To Cage or Not To Cage: I Know Why the Caged Tomato Sings
“I Know Why the Caged Tomato Sings.” We’re borrowing from Maya Angelou and being metaphoric, of course. In this circumstance we’re referring to a singing tomato as a particularly blemish free, delicious tasting and lovely to look at, vine-ripened tomato.
Like dresses and roasted chicken, you can make ’em or you can buy ’em â€“ we’re talking about the often much-maligned, but still wholly viable Tomato Cage.
Since tomatoes are a leafy vine fruit, quite heavy (some weighing up to two pounds) support can be essential. There are varying kinds of tomato cages available, from the more economical tower cages, to those resembling a large tube, with two heavyweight plastic hoops and strong netting; the tomatoes growing within. This is probably the most traditional variation, with the stake-able metal variety available all over. Garden Harvest Supply offers a Veggie Cage Tomato support, which is a super cool, expandable weather-proof coil to use within whatever cage you choose, the support is flexible and even stores flat.
Tomato growers can consider the strong vinyl Ultomato cage, with its fully adjustable support brackets, or a set of the Heavy Duty Folding Tomato Cages. The latter fold flat, which makes for easy storage when you’re not utilizing them. They’re also heavy-duty, designed to support the more hefty varietals with the most tenacious vines. The American-made cages can be used side-by-side or even stacked.
Not every veg grower loves the tomato cage. Gardening forums are filled with complaints that wind topples them, that the subsequent weight of the lusciously ripe and full fruit creates a lean, and even occasionally, a bent cage. Still others disdain the fact that some tomatoes are occasionally positioned so deep within the cage, amongst the wily curving and twisting vines, that tomatoes can be hard, if not impossible to reach.
And then, there are those who are of the mindset to forgo cages, trellises, chicken coop wiring, fencing, or any of the variations used to create a cage. Those tomato growers who say nay to a cage prefer to let their tomatoes grow free. That is to say, they let them grow and develop in whichever and whatever manner the vines opt to venture. Those who choose this method â€“ au naturel, if you will â€“ point out that the tomatoes ripen on the ground to preserve the moisture within, and also bear a good deal of fruit. Certainly there are issues or potential issues (some would say pending issues) with letting tomato vines grow and bear unencumbered in whichever form they choose: varmints.
Field mice and the ubiquitous rabbits are likely to wander into the tomato garden and help themselves to breakfast, lunch or dinner â€“ or for just a little nibble of a snack.
One way to combat the problem and keep the unwelcome visitors at bay is to place traps within the vines, hidden from varmint view. It’s important to remember that if you elect to do this, you're going to want to check/follow-up on the traps often. Not to be too terribly graphic, but who wants a deceased and potentially rotting animal carcass amongst their beautiful tomatoes? The plan, after all, is to eat the fruit yourself, no?
Some varieties of tomatoes just don't fare well without some kind of support; these include tomato varieties with tendencies to rot, or those slow-growing large varieties. Then again, there are some areas where slugs, rodents and crickets (all of whom love the tang of tomato) are simply prevalent. In those instances, a cage won't seem so annoying and your tomatoes will be singing beautifully!