Woody's folding tomato cages are sturdy and easily stored away come winter.
Photo courtesy John “Woody” Woodzick
I made the first version of these cages in 1988 out of cheap wooden boards, and with a little patching, I have used them ever since. With added rungs, the cages also can be used for cucumbers or similar vegetables, or you can add strings and use them for peas or pole beans. Not only do they work extremely well, they also add interesting height and structure to your garden beds.
Six 1-by-3-inch wooden strips measuring 8 feet long
A 2-by-4-inch piece of scrap board measuring 8 inches long, for the top section that will serve as the pivot point where the two “ladders” hinge
Two 3-inch deck screws
About 30 1 1/2-inch galvanized deck screws
1. Cut two of the 8-foot 1-by-3s to make the pairs of rungs of your tomato “ladder.” Cut the first two rungs to 21 1/2 inches long; the next two to 19 1/2 inches; then 17 1/2 inches. Also cut two 20-inch boards for the braces that will stabilize the sides of the ladder.
2. Next, lay out two of the 8-foot strips (for the legs of the ladders) on each side of the 8-inch 2-by-4 that is the top of the “ladder.” First, drill pilot holes into the legs, then connect the legs on each side with a 3-inch deck screw screwed into each end of the 2-by-4, creating the pivot point, so you can spread the legs out later.
3. Lay out the rungs, with the longest near the bottom.rilling pilot holes first, screw on the 21 1/2-inch board at 7 inches from the bottom on the outside of the uprights, then repeat with the 19 1/2-inch board at 12 inches from the first rung, then the 17 1/2-inch board at 15 inches from the second rung. This will make the base of the stand wider than the top, allowing the structure to stand.
4. Turn the “ladder” over and screw on the other rungs at the same distance as the other uprights. The rungs will extend slightly on each end of the braces.
5. Stand the legs up and spread them out, then screw on the 20-inch 1-by-3 braces to each side of the “ladder” at 27 inches from bottom with one screw on each side.
6. You’re almost done. Now place the completed stand over a tomato plant and stake down two of its legs (opposite corners). I drive scrap 1-by-3s, pointed on one end, into the ground and then screw the legs to the stakes.
7. When you are ready to store the cages for winter, simply remove one screw from each side brace.