Building Supports For Your Tall Plants.

By: Rick Skew

Supporting plants involves the supply of a post, stake or framework to which weak stems will be attached. A tall plant can be rocked by strong winds if its roots are not able to anchor it firmly in the ground. A freshly-planted specimen does not have this anchorage, so it can be dislodged or blown over. Staking is the answer, it is the job that you should do at planting time and never after the damage has been done. Inspect the ties on a tree on a regular basis and adjust them as the stem thickens. Some herbaceous plants, such as Dahlias are also staked at planting time. Stout bamboo canes are usually used. Tie the stem to the support as growth proceeds using soft twine or raffia. The one pole method is suitable for plants with spire-like heads, such as Delphiniums. In these cases the stake has to be tall enough to support the flower head.

In most cases, however, tying to just one stake ought to be avoided. With bushy plants an ugly 'drumstick' effect is produced and is the sign of a poor gardener, the all-too-familiar sight of a tight group of stems fixed to a cane and a splayed out spray of flowers above.

Unfortunately, weak-stemmed plants, tall varieties on exposed sites, large-headed flowers and climbers all need support and stakes. Wires, canes and so on are not things of beauty in themselves. The answer is to select the type of support with care and try to put it in a place when the plant is quite small so that the stems can grow through to cover it.

For many plants all you will require is brushwood or pea sticks pushed into the soil around the young plant when the stems are about 1 ft high. For more robust and bushy herbaceous plants insert 3 or 4 canes around the stems and enclose the shoots with twine tied around the canes at roughly 9 inch intervals. You could buy circular wire frames that are inserted into the soil and produe the same effect. In all cases follow the golden rule - never leave staking until your plant has collapsed.

The only plants which regularly require staking in the vegetable garden are Beans and Peas. Peas may be supported with twigs when they're young but may require plastic netting when fully grown. Runner Beans are best grown against solid canes, either arranged as a wigwam or as a double row joined at the top by a horizontal holding bar.

Each time a tree outgrows its stake it might still will want support. This can be provided by fixing a collar to the middle of the trunk and securing it to the ground by means of 3 strong wires. Some shrubs with limp spreading stems may require some type of support after a few years. Follow the principles described above for bushy herbaceous plants. Use 3 or 4 stakes with a band joining the top end of each stake, never rely on a single pole and twine.

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One of the jobs I enjoy a lot is having a gardening session . I find it helps me to unwind and forget everything, apart from the work I am doing.

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