Time to grow up

PUBLISHED: 11:13 05 May 2015 | UPDATED: 11:13 05 May 2015

runner beans

runner beans


Belinda Gray’s guide to growing fruit and veg

Patch tomatoesPatch tomatoes

I am taking the cobwebs off all my willow plant supports, stored over winter in the dry of the greenhouse. Growing upwards is not only space saving, but helps avoid some of the pest and disease problems incurred at ground level.

By keeping ripening crops airy they are easier to pick and look pretty too. Cascading sweet peas and a climbing nasturtium like Alaska are truly stunning in full flower, and are important for attracting pollinators and insect wildlife. Building your own wooden supports is a cheap option, and with purple, green or dove grey garden paints they can really add a sense of style.

Height from obelisks, hazel and willow wigwams or rusted iron supports can add a design feature particularly if positioned symmetrically at corners, the start of paths or in the middle of your beds. Aim to achieve 6-8 ft for drama and heavy cropping, pinching out the growing tips once they reach the top. Anchoring supports down is also vital as a windy day could see them half way across the garden with plants ripped out. Metal tent and fleece pegs are ideal stabilisers. Remember to secure well at planting time.

Plug in

If you are now planning what to sow or buy as plug plants, consider some of the excellent climbing vegetable crops and decorative flowers that constitute this group of valuable, vertical growers. My favourite for colour are mini squash and pumpkins. I always select the trailing varieties and not the bushy types, which will never grow tall.

As the trailing vines lengthen you can wind them up supports, tying in with flexi tie, a miraculous garden product of stretchy, brown plastic string that stretches as stems swell, or try coloured garden twine (nutscene.com) for a bit of horticultural chic.

Borlotti beans do well, with their speckled red and cream pods and deep purple or yellow climbing French beans.

The climbing courgette Tromboncino never disappoints with its pale green boomerang-like fruits, and the crunchy, apple-like yellow cucumber called Crystal Lemon, which seems to grow as fast as you can pick it in high summer.

For the more adventurous, tunnels and arches are tremendous features to cover pathways, entry points or seating areas and trailing vegetables make brilliant climbers – what could be more dramatic in a garden than a colourful mixed squash tunnel?

Suffolk-based Harrod Horticultural (harrodhorticultural.com) are repeated Chelsea winners with their range of amazing steel structures, highly recommended with a 10-year guarantee and bespoke service to suit your space.

Scour the seed catalogues now for some award-winning (AGM) climbing crops and add some colour and interest to your growing space with these fabulous, vertical growers.

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