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EarthTainer self-supporting Tomato Cage System Quick Instruction

16 years ago

Here is a brief overview of the EarthTainer self-supporting cage system. I will do a .pdf document in a few weeks when I have all 25 'Tainers loaded up with tomato plants.

It is essential to use the Walmart 54" heavy duty cages ($5.32). They are much stronger than the Home Depot or Lowes cages, and strength is all important for the system to function properly.

Step 1: Invert two cages and align the legs in a straight row. Use a 1/8" wire rope clip to secure the cages together at hoopset #3. Note: hoopset #4 will overlap slightly. See photo:


Flip the 2 connected cages upright (carefully) and use tie wraps to secure hoopsets #4 together:


Next, spread out a black trash bag, flip the cage over and center the legs on it:


Pull up on the trash bag at each leg and slide the bag up to hoopset #1.

Invert the cage again, and place the cut out cover rim over the legs. (Make sure the cover is facing in the correct direction):


Then flare out the legs as shown above.

Next, use a Sharpie marker to put a mark 1" from the end of each leg. Then attach 1/8" wire rope clips to each of the 8 legs.


Then place 3/8" by 1.5" fender washers over each wire rope clip:


The cage system is now ready for the aeration bench. It is critical to use a 5/32" drill to drill the mounting holes in the 8 places on the aeration bench as shown. This is the strongest structural part of the aeration bench, to support the weight of the tomato plants.


Place the aeration bench (upside down) on the tomato cage legs (note: this is an older photo where I had combined the center legs. I now have each leg "vertical" in its own drill hole)


You will need to use a bit of force to "punch" the leg through each 5/32 drilled hole. Hint: when drilling the holes, wiggle the drill a bit to make a slightly enlarged hole. You will hear a "pop" when each leg is inserted. This is important, as when you are finished and flip the system back over to install into the 31 gallon container, the friction grip on each leg holds the sections together. Each leg will protrude 1" into the underside of the aeration bench:


Again, no underside clamps are necessary, as the guy-wire tether will hold the tomato cages is a rigid position upon final assembly.

Flip the tomato cages back over and they are ready to install into the large container.



Next, Drill 1/4" holes on both sides of the 'Tainer in the middle of the "Rubbermaid" name (middle of the "e" letter. Install 1/4" by 1" eye-bolts and washers. (You may find it easier to do this step before placing the tomato cage and aeration bench into the container). Using a smaller 1/16" wire rope clip, secure a 7' section of 1/16" galvanized wire through one eye-bolt, and run the free end through the (loosened) wire rope clip that is holding the cages together at hoopset #3:



Fasten the end through the eye-bolt on the opposite side of the container and tension the wire slightly. Think of the tomato cages as a ship's mast, with the guy-wires as Stays fastening the mast "port" and "starboard" in nautical terms. This will keep the cage system rigid (upright) as it loads up with tomatoes during the growing season.

So that's about it. Enjoy, and feel free to add your ideas and improvements.



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