Midsummer brings big growth, even to a semi-neglected garden. When your plants grow taller, you might need to add simple supports to help them grow to their full height.
July Garden Building Supports
Whether you planted seeds in the spring or bought garden store plants in June, July is the month that the plants need your support—actual, physical support.
One of my husband’s hops didn’t make it this year, so we filled in the space with two tomatoes and a chili pepper plant. Those tomatoes are huge and bushy, so we have surrounded them with wire cages.
Old hops are woody, but new hops are just thin vines. They need something to hold on to as they grow to 12-14′. It’s a light enough plant that string is strong enough to hold it up. We didn’t want to hurt the roots of the plant, so we didn’t anchor the string in the ground itself. We ran one string across the planter, tacked to the side; and we tied on another string to run from ground-level to the wire we installed last year for our grapes. (We actually did this last month, anticipating the need.) The hops have now reached the wire, which you can’t see clearly in the photo below except that the string stops in mid-air on the bottom wire and the grapes are creeping across the top wire.
In this fairly neglected, very small but wild-ing garden, you can see 10 food plants. From right: 2 kinds of heirloom tomatoes, 1 chili pepper, 2 kinds of lettuce (one from plant, one from seed), 2 kinds of hops, grapes, blackberries (mixed in with the grapes), and raspberries (the canes in front of the grapes). Not bad for a space about 3′ x 10′. Just outside this space, I have garlic that is ready, several kinds of mint, a lot of fennel, cucumbers that will probably succumb to the snails, summer squash, and zucchini. All I have are the 2-3′ wide spaces around my house and garage. I have flowers as well. I am not a gardener.
If I can do this, you can do this.
Assess the Support Need. Figure out if any of your plants need a little help. Are there any creeping vines or leaning stalks? While you are making your assessment, see if they need compost or manure.
Goal: see who needs help
Make or Buy Supports. It’s very easy to buy a tomato cage, and you can use it year after year. String is very easy when you need a minor support that isn’t meant to last. Wire provides a minor support that will last. We’ve used all three in this small space. It’s so easy, that I will probably stake a few of my heavy stalked flowers next year to keep them upright.
Goal: give the plants you have their best chance
Water? Make sure that all of your plants are getting the water they need. the top photo above was taken when it was 107 degrees outside (that’s 46.6 Celcius). It’s HOT. Don’t water your plants during the day. If the water droplets get on the leaves, the leaves can burn in the sun—and there goes your plant. It’s tough to see my sad lettuce every day about 2:00PM, wilted flat to the ground, but it perks up and firms up again every evening. Water in the early morning or in the evening. I have my sprinklers set to water every other day at 5:00AM.
Goal: keep the plants healthy and well watered
Total Cost So Far
- String – $0 (on hand)
- Tomato cages – $3 for 2
- Total for July – $3.00 (supports)
- Total for June – $16.50 (plants)
- Total for May – $34.00 (manure, top soil, peat moss)
- Total for April – $18.00 (hops)
- Total for the year – $71.50
Total Time So Far
At this point, it takes a lot less than 30 minutes a month to take care of plants, unless you need to water them. It’s such a pleasure to cruise around my 30 square feet every morning, that I don’t even count that time. All of the work time putting up the tomato cages and hops strings was really more like 2-3 minutes, but I added padding. Now that the garden is looking so alive, I wouldn’t want you to think it doesn’t need you. So, 10 minutes.
- Building supports – 10 minutes
- Shopping – 1 hour
- Digging & planting – 30 minutes
- Previous time spent (research, prep, building raised bed, digging) – 9 hours
- Total so far = 10 hours 40 minutes
I said no more than 30 minutes a month most months, so this is how you can spend this month’s 30 minutes.
- Tie a string – 5 minutes
- Install a cage – 5 minutes
- Gaze – 20 minutes
It’s getting easier. If you want to get in on this easy action, go buy a tomato plant at the garden store. Put it in a pot so you can bring it inside when it gets cold. It isn’t too late to create a tiny wild garden.
See the Future Garden
My husband’s intention is to create a wall of hops. These plants are a long-term investment of time. They will create shade for our kitchen as well as feeding his brewing habit.