We all have them. The rusted, bent, and virtually unusable tomato cages. Their condition is a sign of a tomato harvest well done but they cannot possibly handle one more growing season. What to do? Repurpose them! This post highlights 5 awesome ways I found to use my old cages to solve common garden problems.
1. Provide protection from animal trampling.
Problem – Your beloved pet loves to run through or lay on your young plants.
Solution – Place cage over baby seedlings and young plants to keep pet from trampling them.
I love my dog. However, I don’t love her barreling through my plants in pursuit of squirrels nor do I love her tendency to nap on my freshly planted flowers. I decided instead of getting mad at the dog, for essentially being a dog, I would come up with a solution. I flipped an old tomato cage upside down and bent the ends of the cage to form handles. Then I took the cage and placed it over my plant that needed protection, securing the cage to the ground using several metal fabric staples. Once the plant is established I can easily move the cage using the handles. The dog is happy, the plant is happy, and I am happy. A big win for all!
2. Protect seedlings and young plants from the wind.
Problem – Your young plant needs protection from the wind, but is too small and fragile for stake support.
Solution – Cover the bottom third of a cage with clear plastic and place cage over the plant until well established.
I don’t know about you, but we tend to get a lot of wind in April at the exact time I am trying to get my young pepper and tomato plants established. A bit of wind is good to help strengthen the stem of your plant, but too much wind can cause stress and damage. I tried several different ways to shield my plants from the wind with no avail. That’s where Mr. Tomato Cages come to save the day! To solve my wind dilemma, I flipped an old tomato cage upside down and bent the ends of the cage to form handles (similar to the previous example) and used clothes pins to securely attach plastic to the bottom third of the cage.
Then I gently placed it over my pepper plant. I removed the cage for a few hours a day, to help strengthen the stem of the plant. Once the plant was well established, I completely removed the cage.
3. Protect plants from critters.
Problem – Critters like to munch on the leaves of your plants or dig up newly sprouted seedlings.
Solution – Wrap bird netting around your cage and place over plant to keep critters out.
In my garden, I have a big problem with squirrels digging up my seeds before they sprout and birds eating the leaves off my seedlings. I’ve tried various critter repellents, also offering bird seed as a peace offering. I’ve tried shaking my hand in the air and yelling loudly. Time for a new strategy. In comes my old tomato cages and some bird netting and VOILA we have instant critter protection. For this project I flipped a cage upside down and tied the ends of the cage together with twine.
Then I wrapped the bird netting around the cage and placed it over my squash seedlings. I made sure there was no gaps at the base for critters to get in. I will take the cage off when the seedlings have doubled in size.
4. Create a simple trellis.
Problem – You want to try vertical gardening but don’t have a trellis.
Solution – Simply flip your old cage upside down, tie the ends of the cage with twine and place over your vining plant. As your vines grow, gently guide them up or around the cage.
I decided to expand my vertical garden this year, but didn’t want to buy more trellises. Fortunately, old tomato cages make fantastic trellis and is super simple to make. All you need is a cage and some twine and you are in business! This year I grew peas, pumpkins, watermelon, spaghetti and acorn squash, and cucumbers using my old cages.
For lighter plants, I secured the base of the cage with metal fabric staples in the ground. For heavier plants, I reinforced the cage with several stakes. In the example below, I used my trellis to grow acorn squash and spaghetti squash by encouraging the vines to wrap in a spiral around the cage.
5. Grow squash.
Problem – Pests and disease are wreaking havoc on your squash plants.
Solution – Simply flip your old cage upside down, tie the ends of the cage with twine, and place over your young squash plant. As the plant grows, gently pull the leaves of the plant upward. This will make picking off and spraying for pests and disease a breeze!
Aphids. Squash bugs. Powdery mildew. Spider mites. White flies. You name it and my poor squash plants have had it. Time to give up? No way! It’s time to get creative. Bring in the old tomato cage to solve my squash growing conundrum! I always find myself pulling the leaves and stems of my squash upwards for inspection, which can become difficult as the plant grows larger. Using a cage to grow my squash, is like having a helping hand in the garden. Place your cage over your young squash, and as the squash grows you can use the cage to gently lift the stems of the plant upwards. This eases pest inspection and allows for maximum coverage of leaves and blossoms if you need to spray.
Another benefit of lifting the leaves is that it makes it easier to identify ripe squash. No more 5 pound zucchinis hiding under leaves! Although those 5 pounders do make a killer zucchini bread! Speaking of – If you are looking for a great way to use your zucchinis, be sure to check out my recipe for a delicious zucchini bread made with olive oil and Greek yogurt.
Hope these ideas inspire you! Happy gardening! 🙂