Most Tall Plants Need Supporting.

By: Rick Skuw

Supporting plants involves the provision of a post, stake or framework to which weak stems will be attached. A tall plant could potentially be rocked by strong winds if its roots are not in a position to anchor it firmly in the ground. A freshly-planted specimen will not have this anchorage, so it can be dislodged or blown over. Staking is the answer, it is a job that you should do at planting time and not after the damage is done. Inspect the ties on a tree on a regular basis and adjust them as the stem thickens. Some herbaceous plants, like Dahlias are staked at planting time. Stout bamboo canes are normally 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 many cases, however, tying to a single stake should 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 attached 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 will require support and stakes. Wires, canes etc are not things of beauty in themselves. The solution is to select the type of support with care and attempt to put it in a position when the plant is quite small so the stems can grow through to cover it.

For many plants all you will require is brushwood or pea sticks pushed into the soil all 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 can buy circular wire frames that are inserted into the soil and produe a similar effect. In all cases follow the golden rule - never leave staking until your plant has collapsed.

Really the only plants which regularly require staking in the vegetable garden are Beans and Peas. Peas can be supported with twigs when they're young but may need 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.

When a tree outgrows its stake it will still will need support. This can be provided by fixing a collar to the middle of the trunk and securing it to the ground using 3 strong wires. Some shrubs with limp spreading stems may require some sort 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 of each stake, never depend on a single pole and twine.

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One of the jobs I enjoy a lot is having a garden renovation session in the garden for a couple of hours. I find it helps me to unwind and forget everything, apart from the work I am doing.

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