Many gardeners grow vegies in pots, tubs, planters, and self-watering pots. Container gardening is an excellent solution when space is limited or more growing area is required.
When growing climbing vegetables such as beans and peas, indeterminate (vining) tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, and zucchini in pots, staking them up to support them in containers can be quite a challenge though. Plants can get quite top=heavy and tip over easily, and most potting mixes aren’t as firm as garden soils, so the garden stakes inevitably work themselves loose after being blown to-and-fro by the wind, and cause considerable root damage in the process.
There are a few solutions that do work, such as placing containers along a sunny fence and tying climbing vegies onto the fence itself, or using wire mesh fastened securely to the fence to attach the plants to. If pots are lined up along the edge of a garden bed or lawn, the stakes can be put into the soil behind the pots, but this restricts access to one side of a garden bed or a section of a lawn.
How to Stake Large Plants in Pots and Containers
An innovative gardener always looks for better ways to do things! Not being satisfied with the way things were done in the past, I invented a better way to stake up plants that are growing in containers. I’ve tested it out over a whole growing season and can confirm that it works!
Here are the instructions on how to set up a DIY garden stake brick anchor to support garden stakes outside of containers.
Some house bricks have holes in them, and garden stakes can fit into those holes loosely, or tightly, or not at all. The ends of wooden garden stakes can be carved a bit thinner with a rasp or axe to make them fit if need be.
A brick won’t support a tall, heavy stake very well at all though, because there isn’t enough support to keep it vertical, and insufficient weight to keep in from tipping over.
Stacking two bricks together with the holes lined up works much better though. This setup supports twice the length of the end of the stake, so uts stays upright and doesn’t lean. It also weighs twice as much, and is much more stable. Need more stability and weight? Stack three bricks together!
- If the stakes fits quite tightly, it can be gently hammered in, otherwise it’s necessary to thin the end of the stake to fit.
- If the stake sits too loosely in the holes in the brick, secure it by jamming a stick or other object in the same whole.
The stake can also be place d in the holes at one end of a stack of bricks if necessary to hide it from view when used at edges of tubs.
In the picture below, the garden stake brick anchor is placed behind a self-watering tub in order to secure a tomato plant.
The tomato plant pictured below is tied using soft fabric plant ties to the stake, and is well supported.
Using two bricks to support every stake is an innovative solution when there are only a few plants that need staking, but not a very elegant solution when may pots or planters need staking. They say “necessity is the mother of invention”, and since I needed to address this issue, I invented a second solution to support large plantings vertically.
How to Support a Mesh Panel for Growing Climbing Vegetables in Containers
Mesh panels can be supported by posts in garden beds as a vertical gardening solution to grow climbing vegetables on. Since they carry a lot of weight at the peak of the growing season, they can get very heavy, and need to be quite strong.
Container gardens usually sit on hard surfaces, such as concrete or pavers, which make it exceeding difficult to put posts into the ground.
To support a panel from the edges, place a stake in the holes on one side of a brick, this allows the stake to line up flush with the edge of the panel without having the side of the brick extending out, which is unsightly and might also present a tripping hazard.
Here’s how we set up a mesh panel screen for containers:
- Set up the brick-supported stakes on either side of the mesh panel, resting the bottom of the mesh panel of the top surface of the bricks. For wide pieces of mesh panel, use supports ion the centre also, or along the length as required.
- Tie the mesh panel to the stakes using galvanised wire.
- Rest the mesh panel between heavy planters and a wall, this stabilises the mesh panel to prevents it tipping over.
- For added security, I would recommend tying the mesh panel to the wall with short lengths of wire. If there are no attachment points, screw in eye-screws, they have a screw point on the end, and a loop at the top to tie things to. When fastening to brickwork and concrete, use a hammer drill fitted with a masonry drill bit, fit a plastic wall plug into the hole, then screw the eye-screw into it.
Here’s the completed container garden setup!
The far left self-watering tub has a garden-stake brick-anchor supporting the tomato plant on its left, the next three tomato plants in there are supported the traditional way, using stakes place in the container. The bamboo stakes are visibly leaning and need to be replaced with the new staking method.
The planter on the far right has the mesh panel in place, with cucumbers covering its entire length and breadth, with a climbing bean tucked in on the far right hand side. The mesh panel used here is around the size of a house door and adds over two square metres of extra growing space to this small container garden.
The wall that the planters are lined up against is north facing (midday sun facing in Australia, in the southern hemisphere, use a south wall in the US and UK, northern hemisphere), so it acts like a thermal mass, heating up during the day, and releasing the heat at night as the temperature drops, keeping the air around the plants a bit warmer. This extends the growing season of warm season vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, chillies, cucumbers, pumpkins, etc by keeping the plants warmer and protecting them from frosts.
Draping a sheet of greenhouse plastic over the mesh panel and securing it with clothes pegs or stronger clips along the top protects the plants during winter, and can keep them growing for a whole year or more. The lower house windows pictured here also end up covered by the greenhouse plastic, which captures any heat loss through the glass in winter and helps warm the plants even more, effectively using the problem of thermal loss through glass to the benefit of the plants.
Selecting Mesh Panels for Vertical Gardening
The mesh panel used here was recycled material, and has a smaller mesh size than is preferable.
A panel with 10cm (4”) mesh is ideal because it’s lighter, and that mesh size permits a gardener to put their hands through it, making it easier to manage climbing vegetables as they grow.
Use a galvanised mesh panel, as the zinc coating protects it from rust, and a good quality galvanised mesh panel will last almost indefinitely.
Heavy Duty Plant Staking for Containers
In summary, bricks make great garden edging, and the ones with holes make excellent garden stake anchors!
If any gardener thinks this setup isn’t heavy duty enough, well, we can take things up a notch yet again.
How about a single or double-sized concrete besser clock (cinder block), filled with concrete with a very short section of steel pipe set into it, wide enough to hold a very thick heavy-duty tree stake, or even better yet, a steel farm fencing picket or star picket? That definitely won’t move very easily!