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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

KNOL: How to Build a Hot-House Tomato Cage (In Pictures)

This entry is a copy from a KNOL I wrote found at Google. Google will be discontinuing the KNOL's platform and I am in the process of storing them on my blog. Please enjoy the article. I have about 50 coming over to this blog.

I have over 50 garden videos. Why not join my Youtube channel? Video on how to build a hot-house tomato cage Video on how to protect you vegetables from frost I just built a hot-house tomato cage and put in my 50 day tomato. I should have tomatoes in May. This Knol will give you a basic design to create a warm micro-climate around your tomato plant. The benefit? You can start planting 4-6 week early. It is April 3rd here and I have a tomato in the ground

How to Build a Hot-House Tomato Cage: A Slide-Show

by Gary Pilarchik LCSW-C

Check Out the Slide-Show

It is a pretty basic set-up. The slide-show will let you run through the idea visually. The hot-house is built out of a wire tomato cage and Saran Wrap. A milk jug spray painted black is used to help regulate the night time temperature.

Step One:

After preparing the garden bed, plant your tomato. You will notice some newspaper showing through the soil in the first slide. I covered my garden soil with about three layers of newspaper. I do this to create a barrier for disease prevention. After I laid the news paper down, I added about 2-3 inches of store bought garden soil on the paper. The cage goes right over the tomato. You now have the frame.
The micro-climate will also keep humidity around the plant because it is a sealed environment. Humidity and little air circulation can lead to disease. It is important you take precautions.

Step Two:

Spray paint the milk jug black after filling it to the top with water. That will help it absorb the sun's heat. The heat will radiate out of the water during the night. Place the container on the north side of the cage, right up against it. You don't want the shadow of the milk jug to block the sun from the tomato. The north side of the cage (where the sun comes up) will prevent this from happening. Wrap the plastic wrap around the cage and the milk jug as in the picture. Do two full wraps on the bottom and start working your way up. Make sure you overlap each level with at least 1/3 of plastic wrap. You don't want any gaps. I suggest overlapping by 1/2 the width of the wrap.

Step Three:

Once you get to the top, leave enough plastic wrap to fold over the wire on the top of the cage. Do two wraps around the top and cut the plastic wrap. Put on arm inside the cage and keep the other on the outside. Squeeze your hands together and pat and seal all the wrapped plastic together. At this point you don't have a top cover on it. Pile some dirt around the bottom of the cage to fill any gaps beneath the plastic wrap. You want a closed bottom. Exept for the top, you made a closed environment or hot-house.

Step Four:

Now you are going to cover half the top with plastic wrap. Simply lay a large sheet across the top and make sure it overlaps about a foot on each side. Secure it with another wrap around the outside of the cage. The picture will give you a good idea of how it looks. The open half is the vent. It should always be open on sunny days. You don't want to bake your tomato plant.

Step Five:

Now you have to build the other flap. This is the cold weather flap and night time flap. You need to close the top completely at night until the nights are in the fifties. Take a look at the picture. Wrap the plastic wrap around the cage one time an leave about three extra feet on it. Cut the plastic wrap and just tuck the extra wrap around the cage on put it in the cage. Each night or on cold days you will close the flap over the and seal the top. In the morning on warmer sunny days you have to make sure you open the flap. As I said, if you don't, you will over heat your tomato. Place a small rock on top of the cage at night. This will help keep the flap closed.

Close the flap around 5 pm. This will allow some warmth to build up in the cage.

This basic design will help you get a tomato in the ground sooner. It will battle light frost and keep the tomato protected. Once you get into regular nights of fifty degrees, its time to remove the plastic wrap. This isn't just for frost protection. It create a micro-climate that is much warmer then the environment and the regular heat gets your tomato growing and moving toward maturity.


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