Learn to Make Folding Tomato Cages

Here's an easy DIY plan for sturdy folding tomato cages.  

| February/March 2005

Folding Tomato Cages

A step involved in making the tomato cages.

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.

Materials List

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.

pete jones
4/21/2012 9:59:12 AM

but this looks great to for pole beans. i am going to try this

pete jones
4/21/2012 9:57:56 AM

i use sections of fence to make tomato cages

6/18/2011 6:28:19 AM

I have been using livestock panels for years since I had several laying around the farm after tearing down some fencing. I use them for any plant that needs support to include grapes. With t-posts, this fencing will support any garden plant and stands up to high winds. This past year I used panels to create a few arbors and am looking forward to see all those cucumbers, squash and melons hanging down. Next year I will consider using a panel for a greenhouse. Great idea. I will add to this discussion that these panels are great to fence in your compost. They are easy to build, last longer, air circulates better and you have plenty of places to tie down tarp or landscape fabric if desired. Mine are 16 long and 10 wide.

8/25/2010 7:58:34 PM

Great idea I'll be in my shop this winter building a few for next years growing season thanx Woody

5/20/2010 10:10:12 AM

Bees N Butterflies, to locate "Figure B", check the Image Gallery. There are several photos there, including "Figure B". I wish I had seen this article later. I just caged my tomato plants, but because we're getting a late start in my part of the midwest, I think I still have time to build some. These certainly seem better than the old, rusty wire cages I'm using.

5/19/2010 4:32:35 PM

This looks like I could drape Reemay over it to extend my tomato and pole bean growing season a bit more. I like it. Thanks!

bees n butterflies
5/19/2010 4:30:53 PM

You mentioned Figure B, but I could not find a Figure B.

5/19/2010 3:42:10 PM

The 1/2" screws specified has to be an error. One-half inch screws would definitely not be sufficient to attach a 1"x3" board to the uprights. It must be supposed to be 1.5" screws.

richard dean
5/19/2010 2:37:50 PM

dam something so simple its not funny lol , and for the one wanting to know about mellons and gourds it should work i would just use some bracers between the two cages like conduit

john w_4
5/19/2010 10:27:09 AM

Handy idea. I will use these for pole beans. The plan also gives me some ideas on using wood scrounged from used pallets.

that compost guy
5/19/2010 8:00:55 AM

The green things are "wall-o-water" which are cells of water tubes used to surround younger tomato plants in areas where frost may still be an issue. It insulates them for earlier planting.

5/9/2010 10:30:44 AM

what are the green containers at the bottom?

sharon ilg
6/30/2009 7:24:46 PM

I use sticks and tie them together to make a cage. works well

6/8/2009 8:23:12 AM

My great Uncle used a cage something similar to this. His was more a pyramid shape and I don't think it folded up.

6/4/2009 3:15:42 PM

Do you think this would work for watermelons and cantaloupes? I was just going to build a trellis with my 8' 1X3s but saw this and thought it might be better. What do you think? Is it strong enough?

ken _2
1/8/2009 3:05:28 PM

Got any wire rope in that tomato rig?

mother earth news fair


Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, hands-on workshops, and great food!