Are your vegetable plants encroaching on your garden paths? Are you finding giant, inedible cucumbers hiding under foliage? Time to think about garden structures! Create these supports from hard materials—wood, plastic, metal, concrete—to enhance the growing of vegetables or other plants. Such structures can provide space, support, and creative expression to enhance your garden.
Steps for using plant supports in your garden:
- Plan: Consider plant characteristics and direction of the sun.
- Prepare: Build your structure sturdy enough to support your chosen plants.
- Train: Some plants need to be fastened or tied. Others need to be gently wound around a stake or string where they will continue growing.
- Water: Use an irrigation system, soaker hose, garden hose, or watering can—always water at the bottom of the plant.
- Harvest: Using garden structures and supports for vining and top-heavy plants will enable you to plant closer together and have a larger and healthier harvest from a smaller space.
Gardening in small places.
When you’re concerned about lack of space, there’s always the possibility of getting plants to spread up! When planning and planting a garden, it’s important to consider how much space each plant needs to be healthy and productive. Be mindful that trellised plants do cast shadows, so consider what neighboring plants might be blocked from the sun.
Supporting tall or vining plants allows for air circulation, which helps prevent fungal and other diseases. Such structures not only help prevent wind-broken branches—which can foster pests and diseases—but they can also prevent soil splashing onto leaves, which can result in fungal diseases. For vegetable gardens, supporting vining plants makes for cleaner and often healthier produce because the harvest will not be on the ground.
Match your supports to your plants.
Plants with tendrils, such as peas and pole beans, will wrap themselves around posts and strings. Tomatoes are frequently tied onto stakes or wire cages. Most cucumbers or melons can benefit from supports that are sturdy enough to hold the weight of the growing bounty. These heavy-duty supports can be made from wood, canes,metal, PVC plastic, and string or wire.
There’s also a creative enjoyment in either incorporating found objects into your garden as supports for plants, or to use already existing structures. Fasten peas, cucumbers, or sunflower stalks to old window frames. Have your tomatoes climb a fence or baker’s rack. Let your pole beans, climbing nasturtiums, or moon flowers weave their way onto a scarecrow or up the post of a bird house. These supports bring harvests of fruits and vegetables—and smiles!
Article by Mary Alice Ramsey, Buncombe County Extension Master GardenerSM Volunteer
Bartlett, Michael V. and Rose L. The Bartlett Book of Garden Elements. David R. Godine, 2014.
Bartholomew, Mel. All New Square Foot Gardening: 3rd Edition. Square Foot Gardening Foundation, 2018.