Tomato Cages / Towers and Pruning

One of the things I learned from Len’s book and video is how to support and prune tomatoes.  I won’t go into major detail on the pruning but it involves leaving some of the suckers and pinching off the leaves to get more base stems going up the supports.  His pruning style is similar to that found in the book How to Grow World Record Tomatoes by Charles Wilber who is a Guinness Champion tomato grower.  Len goes into much better detail than I can about pruning in the video you can pickup on his website.

Cages
The growing medium we are using is so loose that it is not possible to steak up a tomato in the traditional manner with a pole, wire cage, or other trellis that sticks in the ground.  Besides the loose medium, the indeterminate tomatoes we are growing can get very large so whatever we do, it needs to be robust enough to support a large plant.  I knew from my first year that even the 5′ tall 1.5′ diameter cages I got at the local nursery would not be enough for the potential these tomatoes could do and I saw on Len’s website his unbelievable towers.  I got a friend of mine to weld together some steel supports made from 1″ square tubing – 61″ long with 31″ center connectors forming a square opening in the middle 31″ wide.  This will span across the cinder block garden to support the cage we are going to put on top of it.  Now, Len’s method involves making 4 supports that fit into PVC sockets, numbering each support, and then pouring concrete based on the dimensions of each support.  The problem is, what happens if a support rusts out or breaks?  His old method involved including an ‘eye bolt’ in each of the PVC socket holes (for the cattle panel supports I’ll discuss later or you’ll read about in his book) and running some wire through to keep the cages down in wind – that’s what I intend to do.  Len has uneven cinder blocks because his garden is in the mountains so I understand the need for PVC sockets to level the supports and Max from Rocky Top Organic Vegetables improvised on Len’s design to include an outer section of square tubing and adjustable PVC socket extensions.  Take a look at Max’s site for large pictures of the cage base and if you are in their area or near them, it would be worth it to use those.

On top of our base, I picked up some concrete reinforcement wire scraps from a concrete guy I know.  For each cage, I used a 10′ long x 5′ high piece of wire that I overlapped by one square and hog nose ringed together to form a 3′ diameter cage.  I did that a second time and attached the second cage to the top of the first cage – now I have a 9.5′ tall tomato support — what are we going to do with all the tomatoes?!

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