How to stop plants flopping

When growth gets under way in spring, it’s worth putting any supports in place around plants to stop them flopping. That way you’ll have the benefit of being able to tie them in as they grow and their foliage will disguise the supports as they grow. Trying to stake plants after they’ve made growth is always a problem and they won’t look natural is they’re hitched back up after they’ve flopped!

The most obvious things in the garden that need support are climbing plants. French and runner beans, sweet peas and other annual climbers do well on tall bamboo canes, as well as wires or string stretch across fences. Free-standing tripods allow light to get all around the plants which is a good thing not only from the point of view of the amount of light getting to the leaves to make energy, but also because the air circulation it allows will dry off damp foliage and reduce the chances of certain diseases getting a hold. And don’t forget, what might seem like a tall tripod of canes can soon become drenched in foliage – so make it bigger that you think you need. For my runner beans, I always use 2.4m (8ft.) canes, pushed 30cm (12in.) into the ground and make the largest diameter tripod that I can make space for!

How to support individual flower stems

The tallest herbaceous perennials – such as delphiniums, foxtail lilies and Rudbeckia laciniata – benefit from having the base of their individual flower stalks tied in to short canes, 90-120cm (3-4ft.) in length, pushed firmly into the ground. This allows the flower to sway naturally, rather than being held unnaturally and rigidly upright. And obvious prevents them being bent or knocked to the ground in strong wind or heavy rain.

Shorter climbing crops such as peas, mange tout and sugar snap peas, as well as clump-forming herbaceous perennials in borders can be held up with twiggy sticks. In fact these are often referred to as pea sticks. It is crucial that these are pushed well into the soil to provide good anchorage. And if they are put in during mid-late spring, the plants can grow through the twiggy growths and hide the supports by summer.

Get your supports in early

Metal supports can take many forms and the types to put in place early are those that are make from a grid supported on 3 or more legs. Again these will be grow around and through by the time summer arrives. Plastic types are also available,  but bear in mind that these may become brittle after a few years and, unfortunately, are often not recyclable. You can also fashion your own support grids, using narrow stakes or canes, with a crossing network of twine or canes.

Looped metal supports are generally meant for putting in place once plants have flopped – often at the height of the growing season. Alternatively short lengths of bamboo canes and garden twine can be hidden in amongst foliage to do much the same job.

So plan your support strategy now and make sure you’ve got all the kit you need – canes, twine and other paraphernalia. And get set for a summer of growth!

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