Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tree prunings: rustic charm for veggie supports

Want to add a little rustic charm to your veggie garden—and save some money in the process?

Mary Silver of Clarksville builds what she calls “supports” for her cucumbers out of tree branches that she prunes from her home landscape.

“I got the idea from my dad, who told me that farmers used to cut limbs from their trees and place them in their gardens for their cucumbers to climb on,” explained Mary, a second-year gardener at Westend Community Garden of Columbia Gardeners, Inc. “I liked the idea because the supports I build have a natural look that blends in well with my garden. And I’m saving money because I’m using something that’s growing around me, not buying some manufactured support system for my plants to grow on.”

Most of the trimmings Mary collects are about three-quarters to an inch in diameter, many of apparent cherry or birch origins. “I use whatever is available,” Mary said.

“I trim off the side branches and temporarily store what my husband calls ‘sticks’ under our deck at home,” she said. “Then I bring them to my plot at Westend Community Garden and lash the branches together with twine, which is biodegradable at the end of the season. Then I train my cucumber vines up the support, which keeps my cucumbers off the ground, saving space in my small plot and encouraging the cucumbers to grow straight.”

Mary began building the supports this year. “The sticks really dry out quickly, so I’ll probably use them only one growing season, maybe two,” she said.

And next year?

“The supports have worked so well for my cucumbers that I’ll use them again, and I may experiment with building tree-limb cages for my tomatoes.”

Rustic cages, I’m thinking, for heirloom tomatoes—Brandywines, perhaps—could start a whole new, frugal, sustainable, and attractive garden tradition.
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