Last year as an alternative I grew my tomatoes up by pinching off the suckers using not quite sturdy enough cedar poles. If I did it again I would use metal stakes but I don't want to go buy a bunch of those either. My grandpa gave me a couple cages, the ones he had been using for years that he constructed out of scraps. He never throws away lumber.
This year I decided to copy his work. I think the wood cages look really nice in the garden. They are cost effective at less than $5 for the materials per cage.
The tomato cage I have constructed is 44 inches high and 15 inches wide with 13 inches between supports. I am very happy with the dimensions. I made a couple cages at 42 inches high and only 12 inches between the bottom two supports for my smaller variety tomatoes but they are not my favorite cages. You could make your cages any size you please. Instructions here are for the 44 inch high cage.
Materials You Will Need
3 - 1x2x8
2 - 2x2x8
84 (yes, 84) - galvanized 2 inch 6d nails
Drill bit (3/32)
Step 1 - Cut Your Lumber
For the three 1x2's - rungs and supports -
Line the three 1x2's up together so you can mark them all at the same time. Using a L-Square measure and mark the following across for each board:
15" 15" 16.5" 16.5" 4" 4" 4" 4" 4" 4" 4" 4" (that's eight - 4 " - you will know you are done when you reach the end of the board.)
|I mass produced and just measured as many as I could at a time.|
For the two 2x2's - sidepieces -
You should have:
6 - 15 inch 1x2 rungs
6 - 16.5 inch 1x2 rungs
24 - 4 inch 1x2 supports
4 - 44 inch 2x2 sidepieces
Step 2 - Mark your four - 44 inch 2x2's
Line up your four 44 inch 2x2 sidepieces.
Using your L-Square measure and mark 13 inches from the bottom on all four boards.
Measure and mark 1.5 inches up from the 13 inch mark (Your first 15 inch 1x2 rung will go between those two lines).
Starting at the top of the sidepieces, nail a 15 inch 1x2 rung flush with the 44 inch sidepieces. To make the second rung, attach another 15 inch rung just above the first line from the top of your board (15 inches down from the top). Attach a third 15 inch rung between the bottom two lines, 13 inches up from the bottom of the sidepieces. Repeat this with the other 44 inch sidepieces and remaining 15 inch rungs so you have two "ladders."
TIP - To avoid splitting pre-drill each 1x2 every place you will use a nail.
Bring the ladders together by nailing three 16.5 1x2 rungs to overlap the edge of the 15 inch rungs. Do the same on the other side to make a square.
Make sure the cage is level and add a 4 inch support under each side of each 16.5 inch rung slightly overlapping the supports from the 15 inch rung support.
Finish the project by pre-drilling and then sinking a nail into each 16.5 inch rung where it overlaps a 15 inch piece.