Chris J
Chris J
  • Hometalker
  • Grand Rapids, MI

Tomato Cages Vs Tomato Ladders and Conserving Rain Water


We use rain water to water the garden and don't want to waste it by watering everything else. I went to Home Depot and bought a 10 foot piece of 3" rigid PVC and 3 caps to fit. I cut it into 3 foot pieces and then put a cap on one end of each of the pieces and tapped them on the ground to seat the cap tightly. You don't need any PVC glue for this.
I took my 1/8" drill bit and drilled 3 holes in the cap end of the PVC, about 1" from the end of the cap. I drilled them at an upward angle so that the water would come out down instead of up like a little fountain. I then put one tube in each tomato cage and filled the tubes with water. They work great! It's like a drip system in that the water goes right into the ground slowly at the base of the plants, it doesn't spread all over and water the mulch, and it doesn't get the leaves wet so I don't have to worry about fungus on the tomatoes.
In retrospect, I think I could have cut the tubes into 2 foot lengths and saved some money, but this was an experiment. Next year I am going to buy 2" PVC and see how that size works.
I experimented with my tomatoes this year. I have cages that I made and ladders. I made tomato ladders instead of cages for some of the tomatoes. I got the plans from another blog I subscribe to called "Survival Sherpa at SurvivalSherpa (at) gmail (dot) com." I took his ladders one step further and painted them bright colors. You still need to put in a center stake for the tomatoes to stand upright, but otherwise you use the ladders like cages. When the season is done, they fold up like regular ladders and store in the garage for the next year.
Tube ready to go.
Tube ready to go.
tomato cages vs tomato ladders and conserving rain water, diy, gardening, how to, painting, repurposing upcycling, Tubes in the tomato cages
Tubes in the tomato cages.
tomato cages vs tomato ladders and conserving rain water, diy, gardening, how to, painting, repurposing upcycling, It was easier to show how they work by watering the marigolds surrounding the garden bed
It was easier to show how they work by watering the marigolds surrounding the garden bed.
tomato cages vs tomato ladders and conserving rain water, diy, gardening, how to, painting, repurposing upcycling, Tomato ladders before being painted I made them out of poplar and pine The ladder on the right has the brace that keep it open to the size you need it That comes off and you can fold the ladders up
Tomato ladders before being painted. I made them out of poplar and pine. The ladder on the right has the brace that keep it open to the size you need it. That comes off and you can fold the ladders up.
tomato cages vs tomato ladders and conserving rain water, diy, gardening, how to, painting, repurposing upcycling, Ladders after being painted I have 4 of them The 4th one is in another bed behind me
Ladders after being painted. I have 4 of them. The 4th one is in another bed behind me.
tomato cages vs tomato ladders and conserving rain water, diy, gardening, how to, painting, repurposing upcycling, Ladders and tubes in the garden and looking good
Ladders and tubes in the garden and looking good.

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Have a question about this project?

6 questions
  • Susan Arrington
    on Dec 13, 2015

    So are the tomatoes in the cage with the ovc or on the ladders...and does the water trickle or come out faster til emptied?

    • Chris J
      on Dec 13, 2015

      @Susan Arrington .Yes, the tomatoes are in the cage with the tubes and there is also 1 tomato plant growing in between the legs of each ladder. As far as the water coming out of the tubes, I think it probably depends on how much water there is in your tube because of the weight of the water would make it come out faster at first then taper off as the water trickles out. When I have tipped the tubes upside down, there is water in them, but that's the water that was below the hole you drilled at the bottom of the tube.

  • Kimberly Lovitt
    on Aug 28, 2016

    What's the story behind the marigolds?

    • Chris J
      on Aug 28, 2016

      Kimberly...the marigolds keep the varmints and bad bugs out if the garden, mostly out of the tomatoes. Suppedly the taste and smell of the marigolds deter pests. My dad always did it and he had bumper crops of tomatoes. We didn't put them in this year and the varmints are having a feast day. Told the hubster next year we put the marigolds back in. You can also get charts that tell you what you can plant together and what dont go well together.

    • Bye11937765
      on Feb 14, 2017

      Marigolds are considered a companion plant for tomatoes. They protect against root nematodes. I've heard feeding blossoms to chickens make yolks brighter color

    • Mike Whitman
      on Feb 23, 2017

      the also attract bees ,pollination

  • Les12014925
    on Mar 9, 2017

    Do the marigolds keep deer away?

    • Chris J
      on Mar 9, 2017

      I am not sure about the deer, but they do keep the cabbage worms and other crawlies away. They will also attract some bees. They also seem to keep out some of the smaller varmints, but not as well as our cat. or the forks we have stuck in the ground with the tines up.

    • Kat21668922
      on Apr 2, 2017

      They will keep rabbits away.

  • Carolyn Foster
    on Mar 12, 2017

    How do you prevent the water from emptying so quickly out the holes rather than small drink at a time.

    • Chris J
      on Mar 12, 2017

      Carolyn...it depends on the width of your holes and how many holes you drill. If you make holes 1/8 inch vs 1/2 inch, the water will run out slower. Same when you drill 1 hole vs more than 1. Because my tubes are so long, I have 3 holes in most of them. I have a couple that I put duct tape over a couple because the water ran out so fast. You can adjust your water flow by the size of holes and number of holes. Hope this helps.

    • Gardengraz
      on Apr 29, 2017

      I will add that it is better to water deeply once than a slow trickle. Plant roots grow deeper when watering deeply. It just a little water they will send their roots upwards in search of water.
    • Susan
      on Jun 10, 2017

      Could you bury the pvc so you get the deep watering but alsothe slower watering??
    • Sherry
      on Sep 17, 2017

      A few years ago I buried 6" diameter/10" length perforated tubes with a few inches above ground all over my garden beds to water deep. This works very well for me. I water deep once per week usually on Sunday. Saves me time & water with great yields. The tubes are very inexpensive
      (12ft. for $7) from Home Depot. I put the plants next to the tubes.
    • Jackie B
      on May 12, 2019

      Sherry, did you cap your 6”x10” tubes and did you drill holes in the sides?

    • Karen
      on Jun 15, 2019

      Due to the 2017 date on this project, I suspect you won't get an answer. She states the PVC pipes were perforated - - that is, she bought them this way. Go into HD or Lowes and you'll find easily. You might want to use 3" rather than 6" and water more frequently if needed. The bigger diameter is quite heavy and requires more space, obviously.


      The last time I did something like this, I put a piece of screen over the end to keep bugs, lizards, leaves from falling in. I may use a cap that fits the pipe this year, but the screen worked ok. - - secure with thick rubber band or velcro-type plant tie.





  • Carolyn Foster
    on Mar 12, 2017

    How and in what do you collect and store rainwater, large garbage cans with lids? Do you insert spout at the bottom to retrieve the water rather than scooping it out?

    • Chris J
      on Mar 13, 2017

      Carolyn... our water system is fairly simple, but rather labor intensive. LOL. We have two 50 gallon heavy duty gray garbage cans under our down spout. They're linked together with a piece of PVC so as one fills up, the overflow goes into the other barrel. I also have a piece of screen over both barrels to keep out nasties. We have a spigot in one of them that we use to fill our jugs and then we stash the jugs under our front stairs. The whole downside is we have to carry the jugs up the stairs. But basically we just fill our jugs and lug them up the stairs and fill the tubes with water. My ultimate goal is to get one of those huge 250 gallon tanks and install a pump so we can use a hose to water instead of carrying jugs of water up the stairs.

  • Carrie Mitchell
    on Mar 14, 2017

    how much water (approx) do you add to your pipe every time u water (and how often)?

    • Chris J
      on Mar 14, 2017

      It really depends on how dry they are. Sometimes I water every day, sometimes don't. It just depends on how dry they are. My tubes are maybe 3 or 4 feet long and I fill them up to the top. It takes maybe 2 jugs of water to fill the tubes. It's really a kind of trial and error thing. You have to figure out what works best for your tomatoes. I live in Michigan, so there's that too. LOL

    • Da Joker
      on May 29, 2017

      watch the leaves....when the start to droop they need a drink...maybe 1/2 -1 gal should be enough

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