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Trellis home vegetables for better fruit, harvest

By Brad Haire
University of Georgia

Those tiny vegetable transplants and seeds you planted early this spring are growing fast. Soon they'll be burdened with a bounty of fresh produce. Don't jeopardize the fruits of your garden labor now, says a University of Georgia specialist. Trellis those vegetables before it's too late.

"Trellising is one chore that should be accomplished fairly soon after the plants are established," said Terry Kelley, a UGA Cooperative Extension vegetable horticulturist.

But even if you forgot or didn't know to do it, you can still give your vegetable plants the support they deserve, he said.

"Trellising gets the plant and fruit up off the ground. This makes for better quality fruit and less disease," he said. "It also helps maintain order in the garden and makes harvesting easier."

Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and eggplants are vegetables commonly trellised, he said. But almost any plant can use a little help supporting itself or its fruit.

For tomatoes, some people simply put cages over the plants to support them as they grow, he said. Another method is to drive a 1- inch-square, 4-foot stake into the ground by each plant and tie the plant to the stake.

If you have a long row of tomatoes, he said, set a large post at each end of the row and again about every 20 feet within it. Attach a wire across the top of the posts and about 4 inches above the ground. Use twine to tie each plant to the wires for support.

Peppers can be staked like tomatoes, he said. Place similar 1- inch-square stakes about every fourth plant with twine running from stake to stake. Start the first twine 4 inches above the ground.

As the peppers grow, put another string about every 4 inches above the last one. Start with the first stake and go on one side of the plants. Then go around the next stake and so on. When you get to the last stake, come back down the other side of the plants to box the plants in and keep them from falling over.

To support cucumbers, use 4-foot fencing wire and some posts to build a temporary fence beside the cucumber row. Then just train the vines up on the fence as they grow.

"You'll find and pick your cukes easier," he said.

Eggplant can be staked, too. Place either tomato stakes or rebar next to each eggplant. Then secure it to the stake. Be careful not to cut into plants as you tie them with twine. But keep the twine tight enough to support the plants.

While you're at it, "don't forget to scout for insects and disease problems," Kelley said. "And keep weeds in check, and water as needed."

(Brad Haire is the former news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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