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How to Stake Your Plants – Insider Tip for Vegetable Gardening

How to Stake Your Plants – Insider Tip for Vegetable Gardening

Staking is a simple technique, but an important one for vegetable and flower growers. For plants with large flowers, such as dahlias, asters and peonies, staking allows the flowers to show their best and keeps them from pooling after rain. Tall plants with fragile stems like delphiniums often need help weathering storms. In the vegetable garden, supporting plants with stakes or other supports will mean the difference between a good crop and a bad one. If you’ve ever tried growing tomatoes without staking the plants or growing them in cages, you know how difficult it is to save a decent crop. Whatever tomatoes you manage to find under the heavy weight of the plants often succumb to attacks by insects and larger animals or rot.

Staking should not be unattractive, an important consideration in the flower garden. In fact, if it’s done right, it’s not interference in the least. Properly staked plants have no visible means of support, the leaves growing upwards to hide the stakes, strings and wires.

There are several different ways to stake plants. As a general rule, it’s best to start early in the season so the leaves have a chance to cover the supports and you can train the plant as it grows. It is not easy to stake a plant that has sprawled on the ground or fallen over after a heavy rain. You can easily break or crush the stems. Also, the leaves and flowers will not look as graceful as they would if properly trained from the start.

Bamboo Canes: Bamboo canes are lightweight, strong and come in a variety of thicknesses from pencil thin to several inch canes suitable for staking tomatoes or large flowered dahlias. Use the thinner ones to support stems of delphiniums or other heavy beauties. Select a bamboo cane about two-thirds the height of the plant at maturity and place it in the ground near the base of the plant. Then use yarn, strips of soft fabric, or strips of old pantyhose to tie the stem of the flower to the peg. Add more ties as the plant grows taller. For multi-stemmed flowers like chrysanthemums, use one stake to support more than one stem. Tie twine or twine to the stake, gather the stems and wrap the twine loosely around them.

You can also use bamboo canes to make something like a cat’s swing around bunches of flowers like peonies. Place four or five canes around the plant. Again, they should be two-thirds the height of the plant at maturity. Then tie a string to one and wrap it around the others in turn. Tie it to the first cane. Add twine rings every 6 to 12 inches as the plant grows. You can also weave twine through the foliage of the plant from one stake to the opposite stake to create an additional support network.

Stake Peas: When you prune your trees in early spring, don’t burn that residue. Instead, save them and use them for staking weak-stemmed perennials like coreopsis or gypsophila and annual climbers like sweet peas. When the plants are still small, simply stick twigs into the ground near them. As they grow, the plants will climb the web of twigs and their leaves will soon hide the twigs from view. Pea staking is most successful for plants that do not grow taller than about 2 feet. Branches should be about 6 inches shorter than the plant at maturity.

Wire cages: Round or square wire cages, similar to but smaller than those used for growing tomatoes, are available for perennials such as peonies. Ready-made cages have wire legs that you simply push into the ground. You don’t need to tie plants to wire frames; they just grow and go through the wire and get all the support they need from the enclosure. The cages should be placed in early spring while the plants are still small. You can buy ready-made cages or make them yourself using galvanized coarse mesh.

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