Tomato cane support – from pallet wood again!

This post originally appeared on the Sustainable Witney website.

Not content with building a raised bed out of pallet wood, we’ve been doing yet more pallet-based construction in the garden this year. This time, inspired by a review of the plant supports at RHS Harlow Carr conducted by quondam Oxford gardener Julieanne Porter, we built a decidedly functional one, ready for the tomatoes that we hope will eventually grow from what are currently very small seedlings.

This is a case of learning from our mistakes, you see. Last year, we planted our tomatoes with everything else in the square-metre bed, and they went crazy, dominating much of the space well into September/October and ultimately making it impossible to plant anything for wintering. This year we bought a growbag and tray to keep them contained and away from everything else, but realised long after we’d left the garden centre that we’d need some kind of cane supports.

Enter the remnants of last year’s pallet wood! We’d used up all of the big blue pallet on our raised bed, but there was still at least some wood from the two smaller plain-pine pallets. We found four pieces of this:


Above you can see: one long piece that covers the length of the three growbag holes; two slightly shorter legs to comfortably fit across the growbag; and a thick, short piece to make sturdy front feet. Along with these, we had a pile of 1.5″ and 2″ nails, and some 3″ nails. Three pieces of bamboo were chosen, wide enough that the 3″ nails would – just about – fit down their middles.

Firstly we sawed the thicker front feet: the frame would have to sit higher than the growbag plus tray; however, the chunky wood had a knot-hole through it. Still, between these two constraints, we managed a decent height of foot:


The long sections have been cut down to size, with the offcuts neatly matching the other feet in length. The top-middle piece with the knot-hole had to be discarded.

We then used these front feet to measure and then trim wood off the two legs, making the frame a more manageable size while also neatly leaving the offcuts to function as thinner back feet. Ultimately, only the middle section you can see above with a knot-hole was left unused!

The frame was then assembled in the following order:

  1. Thin back feet onto legs, with thick feet underneath for support during hammering: three 2″ nails each
  2. Thick front feet onto legs: three 2″ nails
  3. Long crosspiece onto two legs, slightly offset from centre: two lots of three 1.5″ nails

The 1.5″ nails were necessary for the crosspiece, because the combined thickness of the two layers of wood was actually slightly less than 1.5″ (more like 35mm or 1 3/8″). In theory, the points sticking out could be covered underneath with gaffa tape, to prevent the nails from tearing the growbag; in practice, there looked like plenty of clearance.

Here’s the finished pedestal frame:


The next step was to provide somewhere for the canes to go. Lots of options might present themselves here: as we had these long, thick nails hanging around anyway; and as three pieces of bamboo did seem to fit them quite well; then in the nails went!


Three vicious-looking 3-inch nails, pointing upwards ready for the canes; bonus cat bum in background.

It was quite tricky positioning the nails close enough to the edge of the crosspiece that they wouldn’t be inconveniently far from the eventual seedlings, without splitting the wood. I also resorted to using a lump hammer to drive them in, as my claw hammer was too light and kept just bouncing off the assemblage!

Finally, the canes were put in place, and topped with plant pots for reasons of safety, and the whole frame laid over the growbag: