Tormato! Tomato Cage With Trellis and Nutrient Delivery System




About: Maker of many things.

The Tormato replaces ugly wire cages or stakes with an aesthetically pleasing cage, trellis, and a nutrient delivery system!
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Step 1: Gather Tools

Chalk line

Measuring Tape

Saw (Hand or Jigsaw works fine)



5/8 drill bit (NOT speed bore)

3/16 drill bit

20 ft of 1/2 inch Pex tubing per Tormato

10 ft x1 1/4 PVC (8 ft will work fine if that is how your store sells it. 10 ft is more common)

Hands - Two works best for me.

Step 2: Snap a Line!

Snap a chalkline down the length of the PVC. This will serve as a guide when it comes to drilling the holes, and keep all the holes roughly on the same side of the PVC.

Step 3: Measure!

Measure and mark for the drilling of holes. If you are going to be putting an end cap on for the trellising system, mark 3 inches from the top of the PVC. All measurements will then go from here. If you are not planning on doing the trellis, skip this steps and all measurements will be made from the end of the PVC. I highly recommend not skipping this step...even if you're not using the trellis now, you may want to try later! You can space your spirals as close or as far as you would like them. I find somewhere between 8 and 11 inches produces the best Torsion/Tension on the pex tubing.

For those who would like to get technical, here are some equations. I have no idea what they mean, so don't ask for any explanations. I only know that it is for a helix, and that is what the tormato is.

The helix is a space curve with parametric equations
x = rcost
y = rsint
z = ct

for t in [0,2pi), where r is the radius of the helix and 2pic is a constant giving the vertical separation of the helix's loops.]

The curvature of the helix is given by

and the locus of the centers of curvature of a helix is another helix. The arc length is given by

The torsion of a helix is given by


which is a constant. In fact, Lancret's theorem states that a necessary and sufficient condition for a curve to be a helix is that the ratio of curvature to torsion be constant.

The osculating plane of the helix is given by
|z_1-rcost z_2-rsint z_3-ct; -rsint rcost c; -rcost -rsint 0|=0

The minimal surface of a helix is a helicoid.

Step 4: Drill!

Drill holes with the 5/8 drill bit. Remember to stay on the top (the chalkline) and drill straight up and down!! Do not apply too much pressure, or the PVC may crack and take out a large chunk! Let the drill do the work and do NOT force it.

Do NOT use a speed bore bit, it will chew up the PVC and send large chunks of PVC flying all over your workspace. The duller the bit, the better.

Step 5: Assemble!

Thread the Pex through the holes drilled in the PVC.

Step 6: Nutrient Delivery System

Cut the bottom end off at a 45 degree angle, roughly 16-18 inches from the last loop. This will serve as a stake and the nutrient delivery system to feed the roots of the plant. Drill holes with the 3/16th drill bit for the nutrient delivery system.

Step 7: Nutrient Delivery System Pt2

Drill hole to insert nutrients (or water) to the roots of the plant.

Step 8: Add Trellis System

Cut roughly 2 to 4" of your scrap PVC and drill a hole near the end to put the trellis string through. Place the elbow tightly on the top of the Tormato, and put the 4" piece you just cut into the other end of the elbow. Put a string through the hole and tie several knots so the string doesn't fall through the hole. The string will be tied loosely around the base of the tomato (allow room for growth!) and the short trellis pipe can be twisted to tighten or loosen the string. Be Gentle with your tomato plants!!!

Step 9: In Action

First picture is watering the Tomato through the "nutrient delivery system"

Second picture is a tomato plant with 2 feet of growth. The leaves rest on the spiral, and the center vine trellises up the trellising system.

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24 Discussions


9 years ago on Introduction

I love the tormato! I have built 3 so far using PVC and pex (blue). I was not crazy about the blue pex but that's all I can find around here. So I decided to try for something more rustic using wide-diameter bamboo poles (from pier 1) and grapevine (from a wreath I deconstructed). I think it will be OK for the smaller tomato plant I set it up with. I am going to try to find some thicker-diameter grapevine. If you do decide to make one this way, you need to soak your bamboo and your grapevine because the bamboo will crack while you are drilling it if you don't. And go slow with the drill. I used a drill press to give me more control. At any rate, these are great and so much better than the other options I've tried. I wish I had found this before my other set of tomatoes got so tall and bushy. Thank you for sharing it!!

1 reply

Reply 1 year ago

Oh my gosh, I'm so glad you've made some. Hope they are holding up well for you. I just put mine in for their 8th season and they show no signs of fatigue.


4 years ago on Introduction

How is the PEX holding up to UV? I was considering it for another project but learned it didn't hold up so well to sunlight.

1 reply

Reply 1 year ago

The pex is now in use for it's 8th season, and does not appear to be anywhere near becoming brittle. I leave them outside just stacked in a pile all winter in Wisconsin, and they've held up incredibly well.


4 years ago

Made 1. We will see


8 years ago on Introduction

nise design i am going to give it a try this weekend. i also wanted to say you should try a uni bit or a step bit. its alot better and easier than a paddle bit. you can get a set of them at harbor freight for like 10.00. and worth every cent lol.

again nice design. i have a feeling my dad will be making some as soon as he gets a look at mine lol


9 years ago on Introduction

I checked out your site and see you used it last year. Was there any sag from the weight of the tomatoes? PEX isn't the most rigid material. This is in the running to replace my cages next year. I doubt I'd use the nutrient system, but I really like the collapsible design.

1 reply

Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

Due to the tension of the spiral, there is no sagging of the pex--you can grab it and give it a good pull and it will flex a bit, but there is no noticeable sag when they are loaded.


9 years ago on Step 6

Might be a silly question... I'm no gardener, this is for my Mama. Do the holes or the 45 degree angle face the roots of the tomatoes? Thank you for the 'ible!

1 reply

Reply 9 years ago on Step 6

The long part of the spike would face the tomato pant, and so would the drilled holes. Though basically any way to get water underneath the soil, the plants will find the source.


9 years ago on Step 7

Why not cut-in a pvc "t" in at the point of the nutrient hole, and then add 2-3 inches of pvc pipe to the horizonal section of the "T' . To the end of that smaller section of pipe, add an elbow with the open end facing up. This will allow you to pour nutient into the open end of the elbow, and therefore the system, much easier. Kyle M.

1 reply

Reply 9 years ago on Step 7

cuz T's are like $1.50 @ the 1 1/4 size. Go for it might have to glue the pieces together to keep them from getting wobbly. If you're gonna do it, i'd suggest gluing everything together before you start drilling.


10 years ago on Introduction

Thanks for taking the time to post this, but could you please add some photos of it zoomed out a bit. I can't figure out how it is supposed to work.

2 replies