Easy Tomato Cage Hothouses

Brr, the last few night have certainly been chilly.
Super glad I have not yet been tempted to get my tomatoes outside and get an early start on things...

Tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, zucchini and peppers want the night time temps to be +10C (50F) in order to thrive.

If you plant them too early or they get too cold, the veins will turn purple. This is a sign that the root system is unable to access the phosphorous in the soil. It will cause the plant to delay it's growth and fruiting by many weeks. Please wait till temps are averaging close to the 10 degree mark.

However, in case you are impatient and want to get a head start on things....
This tomato cage hothouse is an inexpensive idea that a customer and great gardener friend of mine passed on to me. She had fabulous tomatoes last year, despite the fact that June was very wet and cool.

Soooo, just in case we have one of those terribly cool and wet June's, once again, as we are known to do here on the island, or to get a jump start on the season ...
Here is how I interpreted what she told me and how I went about it...


Tomato cage hothouse

What you need ...
-landscape fabric, landscape paper, or black (preferred) plastic
-tomato cages
-stakes or trellis or fence if you grow vining (undetermined) tomatoes, as I do.
-large plastic garbage bags..preferably the clear leaf bags, but any colour will do.
-exacto knife or scissors

What to do ...
- Prepare your bed, amend your soil and rake it out nicely....

- Lay down your landscape fabric or plastic and pin it down with landscape pins or weigh down with rocks.

The black fabric/plastic will soak up the sun and warm the soil in your beds.
It also helps with the prevention of blight as it prevents the soil/bacteria, fungal issues, etc.. from splashing up onto your foliage when you water.

This is the only place that I ever use landscape fabric ... on top of the veggie bed.
Place on the soil to warm the soil and prevent splashing and disease in the garden.
For all other purposes, please use cardboard, newsprint, etc...
Landscape fabric is bad for plants health and welfare and does not actually prevent weeds.

- Figure out where your tomatoes are going to be, about 18 to 24 inches apart. is ideal This ensures great air flow which also helps to prevent blight.

- Cut out a circle or an X in the fabric where your tomatoes are going to go ... if you made an X fold the flaps under the fabric or cut them off.


- Place your garbage bag onto the ground, over the hole in the fabric

- Stick your tomato cage through the plastic bag (holds it in place) and into the hole in the fabric.

- If you are growing indeterminate varieties (vining), decide what your plants are going to grow up on.
Make sure you have a trellis, a stake, an obelisk, or frame that a string can be hung from, in order to support your vining tomato.
A cage will not be enough, especially those wee little flimsy ones ...  In order to support vining tomatoes you will need something sturdy that reaches about 6 to 8 feet high.

- I am using the tomato spirals...  I place my stake behind the cage and thru the top ring to offer better support.



- Lift the plastic bag up and over the top of the cage. I
Do this a week or two before you plant your tomatoes ...  the ground will have nicely warmed up under the fabric and inside the tomato cage 'greenhouse' by the time you plant.


After you plant your tomatoes ...

If you have used see-thru bags, the plastic can stay up top, completely covering the plant, creating a mini hot house. Leave up till night temps are consistently +10C (50F). Poke holes in the bag for circulation.

If you have used solid black or less translucent bags, you will want to pull the cover down during the day so that the plant receives sunshine, and pull it up for the nights.
On cool, wet, or windy days, pull it down half ways so that the plant is exposed to light but not to the cool winds.


As the weather warms up, fold down the top of the bag to the base of the cage...

In fall, you can again lift the plastic up to the top, if needed, to extend your fall season and save the fruits from frost.


For now, I am just going to leave the 'hothouses' up in order to warm up the bed in preparation for the tomatoes.

Depending on what happens with our weather, I will likely put the tomatoes into the hothouses around the May long week-end, so in about 2 to 3 weeks time.

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