Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Leaning Tower of Peas

When it comes to growing vegetables that require a trellis for support, everyone seems to have a favourite method for each crop.  As a relatively new gardener, I am still in the experimental stage of trying to find the method(s) that work best for me.

The first year I grew beans and peas, I used sturdy plastic netting that had large, 5” gaps.  It worked really well at supporting the legumes, but then came the end of the season.  Of course, I didn’t want to throw out the netting as it was still perfectly good, with years of use ahead of it, so I spent a few hours (that’s right – hours!) untangling & cutting the vines from the netting.

When I set up the trellis for my peas a couple of months ago, I had a different plan.  Jute.  Since jute is a natural fibre, I figured that I could simply cut it off the trellis and throw everything into the compost pile at the end of the season.

Last year, I used jute to string my indeterminate tomatoes and then half way through the season – disaster.  The jute on several of the plants broke and my vines came tumbling down.  Obviously, this was not the best choice for tomato plants that have to remain in the garden all season and carry a heavy load on top of that.

But I figured that peas would be ok since they are only in the garden a couple of months and they do not carry as heavy a load as tomatoes do.

Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo of the trellis when I first set it up, but this is what it looked like about 3 weeks ago.  I had strung the jute in a horizontal zigzag fashion between the two upright trellis posts.
 
 
Pea Trellis in Mid-June
Bush peas on the left; Climbing peas on the right
 
And this is what the peas look like now, at the height of production:

The Trellis Now - Just Pitiful
 
Didn’t exactly work out the way I planned.

What I forgot from my prior use of jute is that it tends to stretch, especially when it gets wet.   I remember having to tighten up the strings for the tomatoes several times.  But my biggest mistake was in how stingy I was when I strung the trellis as I knew that I would simply be cutting it all down in a couple of months.  Bad call.

The bush peas didn’t fare much better.  This was the bamboo and jute support when I first put it up.
 
Bush Pea Supports
 
And as of mid-June, they didn't look that bad, as you can see in the first photo.
 
But once again, stingy use of string & stretching took its toll.  In addition, I used 3’ bamboo stakes – and rather skinny ones at that – when I created the “structure” for the jute to tie to.  These were nowhere near sturdy enough to support the peas.  Once they really got growing, the weight of the peas caused the stakes to lean over, bit by bit.  By the time I noticed that they were not doing their job, the bamboo stakes were already leaning pretty badly.  I tried to prop them up with rebar, but the peas were too far along for this to do much good.  The bush peas are now quite the tangled, flattened mess (photo #2).  I’m harvesting what I can, digging into the packed wad of stems while trying not to snap them off completely.

Obviously I have to work on my trellising skills.  And that plastic trellis that I used on the peas & beans previously?  Well, it has not gone to waste.  This year, I am using it for the cucumber & vining squash.  I chose it for these crops as it seems to be pretty strong, it is easy to wind the vines in and out of the squares (so I don’t have to secure them by tying) & I don’t foresee much of a problem removing the vines from the netting at the end of the season.  We shall see if it holds up to the weight of the tromboncino squash – should I be so lucky as to actually grow any…

Till next time…

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

6 comments:

  1. I'm still changing up what I use some years. Though my peas are pretty set. I grow a double row of Cascadias (one foot wide along the back of the bed, 16' long). I use 4' tall (which is shorter once it is in the ground) t-posts. And string twine every 6 inches. Then during the season I tie them to the twine when they get unruly. Which of course they do on occasion as they are peas. I think if I used two sets of t-pots and put the peas between they would behave. But I only have so many of them.

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    1. That sounds like a good technique and 6" spacing would definitely be better than what I did, which was closer to 12". And I'll probably try using cotton string instead of jute this time.

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  2. This year, I grew a very tall variety of peas. Next year, I think I'm gonna switch back to the bush types. They seen to produce better in our climate. With the lower bush types, I like to just use old twigs.

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    1. So far, the pole varieties seem to do well here. But the "bush" type I chose was way too tall - around 3'-4'. This fall I am trying a much shorter variety that only grows 20"-24" tall.

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  3. I guess we are always trying to experiment and learn. Do we ever get it right! My hubby put up tall trellis but the wire stretched so this year after we took the two fence down that didn't keep Coco out of the garden he is using that wire. Will see how it works! Good luck on yours! Nancy

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    1. That is so true, Nancy - learning in the garden (in one way or another) never really stops, does it? I hope your trellis works out well with the new wire!

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