42 June 16, 2010

We have received some much-needed rain. The only drawback to the rain has been the increase in the amount of slugs feeding on our plants and the increase in the incidents of fungus diseases.

With a combination of warm days and some rain, most plants put out a lot of growth in June. Summer flowering perennials will put up flower stalks that are laden with flowers. It always seems that just about the time these summer flowering perennials are ready to bloom, along comes some rain and the flower stalks droop to the ground or the flower stalks snap off from the combined weight of the flowers and the water from the rain. Since most gardeners plant flowers hoping to see a display of flowers, it probably makes sense to try to support those flower stalks.

There are all kinds of things that you can use to support your plants. Both flowers and in some cases vegetable plants need to have something to hold up the plants. If you walk into most garden centers, you will find a vast array of plant supports. Which one is best for your plants? Let me take some time to tell you about your options.

You can go low tech and use stakes that are pushed into the ground. The flower stalk is then tied to the stake. Many people use bamboo stakes for this job. They come 25 in a pack and come in sizes from 2 to 4 feet long. One mistake gardeners make is that they buy stakes that are too short. Let’s say that you have flower stalks that are 2 feet long. A 2-foot stake should be OK to use to support the flowers. But you do have to put 6 inches to a foot of that stake into the ground in order to allow the stake to hold up a wet flower stalk. If you use the 2-foot stake, you can hold up the stalk, but most likely, the part of the stalk that sticks above the top of the stake will flop over or it might even break off. Always count on using a stake that is about a foot longer than the length of the flower stalk. With bamboo stakes you can always cut them to a shorter size with a pair of pruners.

There are many types of metal stakes that you can use to hold up the flower stalks. Most of the metal stakes are vinyl coated to allow you to get multiple years of use from the stakes. Some have a hoop at the top to allow you to catch the stalk in the hoop, providing the support the stalk needs. If you can plan ahead, there are round plant supports that have a grid work pattern to the ring. 3 adjustable legs allow you to position the support over the plant allowing the plant to grow up through the grid work. The grid work then supports the plant and its flower stalks.

There are also U shaped supports that can prop up a sagging plant. The plant slides into the opening of the U and the attached legs hold up the plant. You can use 2 of the U supports to form a cage around the plant.

Many of the supports require you to use some type of material to tie the flower stalk to the stake. For many years, garden twine has been used to tie the plants to the stake. The twine is made out of jute and comes in a brown or green color. Most rolls of twine have 100 to 200 feet of twine in a ball. This allows you to cut the twine to whatever length you need.

There is also twist ties that come on a roll. The twist ties are metal wire that is covered with either a heavy paper or plastic coating. These can be cut to length and then wrapped around the flower stalk and the stakes. A couple of quick twists and the stalk are attached to the stake.

Velcro has also come out with rolls of material that you can cut to length and then wrap around the flower stalk and then attach to the support. The advantage to using this product is that the Velcro can be adjusted easily to prevent growing stems from being crushed by the tie.

Plants in the vegetable garden need support too. Tomato plants can get very top heavy when they are loaded with green and ripening tomatoes. There are tomato cages, which are, as the name would imply, metal cages that are placed over the tomato plant. The plant grows up through the center of the cage and is supported by the cage.

You can also use heavy wooden stakes to hold up your tomato plants. Since tomato plants can grow 4 to 6 feet tall, it is best to use a 5 to 7 foot long wooden stake. You will need at least a foot of the stake in the ground to hold up the plant when the plant is loaded with tomatoes. The Velcro strips are a great thing to use to attach the plant to the stake.

Staking up your plants may appear to be a tedious chore. However, you planted a garden to ultimately enjoy the flowers or to reap the harvest of the vegetable garden. Just ask any veteran gardener about not staking plants and you will get a history of sad looking plants that came about from not staking the plants.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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