Grow your own structures

  • Last updated: 16 September 2022
I will be the first to admit that I am terrible at DIY. I am the sort of person who will manage to remove half the plaster from a wall when putting up a shelf. So in our household, anything of that sort is left to my other half, leaving me to do less dangerous things such as growing vegetables and cooking.
However, there is no escaping that if you are going to grow veg, you will need to create some sort of structure at some point. Their main functions are to offer support to plants or keep out unwelcome creatures. Many of these I have constructed from things already growing in the garden. So I can be smug that I am saving both money and wood miles.
With no cold nights forecast for the foreseeable time ahead, we have finally put out our climbing French beans. I find that if you put them out when they are larger, the growing point has already started twine its way upwards, so that it is more effort for slugs to reach. In past years, we have grown them up canes, but I have found that often, by September, the weight of the plants can tilt the whole structure over. So this year, I made something a lot more substantial out of hazel branches from our garden. They are something like a ridge tent: rows of sloping poles in an upside down ‘V’ with a ridge pole along the top. The trick to achieving structural stability is extra diagonal cross struts along the sides: a triangle is much more stable than a parallelogram. I think that barring a minor earthquake, that structure isn’t going anywhere.
Cats and bare soil are always a problem. They just can’t resist the huge ready-made litter tray you have created for them which isn’t only highly unpleasant, but leads to plants being uprooted. So around the structure I put in a low makeshift barrier of unpruned hazel twigs and bamboo canes. Along with the strings for the beans to climb up, I think it will not only keep out cats but inquisitive blackbirds too. They have a tendency to pull up new plants, looking for grubs and leatherjackets underneath.
We have also have a clump forming bamboo (I don’t know what type, as we inherited it) which supplies an endless supply of canes for supporting plants – sometimes in our next door neighbour’s garden too. ‘Clump forming’ only seems to mean ‘slightly less spreading’ in my experience. But it means that we never have to buy any canes from a garden centre. Having an abundant supply, allows me to be profligate with canes, and support anything that remotely needs it. Supported plants will grow stronger than those that are allowed to sway around, damaging their roots. So they came in handy to provide supports to my broad beans and field beans in the winds the other week. We are growing the Sutton broad bean, which is great for gardens as it is a nice compact plant producing lots of flowers, and Feugo field beans, a variety prized for its taste and texture. I was short of seed at the time of sowing, so the latter was gleaned from a bag of beans intended for cooking, but they all seem to be growing very well…..
More about Anton...
Anton is a Knowledge Officer at Garden Organic, where he has worked for 16 years. He is looking forward to writing a series of blogs on how to garden using little resources.
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