close as I am recommending. The commercial ones still need some tying up on occasions. They are also very expensive, for what they are. I usually plant around 16-24 tomato plants and that means a lot of money.
I have a collection of 32 mesh cylinders now and I've spent about $60 on building them. I have enough materials to build another 10 cylinders at least, so this isn't expensive. Especially when you see that the construction work is done once and the product will be useable for at least the next 10 years.
Step 1: What You Need
- Several metres of wire weld mesh. 100 to 150mm square mesh works well.
- Maspro netting clips (optional but really useful and highly recommended) [There are probably other brands with a similar product, Maspro just happens to be what is available locally.]
- Safety glasses. (Not shown in the photo but really important.)
- Wire cutters or regular pliers
- Maspro clip pliers (again, optional but highly recommended)
- Garden stakes
- Cable ties (or Panduit straps or zippy ties)
If you don't have Maspro netting clips do not despair. The low budget, low tech and remote area version makes use of the dag ends of the mesh to join up ends and make cylinders.
Step 2: How You Do It
If you have Maspro netting clips then construction is faster and easier but slightly more expensive.
If you intend to use the wire twist method then construction will take longer and your fingers will be sore at the end, but the finished product will work just as well.
Prepare the mesh for your construction technique, either trimming any dag ends for the clip method or leaving them for the twist method.
Measure and cut approximately 6 squares of the 100-150mm square mesh. This will give enough mesh that a cylinder of approximately 30cm will be produced.
(For those with a geometry bent, you will need a length of approximately d * pi. Where d = 30cm and pi = 3.14159 giving around 95cm of mesh for to make each cylinder)
Clip it all together. Either use Maspro clips as shown in the photo or use the dag ends to twist around the joining ends, to make the cylinders. When using clips alternate the clips diagonally across the welds to help stabilise the finished product.
Step 3: How You Use It
For tomatoes, use one cylinder per plant. For climbers you can use one cylinder for 3-6 plants, depending on the density of their foliage.
- For a single plant like a tomato, knock in a garden stake to one side of the plant.
- Place the cylinder over the plant(s). The stake can be inside or outside of the cylinder, it makes little difference.
- Secure the cylinder to the stake with a cable tie. Then you're done.
HINT: If you place the stakes on the outer side of the bed they can also help in managing garden hoses as they are dragged around. The stake on the outside reduces the likelihood of damage to the plants by providing some physical protection and preventing a recalcitrant hose from flattening the plants.
I love the flavour and texture of home grown veggies. I love the look of a well tended garden patch. I am, however, quite a lazy gardener and anything I can do to reduce work I will. I will spend hours getting the automatic the watering system tuned just right so that I don't have to spend 20 minutes a day holding a hose. Not always rational but it's the way I'm wired. (ahem!) So I found this plant management technique quite a revelation. It improved the quality and quantity in my garden in one season.
I hope that there is something in this instructable that you can use to reduce your work load and increase your crop.