Do-It-Yourself Tomato Cage – Make One With Copper Tubing

Those Whimpy (And Ugly!) Wire Tomato Cages
Really Aren’t Big Enough Or Strong Enough!

So let’s make good looking, sturdy and long lasting cages from copper tubing!

Right after I posted the Copper Trellis Project the other day, I received a nice email from Odile saying:

Hi Claudia,

I have been a subscriber to your Artistic Gardener newsletter and I just have to tell you how thrilled I am with all of the information you have compiled for all of us and to thank you! I am especially thrilled with this copper tubing newsletter that you sent today regarding a copper trellis.

I was wondering if you had any ideas for tomato “cages” that we could make using the copper tubing? My family and I will be growing lots of vegetables this summer, including tomatoes, and my husband mentioned that we would have to be getting some of those wire tee-pee looking tomato cages.

I think they are soooo ugly, and when I saw your newsletter today, a light bulb went off and I thought, what if we could make the cages out of the copper tubing? What do you think? Do you have any idea of the pieces we might use to make this?

Imagine how pretty the patina would be on a copper tomato cage, and how sturdy it would be, and it would probably last forever! I hate those green wire ones from the big box stores – they always bend! Any help you could provide would be much appreciated! Thanks!

Odile K. / Easton, MA

T. Matkey tomato cage Yes I sure do have an idea for you Odile! I had to do some investigative work about easy-to-find copper parts and the right adhesives, but now I can share an idea that you all can use. This basic design is simple and plain, so I am sure many of you will think of creative ways to embellish or jazz-up your tomato cage.

I have to admit I just don’t have the time to actually construct this project. (Sorry.) So I will walk you through it. But! I discovered some online photos that show a PVC tomato cage designed by a gentleman named Tom, and his configuration is basically the same configuration I had first thought of. (Great minds think alike! πŸ˜€ )

**My idea was to use 4-way connectors on the top rung of tubing versus the T-connectors, so that you can have short cuts of tubing sticking up above the rung, to add a slight decorative “finish” to your cage.

But of course my brain was thinking about copper tubing. Anyway … I’ll get to Tom’s construction information in a moment.

Let’s Talk About The Parts You’ll Need To Round Up

Here is what you will need to know about parts and such to construct your cage from copper tubing:

  • Use 1/2″ copper tubing – the 3/4″ is way more expensive and I think it’s not necessary to use 3/4″ for this project.
  • You will use copper 90-degree connectors.
  • You will probably have to use PVC 4-way connectors sized for 1/2-inch pipe because for most of us, copper 4-ways will be impossible to find at local stores.
  • You will need to use this epoxy to glue everything because it will bond copper to PVC parts (yes – I called the factory to double check!): Super Glue’s Waterproof Epoxy Adhesive.
  • Make sure you clean/scour off the oxidation on the copper tubing that will come into contact with the epoxy. The oxidation will most likely prevent a good adhesion of parts.
  • Optional: copper end caps to finish off the tubing sticking up from the top rung (if you use the idea I came up with as mentioned above).
  • Optional: you may want to invest in a $10 – $12 copper pipe cutter to make this project easier for you – especially if you’re making more than one cage. I think it is well worth the investment, even for one cage.

All of the copper tubing, copper parts, epoxy glue, and the PVC 4-ways are found in most big-box stores. Or of course a plumbing supply store – they might even carry the copper 4-ways, which will really make your cage spiffier looking.

About those white PVC 4-ways: yes, I know … they aren’t going to lend much visual impact to your gorgeous copper tomato cage, but as I have already explained, copper 4-ways are probably going to be near impossible for most of us to find. So here’s a thought about how to camouflage them … how about spray painting them a medium dark green or perhaps black. If you’re letting the copper oxidize (you won’t clear coat it) – it’ll become blueish/green anyway. So similar colored or darker colored 4-ways shouldn’t detract too much visually from the finished cage.

Or don’t worry about the white PVC, because ultimately you’re going to have a huge bushy tomato plant hiding most of the cage, anyway! πŸ˜‰

Step-By-Step Photos & Instructions To Build The Tomato Cage

Here’s where you’ll find the photos that will clearly show you how to go about this project: Tom’s PVC tomato cage. You will find the instructions there also, but I am taking the liberty to provide an abbreviated version here:

… I use schedule 40, 3/4 inch PVC irrigation pipe. 1/2 inch is too flimsy.

The uprights are 30 inches long with the bottom ones sunk into the ground about 12 inches. The next section is also 30 inches high. The final section is 24 inches high. I chose 30 inches because that way you get 4 uprights from each 10-foot section of PVC pipe. The top tier in my setup is 24 inches because any higher and you couldn’t easily reach the top. Besides, the eaves of the house get in the way.

The tiers are made up of 8 seven and one-quarter inch long pieces. Don’t ask me how I came up with 7 1/4 inches. It just works out that way given the space I have available. In fact, 8 inches would work out perfectly to get 15 lengths from a 10-foot piece of pipe if you had the space. It could even be larger if you have the room.

I also use crossover connectors, right angle connectors and Tee connectors.

[When using all PVC parts] Do not glue them. It isn’t necessary, and if you glue them, you can’t take them apart for expansion or storage for the winter.

As a guide for the spacing of the verticals in the ground, I put together one of the squares using the crossover sections. I put that down on the ground. Then I push a stake (or a pencil or a chopstick) through the connector into the ground and that gives you the exact spot to sink the vertical pieces. I drive them into the ground about 12 inches. That makes them pretty stable.

To drive the uprights in the ground, I use a 1-ΒΌ inch piece of galvanized pipe with a cap threaded on one end. Slide the pipe over the upright and pound them into the ground. With my uprights, an 18-inch piece of pipe was perfect. Keep pounding until the bottom of the pipe touches the ground and each upright is exactly the same height. Having the exactly the same height avoids problems fitting the first square.

… You can use a hammer and a block of wood or a rubber hammer to drive them in. I did for years. Then I discovered the pipe thing. It’s takes away the possibility of breaking the pipe, they seem to go in straighter (did I mention you need to drive them in very straight?) and it’s just plain easier.

If you go this route, buy a PVC cutter. Much easier than using a hand saw. If you are already lucky enough to have a power chop saw, a radial arm saw or a table saw, that works even better.

Also make sure all the parts are exactly the same length. Mine weren’t and sometimes things didn’t fit all that well. Last winter’s project was to make each one exactly the same length. It’s much easier to fit together when they’re all the same size. ~~T. Matkey

So there you have it everyone – a darn good way to make a not-too-complicated DIY copper tomato trellis. And perhaps you’ll want to make yours completely out of PVC, because you don’t mind white supports around your tomatoes, or because it will be a more affordable project to tackle.

Either way, good luck … I sure hope you have great tastin’ tomatoes this summer! πŸ˜‰

The-Artistic-Garden disclaimer: I have tried without success to find a way to contact Mr. Matkey to ask permission to refer to his project. I have done my best to give him full credit for, and to link directly to his project information. Mr. Matkey if you are reading this please contact me. Thank you.

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  1. exercise plan says:

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