I decided to build my own support system for my tomato plants this year. I have been growing tomatoes for about 5 years and they always end up being a mess at the end. They always outgrow the tomato cages or the canes or whatever store bought system I have used. This year I made one myself!!!! I used the instructions from the square foot gardening book as they promise it is the strongest support ever!!!
I have to say it took me very little time to assemble and it costs me less than $25. If it works it will be a bargain!
To build a 6 foot tall by 4 feet wide support like mine, here is what you need: 2 big metal rods (each 4 feet long), electrical conduit cut into 3 pieces (2 at 6 feet long and 1 at 4 feet long), 2 corner connectors (90 degrees corners), one gardening nylon net, screw driver, heavy hammer.
Go to Home depot and get all your materials there, they will cut the conduit for you.
Once you decide where are you going to plant your tomatoes (or cucumbers or any other vines). Hammer one of the metal rods 2 feet deep into the ground in one of the corners.
Build your basic frame on a flat surface by connecting the 2 long pieces of conduit to the shorter piece using the corners. The flat surface will help you make sure that your structure is flat.
Take that structure and insert one of the long legs (conduit) into the metal rod that you hammered into the ground. Mark the place where the second leg touches the soil as you will need to hammer the second rod exactly there!
Remove the structure from the rod, and hammer the second rod (2 feet deep) into the previously marked place (which will be a little more the 4 feet apart as it accounts for the length of the connectors)
Now place the net on the structure. I did the top on the ground as I am too short to comfortably reach the 6 feet structure if it was on place.
Untangle the net and find out the corners - my net was 5' by 15' so I knew I was going to have some left over. After you find the top right hand side corner, place it over the right hand side corner of your structure. stretch the net towards the left top corner and find the square that can over the corner living the net tight on the structure (you want a tight net as a soggy one will let your plants flop).
Take some cable ties (no need to be neon - this I just had at home) and tie the net to the frame tightly. i used one cable tie per square to make sure my net was completely stretched and tight to the top of the frame.
Once the net is secure to the top of the frame, you can start securing int down to the 2 legs. I did one leg first and then the other, again using one cable tie per square and stretching the net so it was tight. At any point now you can put the frame in place and finish the tightening of the net once it is standing up.
To put the frame in place, simply lift it up and insert both legs into the rods!
Once the frame is up. cut the excess net and you are done.
I cannot wait to see my tomatoes growing on this. I hope it works. I now need to build a similar one for my peas and beans.
OK - I did it! I built a 1 foot wide one for the peas and a 3 feet wide one for cucumbers - More to come.
Now all you need to do is plant your tomatoes - Click here to get a quick "How to" on planting tomatoes! Good luck!