As your plants grow in a polytunnel, things can quickly fill up all the space available in a polytunnel garden. In the summer months, the polytunnel can be at its fullest. Choosing and using the right DIY plant support ideas makes things easier. And can help you maximise your use of space.
Plants expand upwards and outwards. They can often flop and sprawl. If not given some support, they can often take up more space than they need to. Using the right supports is one way to make sure you achieve as high a yield as possible.
There are, of course, plenty of plant supports that you can purchase for your polytunnel garden. But with a little effort and ingenuity, there are plenty of DIY plant support ideas to consider. In this article, we’ll talk about some of the simple solutions you can employ to grow more vertically and support plants you grow in your polytunnel.
Why Plant Supports Might Be Necessary
There are a number of reasons why you might want to use plant supports in your polytunnel. For example, you might need plant supports to:
Grow vertically, to fit in more food in less space.
Stop overcrowding and reduce risk of disease.
Prevent plants from breaking under the weight of fruits etc..
To keep fruits and foliage up and off the soil (helping to prevent rotting or disease spread).
Keep plants off paths and ensure good access in your polytunnel.
I would definitely recommend that anyone who wants to make the most of what their polytunnel can provide consider implementing some of the DIY plant support ideas in this article.
Why Make Your Own Plant Supports?
You might be wondering why you should make your own plant supports rather than buying some. Of course, one reason is obvious – to save money. By making your own, you can avoid outlay on these items and save your money for other things.
Beyond this, however, taking a DIY approach can also be a more sustainable choice. It can help cut your carbon footprint and allow you to reduce your negative impact on people and planet. This is especially true if you take care to avoid unnecessary plastic products. And it can also help if, wherever possible, you choose natural or reclaimed materials.
DIY Plant Support Ideas: Canes/ Sticks/ Stakes
The first, simplest and most obvious way to support your plants is by using stakes, canes or other individual sticks. Rather that buying stakes or canes, you can consider taking a DIY approach and using what you may already have to hand.
For example, you can use bamboo canes harvested from your own garden. Growing bamboo in your garden could be a great idea. In addition to serving useful functions as privacy screens, wind breaks etc. bamboo can also be useful for providing canes for your garden. Grow your own and you will never have to buy them from a garden centre again. Many types of bamboo also offer addition yields – many even provide edible shoots.
Of course, you can also consider using branches pruned from trees on your property. Any straight, relatively long branch could be utilised to give plants some support. Twiggy sticks can also be great supports for plants like peas – giving them plenty of places to cling onto.
But even if you don’t have natural resources you can use, you might still have other options. For example, you could use reclaimed timber to make some stakes to use in your polytunnel garden.
DIY Wire/ Twine Supports
If you have crop bars on your polytunnel, you already have a head start when creating plant support. Other DIY plant support ideas revolve around using the existing polytunnel structure along with wire or twine. Use wire or twine, affixed between crop bars at the top of the tunnel, and add further strands hanging down and secured with tent pegs or similar at the base. By doing this, you can create a series of cordons for tomatoes or other plants.
By tying in tomato plants or other plants to the hanging strands as they grow, you can set up a cordon system that is a great way to make the most of the space you have available.
DIY Plant Support Ideas: Wigwams
Wigwams of canes, branches or stakes can also be a good way to make the most of your space. Making a wigwam simply involves using straight wooden poles (using natural or reclaimed materials) placed in a circular shape. Then you will tie these together at the top.
Wigwams can be an ideal way to grow cane plants like raspberries in small spaces. They can also be ideal for other climbing or vining plants – like runner beans for example.
If you have kids, a wigwam can not only be plant support but can also double as a den. By leaving a space to get inside the wigwam, you can create a living den for younger polytunnel gardeners to enjoy.
But another thing to consider is that a wigwam type plant support system can also allow you create a shaded growing area inside your polytunnel. Runner beans or other climbing plants grown up a wigwam structure will create a shaded circle inside. This can be a good spot to grow plants like lettuce and spinach that can be prone to bolting in hot summer weather.
DIY Cages and Other Surrounding Support
Another category of DIY plant support ideas involves making your own cages or other surrounding supports. Rather than providing something for plants to naturally climb, or something to tie them to, cages form a barrier around plants to keep them upright.
There are a wide range of ways to make your own tomato cages, or surrounding support structures for other plants. For example, you could:
Make a circle from chicken wire/ fencing materials.
Construct a simple wooden cage from branches or reclaimed wood.
Construct simple structures from other reclaimed materials (plumbing pipes, for example).
And those are just a few of the simple options that you might like to consider.
DIY Plant Support Ideas: Trellis
One final category to consider when it comes to DIY plant support ideas is trellising. Building a trellis inside your polytunnel can be another great way to ensure that plants have the support they need. And is one final way to make sure you are optimising your use of space.
You can make a simple DIY trellis from a range of natural or reclaimed materials. For example, you might make a trellis from:
Bamboo canes or natural branches from your garden.
Reclaimed wood slats and other reclaimed timber.
Simple wooden frames with fencing, chicken wire or netting inside.
I have a trellis in my polytunnel leaning against a crop bar and secured into the soil at the base. I made it from reclaimed wood and leftover fencing from another project. I have grape vines climbing this structure, which provide a more shaded area behind.
But you could also use a trellis to grow a wide range of other perennial or annual climbing or vining plants. For example, it could be ideal for cucumbers, squash or pumpkins. And it could also be used for flowering plants like sweet peas, for example.
Have you implemented one or more of these DIY plant support ideas in your polytunnel? Share your own ideas and experiences in the comments below, and help other polytunnel gardeners take a sustainable, DIY approach.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.