Cages, A-Frames, Arbors
And Other Support Structures
Did you know that plants can dance?
Sure, they can. Scientists call very slow plant movements caused by their
growth "tropisms" - and they need our help in the way of support structures to
let them grow naturally.
An example is the way the tendrils of
a pea plant stick out and around and curl around a stake, in order to keep the
main pea vine erect and secure. If there was nothing for those tendrils to grab
onto, the vine wouldn't be able to bear. Plants are motivated to grow in a
certain direction by light, gravity and "feel." When there's a structure to
grab onto, they will.
Slow-motion photography shows that
these "tropisms" look a lot like dancing. So think of "permaculture" - providing
supports for plants to grow upon - as sort of their "stage" for their
The fun part of permaculture is that
you can make your kids' garden accommodate more creative, inspiring experiences
at the same time that you are enhancing the growing environment for the plants.
can be creative: instead of throwing away a broken ladder, keep it as a home
for a climbing plant!
old chair with a missing seat will soon have a "new" one if a plant is allowed
to grow up and over.
an antique bicycle wheel can provide a structure for a climbing flower or
vegetable which otherwise would be stumped and stunted, with nowhere,
literally, to grow.
interesting piece of driftwood, an old tree stump with neat texture, or a
curving branch all can be interesting supports.
if you don't have anything like that, don't worry - garden centers have a huge
selection of heights, widths and types of garden stakes and trellises that will
do the same thing. Similarly, scrap wood and inexpensive wiring can come
together into A-frame trellises for cucumbers.
beanpoles can be arranged in tepee form, sunk into the ground about a foot
each, to allow beans or black-eyed Susan vine to grow up and make a fun hideout
in the shade.
and wire can be arranged for grapevines, berry bushes, tomatoes and many other
(over 5') cylinders are familiar support structures for tomato plants.
will enjoy climbing through a tunnel of a series of bendable plastic tubing,
stuck into the ground on both ends in a half-circle, with gourds growing up,
down and all around the tunnel.
your siding or exterior walls can handle it, growing ivy, climbing roses or
other plants up the side of a house can be a stunning decoration.
plants that need an extremely long structure, such as hops, which may require
25 feet of structure, you can do something as simple as to drive a stake several
feet past your exterior house wall, and run sturdy jute string or wire from the
stake to a spot on your roof.
arbors and arches can be stunning when perennial trumpet vine or wisteria is
trained up and over, creating a gorgeous show.
everyday fences similarly can come alive when "clothed" with a climber, a
rambler or other plant that likes and needs support.
few plants have specific kinds of supports that you can buy, or make: those
cone-shaped wire supports for peony bushes help support the huge, heavy
blossoms on relatively skinny stems; similarly, tall plants such as
delphiniums, with big, heavy flowers, enjoy growing through a tall stake that
has a horizontal hoop at the top to support the flower.
Here are some typical plants that respond well to
(since the plants die
every year, you can change these around
and plant a new
climber on the same structure every year)
peas, climbing varieties
beans — all varieties. Some good ones to try are scarlet runner beans, tricolor
beans, yard-long beans
(use these for permanent structures you