Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Gardening 101: Support, part one

When looking at these little seeds or watching spindlely sprouts struggle and grow, it's hard to imagine that in just a few more weeks vines and indeterminate vegetables are going to need some kind of support.

Ever wonder how some people get those lovely, straight cucumbers?  Uniformally shaped, perfect in color, and no soft spots these are say first place at the county fair!  What about tomatoes?  how can you maximize yield yet still be able to support a load of healthy fruit?

Let's start with the seeds.  when you're looking at the seed packets or at the plant tags look for these words "indeterminate" or "determinate".  Basically what this means is how compact the plant will be when mature.  Those with limited space or who are doing container gardening may be more satisfied with determinate varieties.  Those with more space and room to grow may want to try their hand at indeterminate varieties.

At My Happy Acres we grow indeterminate varieties.  This allows us to train the plants to their support.  We have used a variety of materials however have found that vining plants such as cucumbers, summer squash, ole beans, and some gourds grow best when trained to Cattle feedlot panels.  These fencing units are sturdy, affordable, and last many, many seasons.  We have the 16-footers however these panels come in a variety of dimensions.  Six foot steel fence posts are evenly spaced and driven in the ground along the area where the planting will take place.  The panel is then attached with wire to the post.

Plant the cucumber about four inches from the base of the  panel.  Be aware: your neighbors and loved ones may laugh and point when they see this giant structure beside these wee little plants.  But wait.  In a few short weeks with a little water and a little care, these tiny seedlings will suddenly be springing up.  As they grow, gently lift and weave the vine and leaves to the panel.  When the time comes and the cucumbers (or summer squash or pole beans) start to form, they will be up off the ground so less likely to be misshapen, subjected to slug or snail damage, or the nibblings of passing  bunnies looking for vegie snacks.

This technique can also be used for other plants such as tomatoes however we have found another method for tomatoes that we will detail in a future post.  Have fun and keep an open mind to try new things.

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