Tips

Climbing edibles

Tomatoe-Teepees

When we think of climbing plants, we often picture flowering climbers such as wisteria and jasmine, but there are some vegetables with a climbing habit too.

Climbing plants have the great advantage that, by the sheer nature of their vertical growth, they take up less space in the garden. Remember, though, that climbers have a lot of above ground growth, so their roots need some extra care. Prepare the soil before planting by digging in plenty of organic matter (well aged manure or compost). Make sure that the soil drains effectively. Mulch around the base of the plant so that roots stay cool and moist.

Productive plants are especially hungry, so feed regularly with a good quality fertiliser. Dynamic Lifter for fruit is good, or fortnightly applications of Yates Uplift.

When it comes to providing supports for your climbing vegies, there are endless choices. Fortunately, because most vegies are annuals, the support doesn’t have to be there for keeps. Smaller plants will grow happily on a tepee or tripod made of bamboo stakes. Star pickets can create a stronger and more permanent climbing framework. Something as simple as a few horizontal wires attached to a fence may be sufficient but, if the fence reflects the heat, make sure you leave an air gap between the wires and the wall.

Plastic mesh or lattice can be purchased ready to go. One easy suggestion is to shape and tie the wire or plastic mesh into a cylinder with a diameter that’s broad enough for the climbing plants to scramble up and through. Old wooden stepladders and fencing panels can look picturesque but they tend to be weighty, so make sure they are well anchored.

Which climbing vegies?

Climbing beans like Blue Lake will crop for longer than the bush varieties, especially if the beans area regularly harvested. Yates Purple King Climbing Bean has deep purple pods that turn green when they are cooked. Kids love this almost magical colour change.

Climbing snow peas are happiest when they’re grown in spring or autumn. Sow seeds direct into pots or a garden bed next to a support the plants can climb onto. Even a teepee made from bamboo will be strong enough. Sugarsnap Pea is another climber that develops slightly fuller pods. Like snow peas, the pods can be eaten whole.

Some members of the cucurbit family will climb happily, but only if the fruit doesn’t get too big. A giant pumpkin would pull its vine down, but small cucumbers such as Yates Lebanese will happily scramble up a fence, trellis or teepee. Use soft ties to attach the plant to vertical wires or similar supports.

Many cherry tomatoes – such as Yates Small Fry – grow on sprawling plants that do well next to a fence or wall. The reflected warmth encourages the tomatoes to ripen and extends the cropping season.

Climbing spinach (Basella alba) is also called Malabar spinach or Ceylon spinach. It’s a tropical twiner that can be grown as an annual in cooler climates. Plants will produce seeds in late summer that can be sown in the next spring. Feed and water well to encourage rapid growth. Pick leaves often and use as you would fresh spinach.


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