DIY Tomato Cages and Natural Gopher Control

Make tomato cages from field tile cores and create hawk habitat for natural gopher control, courtesy of our friends at Farm Show.

Tomato Cage

Jordan and Ann Qualm save the heavy plastic field tile cores, cutting them into 20-inch lengths to create tomato cages.

Photo Courtesy Farm Show

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Tile Cores Make Great Tomato Cages

If you or your neighbors are having field tile work done this fall, you may want to save the plastic core that the tile comes on. Jordan and Ann Qualm of Sherman, South Dakota, cut the heavy plastic into 20-inch lengths to create cages for some of their tomato plants.

“The plants with the tubes have grown more upright and don’t have a mess of vines like the plants without,” Jordan Qualm notes. “With these tubes there’s no need for wire cages, in my opinion.”

In the spring, the black color warmed the ground and plants to give them a good start, and despite a hot summer, the dark color didn’t seem to add heat stress. Instead, the cores helped shade the plants and hold water. The plants in the core tubes were the first to have ripe tomatoes, which are easier to pick as they cascade over the side of the tubes.

Instead of setting plants 2 feet apart, the Qualms plant them about 3 feet apart.

Qualm used a reciprocating saw to cut the 18-inch-diameter cores and plans to make more for next year’s garden.

For more information, send a letter to Jordan at 48782 252nd St., Sherman, SD 57030, or call 605-594-2290.

Hawk Platforms Help Provide Gopher Control

Old utility poles fitted with nesting platforms attract hawks and reduce the gopher population. Each breeding pair can be credited with removing up to 500 gophers per season.

“The ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis) is considered an endangered species in Alberta,” says Brandy Downey, senior species-at-risk biologist, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development Department (SRD). “The nesting sites help the hawks, and they help the ranchers who put them up.”

Downey works with ranchers and other land-owners interested in establishing nesting sites on their property.

Once a location has been found, the SRD works with utility companies to install poles. A triangular or rectangular framework is fixed to the pole 10 to 12 feet above ground. A steel mesh or wire lattice is fastened to the framework to provide a nesting platform.

Downey says the design seems to be working. Four nesting pairs established themselves on the six poles she helped set up this year. Locations are picked on prairie land with healthy gopher populations. The 18- to 20-foot poles are placed at least 800 yards from cliffs, trees and other artificial nesting platforms. A good site avoids roads, power lines, oil/gas developments and farmyards.

Downey encourages ranchers and landowners with ground squirrel problems to contact her at,or on Multisar 

Both articles reprinted with permission from Farm Show Magazine. 

Read more: For full plans read DIY Hawk Platform: Sustainable Gopher Control, and encourage hawks to nest near you.