Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
May, 2001
Regional Report

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Tomato cages do winter and spring duty as sweet pea trellises.

Growing Up with Trellises

Trellises are beautiful and practical additions to a garden. Trellised plants stand up strong toward the sun with their leaves growing freely around the stem. Trellised vegetables bear more fruit per square foot of garden space than untrellised plants, and the fruits are cleaner and easier to pick. Also, the fruits are less blemished because they're held above the soil and can avoid most soil-borne diseases and ground pests. Trellised vining plants can provide attractive shade and camouflage for porches and patios.

The Nature of Trellises

Trellises can be constructed from wood, metal, or rigid plastic to fit any size plant or space. Smaller plants such as peppers, eggplants, and determinate tomatoes welcome the support from small cages or stakes. Long- vining plants such as indeterminate cherry tomatoes can be trained up taller supports such as wire mesh fences to shade porches and walls or camouflage unsightly areas. Whatever trellis is used, it must be strong enough to hold the weight of the mature plant and its crop and not be blown over in a wind when the soil is moist.

Additional Support

Additional support should be provided for developing fruits whose mature size will be heavy, such as melons. If they're left unsupported, their weight will drag down or tear the vines from the trellis and damage the plant and fruit. A variety of recycled materials can be used. Slings can be made from rags, mesh bags, or pantyhose (they'll stretch as the fruit grows larger). Strawberry and cherry tomato baskets can be anchored with a string or hook to hold fruits.

Trellised Plant Care

Because more of a trellised plant's leaf area is exposed to warm air and drying winds, it transpires more and needs more water. Deep and less frequent watering encourages plant roots to grow deep in search of water. Deep roots will sustain the plant for longer periods, especially during hot weather. Mulching the soil also helps to conserve moisture. A periodic sprinkling of the foliage helps refresh the leaves after a period of drying winds. This must be done early in the day, however, so that leaf surfaces can dry thoroughly before sunset.

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