Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cheap Gardening Series: Plant Supports

Our next topic in the series is ways to help support those large plants and how to be cost effective about it. Like I say about everything, an online search yields many results but this is my experience.

 Just by walking through the home improvement stores, you can find many viable materials with which  to construct a trellis for almost any kind of plant. I only say almost because there are certain vegetables that don't need supports, like root crops. Nearly all plants can be grown on a trellis and in turn, opens up the garden and gives more room on which to plant. Vertical gardening is a great way to be able to grow more in a garden and sometimes considered an art. Although, "garden art" is a whole different ball of wax.

Trellises can be made of many different items and are only limited by your imagination. You would be surprised to find all the things what a simple ball of garden twine can be used for. I actually used it on my new bamboo structure to create a grid-like pattern to grow plants on. Now to show you what I made with that twine and some bamboo stakes

While walking through K-Mart, I found myself heading to the garden center. Although, I usually find myself in the garden area of every store I go into, but I digress. While poking around the area, I found some packs of bamboo stakes. These come in different lengths and seemed pretty sturdy. The sizes included 4, 5 and 7 foot. I grabbed 2 packs of 5 foot stakes at $3.99 each and headed for the seed racks. Spring is near and most stores have seeds on sale and this was no exception. I don't remember what I grabbed but they were "Buy One Get One Free" and I was not about to let that special pass me by. Once I decided on seeds, I found my wife and headed out. 

When we got home, I just couldn't set the sticks in the garage and worry about it later. I just had to do something with them and found myself making a trellis in the garden. I knew I could just make about 8 tee-pees for plants but that seemed kind of boring and decided to get a little more creative. I did make 2 tee-pees but ended up connecting the two. 

I took pictures of the structure but could not find something that would show it clearly. So, I decided to work something up in Photoshop. I tried to make it as clear as possible and it may not be the greatest diagram but I am a photographer not an architect or graphic designer. 

Structure Diagram

The center post is not bamboo but rather a heavier pole I had lying around from last summer. It is one of those green stakes from the garden center at Home Depot. Everything else is just the bamboo. Everything is tied together with garden twine but not limited to it. Zip ties may be another viable option for tying everything. 

The poles that connect it all are just tied to the tee-pees on either end and to the 3 poles that cross it. It took 2 five foot poles and there is an overlap of about 8 inches. These are tied the same way as the tee-pees but there is no real technique. I just did the best I could and if any problems should arise, I will deal with it then. 

In order for the plant to climb, it needs something to guide it and this is where the twine came in handy again. The twine was used to make a grid-like pattern by simply tying it the the poles and as the plant grows, it just needs to be woven through it. As it is shown in the hot green color. It is much easier than you think and did not take very long. The horizontal lines are just tied to the vertical poles and the center pole. Tie the outer posts to the center post about every 6-7 inches. The vertical line down the middle is just the twine tied to the horizontal poles at the top that go across the top. Let the twine fall right down the middle and loop it around each horizontal row. I know it may sound a bit confusing but it is not very difficult. I think that covers the main construction of the structure and I am open to questions or constructive criticism. 

Now that it has been built, plants need to be added and I even labeled that. I actually already have a cucumber plant growing on the left tee-pee. It is not much right now but when the warmer weather kicks in, it should take off. As it grows, I will wrap around and tie the vines to the posts on the tee-pee. The center grid like pattern may be used for peas and the other tee-pee may have a tomato plant in it soon. I will be building more tee-pees or trellises for other plants but will wait until it is closer to Spring. I also need to see what plants survive and make it to Spring. 

This is just 1 example of a cheap trellis but there are many more out there. The cost on this one was probably around $5. I already had the twine and the green stake so I didn't really figure that into the total cost. Thinking back, the 7 ft stakes may be a better option for bigger plants. Depending on what you are growing, 5 feet may be short and will need more support later on. Read the backs of the seed packets or plant labels for height of mature plant.



I tossed in some more photos of the trellis with the weekly farm update HERE.

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