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Creative Staking - Preventing Garden Flops

Even the most dazzling beauties have their shortcomings. Lanky limbs and top heavy tresses can lead to an eventual down fall. I'm referring to plants in the garden of course. Often plants with big blooms, tall stems or a vining habit need a little support to stay upright.

Staking your plants is a task that you should not put off. It is best to get your supports in place in spring before the plants really take off. This will save you time and heartache later in the season. I speak from experience when I say that all it takes is one strong storm to knock all your gorgeous phlox blooms in the dirt or make a mess of the gargantuan Helianthus angustifolius you thought you had under control. Adding a little support early on also helps you reign in some of those garden thugs like large ornamental grasses, which makes working around them much easier.

You don't have to spend big bucks on staking materials. Here are four thrifty ideas for creating some support for your plants.

Twig and Twine Teepee: 3 long, trimmed branches, spool of twine, scissors

Twine Teepee like to use a twig teepee for vining plants such as tomatoes, morning glories and sweet peas. It's a quick and easy way to make a container more versatile and it also adds some nice vertical interest to flowerbeds. Just push 3 equally long branches or bamboo poles in the ground, gather them at the top and bind them with a piece of twine. Working up from the bottom wind your twine around the teepee, being sure to loop it around each leg a few times as you go. When you reach the peak of the teepee, clip the twine from the spool and secure it to the top.

Perennial Cage: concrete reinforcing wire, wire cutters, gloves, needle nose pliers

Perennial CageI like to use these cages made from concrete reinforcing wire to support clump forming plants such as phlox, peonies, ornamental grasses and asters. This type of wire can be found at any builder supply company. Choose a light gauge wire that is easy to work with. A 5-foot section will make about a 16-inch diameter cage.

Cut the wire creating long tines at the base to push into the ground and on the ends to latch the cage together. Then bend it into a circle and hook the tines together where the ends meet.

These cages are also effective at bringing large plants under control, such as ornamental grasses or other types of unwieldy garden thugs that tend to take over a flowerbed.

Masonry Support: electric drill, 1/4 inch drill bit, lead anchor, #8 screw hook, medium gauge wire, 3/4 inch clear vinyl tubing

Rose SupportThis is a trick I use to create some support for woody vines and roses on masonry walls. First, find the appropriate place on the wall and drill a hole into the mortar joint. Then place a lead anchor into the hole and tap it in to make sure that it is secure. Twist a number 8 screw hook into the lead of the anchor. As you do this, the lead will expand to fill the hole. For the last step take a 6 to 8 inch piece of medium gauge wire and run it through a 3/4 inch diameter piece of clear vinyl tubing. Depending on the diameter of your plant's stems, about 4 inches long will do. Then just wrap the tubing around the branch and attach it to the hook. This tubing will keep the wire from cutting into the branch and the hooks will allow you to remove the wire from time to time for maintenance.

Pole Stakes: long, trimmed branches, twine, scissors

Simple StakeThis is the easiest support to make and is ideal for extra tall single stemmed plants such as hollyhocks, foxglove and sunflowers. I use sturdy branches saved from my fall garden clean up, but bamboo works equally well. Gently push the pole into the ground near the base of the plant and tie the stem to the pole with twine. You may find that as the growing season progresses you will need to add more ties.

Smaller twigs can be used for light and airy perennials like baby's breath. There's nothing to using them. Just push the sticks into the ground and weave the plants up through them.