Biodegradable Tomato Cages

DSCN9702With the Spring planting season upon us, many of us are putting in Tomato plants.  Every year I seem to put in more and more, as I have found a super way to preserve them, see this previous blog post.

Also every year I seem to never have enough of those metal wire cages to support all the tomatoes I want to grow.  I have taken three of them and used them at Halloween dressed as ghosts, wrapped in tube lights and sheets topped with lit pumpkin heads. DSCN8912 These are hung from the trees and sway in the wind.  After redoing them several years, getting the tomatoes harvested and froze first, I decided in 2012 to just leave them as ghosts and store for each halloween.

DSCN9699With the maturity of several varieties of bamboo here at Highland Garden House Bed and Breakfast, I have been discovering many new and different ways to utilize the bamboo stakes that are the result of cutting back and pruning these slowly spreading clumps.  See this post about making Wreaths.   When you harvest bamboo, it is best of take all the sizes of canes at once in an area and then grade out for size and purpose.  The ones that are very slim and small get used as row and plant markers.  The longest get made into wreaths and the middle ones are general purpose stakes, 1/4″ or so at the thickest end and up to 5 feet long.  There are more complicated ways of ‘curing and preserving’ bamboo canes; I just let them air dry and store inside or outside.  Your relationship with them is temporary, anyway!

DSCN9700To make a tomato support device, just push three or four canes into the ground almost straight up.  Depending on your tomato variety, you can custom  make your support based on the anticipated ultimate size of the plant. If your ground is hard, make a starter hole with a piece of steel rebar and a hammer. Using any natural twine or string create an open structure that you allow the tomato plant to grow up to and through.  Look for jute, sisal, hemp or cotton string. If you are careful to wrap at least twice around each cane with the twine, your structure will not slip down with the weight of the plant.

At the end of the season just snip the strings off the canes and leave in the garden to decompose.  Pull the canes out and you are done.  Over time these poles get shorter and shorter.  The soil end starts to breakdown, rocks and obstructions take their toll.  As they become too short to use as tomato cages, they get ‘demoted’ to plant and row markers.  When too short for even that: fire kindling, paint stirrers, etc., or just clip up short and toss back into the garden.

Dennis’til next time,
Dennis George
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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