Growing Vining & Climbing Vegetables in Containers
If you have ever grown one of America's favorite crops, tomatoes (yum!), then you probably know that most varieties require proper plant support and judicious pruning to maximize growth and fruiting capacity. The same is true for other vining and climbing crops.
You may be surprised, but there are a lot of common fruits and vegetables that hail from either vining or climbing types. These types are in dire need of structural support to thrive and maximize their yields: that is, they literally need stakes, cages, or trellises to grow and climb on. While many plants welcome support, it's especially important for tomatoes, particularly Indeterminate varieties; but also for cucumbers, melons, peas, pole beans, winter squash, and pumpkins. If these plants aren't properly cared for and kept off the ground, they may be susceptible to pests, disease, and stem breakage. They also need occasional pruning to help them grow.
To produce the most robust vegetables in your container garden, you'll need to pay close attention to the twin topics, support and pruning. Read on for helpful hints!
Supporting Your Plants in Gardening Box Planters
It's important to decide on the right type of support system for your plants during your garden planning phase, and install it immediately in your gardening container while planting your seedlings; you might be surprised at how soon your plants will need it. Carefully research the plants you want to grow to ensure you know what type of support is best for them. You can opt to build your own support, or use a convenient staking solution.
For example, the EarthBox® Staking System is available in a variety of heights compatible with the EarthBox® Original gardening box planters—3 ft., 5 ft., and 7 ft.—for different plant support needs, and allow the user to maintain the mobility of the entire system.
- The 3 ft. Staking System is recommended for supporting eggplants, peppers, patio tomatoes, and other compact plants that could use some stalk support.
- A “standard” 5 ft. Staking System is excellent for climbing plants such as cucumbers, melons, slicing and paste tomatoes, and pole beans.
- Use a 7 ft. Staking System in your gardening containers for large vining crops such as cherry tomatoes and all varieties of winter squash and gourds.
If you choose to DIY, a very simple trellis or growing framework can be made from wooden strips connected and secured with small screws. Just be sure that you avoid using chemically treated wood, which can poison your plants. Similarly, staking can be constructed from PVC piping and netting. Due to the bulky nature of these types of trellises, you will likely lose mobility of the system.
Additionally, it is important that you do not put a stake, cage, or trellis inside the container garden. Typically, the limited soil depth will not allow these to remain upright with a top-heavy crop and weight not properly dispersed. Even the slightest gust of wind can threaten to knock the entire planter box garden over, which could result in the trellis uprooting the contents and damaging your crop. Always support your plants externally to the system.
One thing you should also keep in mind: make sure all of your plants have open space for air flow and are easily accessible for pruning on all sides. Don't set them up against a wall or fence panel where they may be difficult to tend to.
Don’t forget that any larger or heavier fruits, such as melons or pumpkins, will not only need trellis support for their vines; but additional support for their fruit so they do not drop off the vine prematurely. Slings can easily be made from cutting strips of fabric and tying them under each fruit to the netting when the fruit is the size of your fist. Repurposing old sheets and t-shirts is a great way to do this with no added expense.
Most plants will require some pruning during the growing season. A plant that's pruned of excess growth is more likely to direct its energies to producing flowers and fruit more quickly, and the results will usually be larger than otherwise. Furthermore, the leaves of a pruned and supported plant dry faster, so they're less susceptible to pathogens like bacteria and fungi. The leaves also tend to be denser, which protect fruit more effectively.
Prune only when the foliage is dry; that is, avoid pruning early in the morning when plants have dew, or after rainfall. In particular, check for discolored and damaged or diseased stems and leaves; prune out the unhealthy growth, and tend to any pests you discover immediately. Always prune flush with the stem, if possible. If you want to limit the height of the plant, pinch back the top as it reaches the top of the Staking System.
Take Your Garden To New Heights
Plants respond better when they're supported properly and prudently trimmed. Providing support and pruning doesn't require too much of your time—and by putting in the extra work, the results can be very bountiful!
Tell Us in the Comments: What's your favorite vining veggie? Share your tips and tricks for staking and support!