Lee Valley Tools Gardening Newsletter
Vol. 2, Issue 1
February 2007
New Year's Resolutions for the Garden

With a new growing season upon us, now is the time to set some garden resolutions. If you resolve to take time early in the season to complete chores like staking, mulching and edging, you'll save time later in the summer – time that can be spent enjoying the results of your hard work.

This is the one resolution I really must keep. The trick is to do it before the plants fall down. It's a seemingly simple theory, yet inevitably difficult in practice.

The key benefit of keeping this resolution is that if the chore is completed early in the season, the end results can be virtually invisible – the plants will grow, obscure the supports and look natural. Contrast this to, say, Sarah Bernhardt peonies hauled off the ground after the inevitable June thunderstorm, braced with long, thick stakes and girded with binder twine.

One way to support bushy plants is to surround them with twiggy branches pushed into the ground in the spring. The growing plants will cover the branches, but at the same time be supported by them. A similar idea is to lay light metal mesh on top of plants such as peonies before they emerge. The stems will rise up through the mesh and pull it up, providing support as the plant continues to grow.

If the opportunity for discreet staking passes, the opposite strategy might work – make the support an element of the garden design. You can prop up plants with garden ornaments or use brightly painted stakes that complement or contrast the plant. Another option for some plants is to shear or pinch them back before bud set. This will make them shorter, bushier and less prone to flopping.
  Discreet staking
Fig. 1 – Staking early in the season allows growing plants to cover the support naturally.
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