Pipes made of PVC plastic are generally thought of as being useful for plumbing in swimming pools, kitchens and laundry rooms. But their lightweight, rigid structure makes them ideal to build supports for climbing plants such as tomatoes. Follow the instructions below to make a PVC tomato cage for your tomato plants this summer.
Step 1 - Measure the Area Each Plant Will Fill at Full Growth
Large tomatoes spread in width up to three feet and grow to over two feet in height. Your tomato cage should therefore be three feet wide and about three feet high. Cherry and grape tomatoes grow a bit taller but do not spread in width as far, so adjust your cage accordingly.
Step 2 - Decide the Shape of Your Tomato Cage
A triangular enclosure with cross-pieces every 12 inches above the ground, will support large tomatoes well. A two sided cage with horizontal pipes every eight inches of vertical height will work fine for cherry and grape tomatoes.
Step 3 - Cut the Lengths of Pipe to Create the Cages
Cut the pipe lengths to 30 inches in height for the verticals and three feet long for the horizontals.
Step 4 - Affix T-connectors and Pipe Corners and Assemble the Cages
At 12 inches and 18 inches above the ground, attach two T-connectors to each vertical pipe section to connect the horizontal supports. There is no need to glue or otherwise permanently attach the parts to each other. At the top of each vertical, place a pipe corner.
Step 5 - Set the Cages in the Garden
Push the vertical pipes by hand down into the soil at least six inches. Dig slim holes for the supporting vertical pipes if necessary. Be sure there are no rocks or other obstructions under the vertical pipe sections.
Step 6 - Adjust the Pipes as Needed
If your tomatoes grow taller than two feet, add more vertical height to the cages, connected to horizontal supports.
Step 7 - An Alternate PVC Tomato Cage
Visit the hardware store in December and January, when the lighted tree decorations are on sale. You will find spiral-shaped coils of PVC plastic, used at holiday time as light supports for stylized Christmas trees. They are usually made in white or green. These coils can serve as the walls of a support cage for tomatoes or other vine plants.
They come in heights of two to six feet, and can be affixed to any sort of central pillar support—even one of the PVC pipes you already have. Drill a small hole in the top and bottom of the PVC pipes you have, and insert the capped ends of the PVC coil. Place the finished cage atop the tomato plant before it is 12 inches tall, and train it up through the coiled wires.
Step 8 - After Growing Season
In the fall, take apart the PVC tomato cages and store the pieces all together for next spring.