Staking is one of those topics that I was sadly unable to cover in the Grow Great Grub book due to space considerations. I covered it pretty thoroughly in You Grow Girl and I have to say that years later, and having experimented with other methods, my go-to cheap and cheerful method both in the ground and in containers is still the tripod. I find it exceptionally stable, especially on my roof where the spring and later fall winds can turn epic. It is also the cheapest and most accessible — most of us can find a source of long bamboo poles close to home for less than a dollar per pole. I have even found the occasional multi-pack at the dollar store for even less.
The tripod method is simply 3 or 4, or sometimes more, bamboo poles (branches work well too) set into the ground at an equal distance around a plant or within a container and then pulled together at the top and held in place with a strong piece of string or wire.
I have fashioned riffs on the tripod for tall plants and climbers including tomatoes, sweet pea, morning glory, pole beans, peas, and cucumbers. I add string or other supports depending on the type of plant I am growing. In 2007 I grew 16 tomato plants and several cucumbers by building 4 sets of 4 tripod stakes supported by 4 poles around the top as cross beams. The added support proved to be unnecessary and drove us nuts all season long as we continuously (and painfully) ran into those stupid cross poles with our necks and heads. A single indeterminate (vining) tomato plant was supported by each pole and I strung mesh along one side that supported the cucumbers and gherkins. You can read more about that over here.
p.s. That’s the ‘Variegated’ tomato in the foreground/left. You can just make out the white splashes in this small photo.
I have even made smaller versions using shorter poles to prop up heavily laden bush beans.
But I didn’t intend to talk about tripod staking today so I’m not sure why I am preambling with that. Today’s topic is pea staking. Of all of the easy, or what I coined “artfully lazy” methods in You Grow Girl, I like pea staking best, most especially when it comes to propping up it’s namesake: peas.
Pea staking is as simple as locating a bunch of twiggy branches (messy end growth with plenty of small twigs and branches) and then setting them into the soil with the solid end down. Next, plant your seeds in and around where you have set them into the soil and wait for the climbing plants to hitch on and eventually cover the branches in greenery.
This method works both in the ground and in pots. While bare, it appears orderly and decorative in pots, but can just look like a bunch of branches stuck in the ground if used in a large, empty garden bed.
Last year, while walking home from the greenhouse, I came upon a large bundle of bright red, freshly cut dogwood branches. I had about a minute to brainstorm projects I could make with them and whether or not it seemed worth the effort to drag that bundle all the way home. In the end I decided that the dogwood was beautiful and chances were good that I might never come across sidewalk gold like that again. I walked a treacherous gauntlet back to my abode, and despite nearly poking the eyes out of hundreds of hipsters and small children, I was right, they were worth it. I haven’t seen a bundle of any branches, let alone dogwood branches that nice since.
I used all of the branches up; some in big pots as below and smaller branches in smaller pots. They made the pots look like something was happening while they were empty, and the red provided a beautiful contrast with pale green pea plants as they entwined themselves in the branches.
Here’s how it looked when the peas were fully mature. I believe this pea variety is ‘Carouby de Maussane.’