Some plants need support and others do not. Some plants require support to prevent being deformed and prevent disease and pest damage from the ground. In addition, vines allowed to grow indiscriminately can choke out their own vines limiting proper fruiting of that plant.
Supporting your plants helps in saving garden space because you’ll allowing them to grow vertically. By training them to grow upward, you may even be able to utilize the space vacated by planting other plants under them.
Plants that need support
Plants that are best supported include cucumbers, peas, beans, winter squash, and tomatoes (especially indeterminate varieties).
Use Vertical Structures for Growing Up Rather than Out
These vertical structures can be placed in a way in which the plants around it are placed on the sunny side of a structure (in the northern hemisphere it is on the south side) or on the north side of a structure so that it shades the plants you’re trying to grow. Alternately, you could also place the structure in the center of the bed so that you can plant vegetables of both.
Some plants need structures to support a plant to go upwards. Fences, trellises, stakes, trees, corn, sorghum, and even hanging baskets are examples of verticals structures. Just be sure that the structure will be strong enough to hold the plant as it grows and develops. Lightweight and flimsy structures can easily collapse under the weight of a heavy plant.
Examples of structural Garden Supports
Fences-A fence around your yard that gives you enough sunshine can serve as a support for your plants. An open metal wire fence works better than closed wooden fences because the lack of sunlight can block the sunshine. A challenge can be weeds along the fence. This can be remedied by keeping weeds pulled or prevented with a heavy mulch.
In addition to existing fences, you can also consider putting up fencing specifically to grow within the garden. To save even more space, consider growing on both sides of a metal wire fence. I often plant peas on one side of the fence and later plant tomatoes on the other side.
Tomato cages-just because it is called a tomato cage, doesn’t mean it can only be used for growing tomatoes. Other vegetables can be grown on them as well such as beans or peas.
Bean towers-You can buy bean towers, or you can construct your own. Bean towers aren’t necessarily just for growing beans either. They can be used to grow peas. Sturdier ones may even be used to grow squash or melons.
Trellises- Like tomato cages and bean towers, trellises can be used to support any of the vegetables mentioned previously. As stated previously, be sure that these trellises are strong enough for the intended plants.
Stakes-Individual stakes can also be used to hold up individual tomato plants or used to support beans or peas. They can also be used as supports in windy areas for things like corn or potatoes.
Trees-we don’t often think of trees as supports for garden vegetables, but in some cases, plants will grow up trees especially if there’s adequate exposure to sunlight. Trees on the north side of a garden work well for this. In addition, you can grow peas in the spring on trees before the trees’ leaves are out.
Corn-Another living vertical support is corn. Corn is one of the well-known sisters in the three sisters’ garden and provides vertical support for beans and squash (or pumpkins).
Sorghum-Yet another living vertical support is sorghum. Sorghum is a lesser-known plant that can be used for its grain and for making sorghum molasses. I like to grow it with cowpeas and okra. It provides support for the cowpeas and grows well with okra.
Hanging baskets-many people don’t think of hanging baskets as vertical growing, but they are. Hanging baskets can be hung on the south side of a porch and offers a growing area for plants such as peas, pole beans, squash, and sweet potatoes. You can also grow strawberries in these hanging baskets.
Planting towers-Plant small plants in numerous built-in pots in a planting tower. Greens and many herbs grow well this way and if you plant the individual cells over time, you’ll have a continuous harvest of greens and herbs from an amazingly small space. You can build one of these yourself using pallets. Nail four of them together into a square. Half fill the center with soil. Plant indeterminant potatoes in that center part. On the outside, create little planting boxes around the outside and up the sides by securing landscape fabric to the bottom of each of the boards, and fill the little boxes with soil. Plant vegetables like lettuce and other greens, plant herbs like parsley, chives, and cilantro, and even fruit like strawberries in each planting box that you create. As the potatoes grow, fill in the bed with more soil, straw, hay or even dried grass clippings (dried because too many green grass clippings and the grass will heat up and burn the potato plants.
South (or in the southern hemisphere, north) facing wall of a building-You produce a lot in a space that is not often utilized in your yard simply by growing hanging plants and growing plants that grow vertically up trellises and utilizing planting towers that can either be homemade or purchased. It’s almost like having another complete garden area to work from!
For information about growing vegetables that you don’t need to can, freeze or dehydrate check out my latest books The Four Seasons Vegetable Garden (only available on Kindle) and The Survival Garden available on Kindle and in Paperback.