Strange trellises of the odd kind

As soon as someone mentioned vine conduction systems , or vine trellising, those in the know immediately think of grapes, which they very quickly ferment and age into their favourite bottle of red.

The fact is that many plants are vines, or capable of being trained on trellises. Just think of peas, green beans, tomatoes, and to many people’s surprise, any member of the genus Cucurbita – which encompasses cucumbers, melons, and any possible pumpkin or squash or yam you can think of.

I love growing pumpkins and squash. I derive much joy from watching them grow. As some of you know, I am growing a lot more vegetables this year on the piece of land where unruly wild grasses and weeds predominate, also known as my garden.

For the two previous years I have grown gem squash on the vine with modest success. This is a southern African delight, and highly prized by those who now live in Europe. This year, I have modified the training method, in the hope that harvests will be more robust.

Some of you are acquainted with my joyful pumpkins from 2016, when I see my strimmer still worked.

Originally, I named the largest pumpkin “Joyful”, but have since realised that they all are.

It will come as no surprise that I am growing large pumpkins (from the same batch of seeds as the joyful ones above, but this time, on top of composted weeds and a “use-what-you-have” trellis. They have grown so much in the last two days, I thought they deserved a photo,

A.frame comprising an old ladder and an old bed base. Vines being trained upward by means of thick twine. Cardboard deters weeds.

Large pumpkins (seeds from 2018 harvest) are in a hastily constructed raised bed, purposely planted too close together, and sharing their space with two volunteer potato plants, and two plants which have grown from chits. Only ladders and bed bases seem to be a theme this year:

2 May 2019: More training twine required, and a bit more soil, as the Hügel subsides in places

Any viticulturalist will tell you that vines needs to be told what to do. Obviously any attempt at creating the perfect cordon on a pumpkin vine would be ridiculous, but from this stage of growth onwards, I will be carefully assessing what to train where. One thing is certain, I shall be leading these plants far from the slugs that nearly killed most of them in their first few weeks here.

I had some more water delivered to my cistern today, and while I was waiting for the tank to fill up, I finished the last few lashes on sticks from unwanted growth beneath the olive tree, which I cut and stripped in winter. If you want to train vines, you’re going to need lots of poles and sticks, and string. Tying knots is what has passed for five-minute breaks these past few weeks, but I saw that the spaghetti squash, which have survived all manner of creepy crawlies, will need their first training session tomorrow. Since it is a small squash, I think the lighter frame will be suitable.

One of the motley collection of remaining stakes I have broke as I inserted it into the ground, hence the odd configuration. There is a foundling tomato plant in there, and several garlic plants. Since I wasn’t gardening, strictly speaking, weeding has not been completed. The variegation on the leaves will disappear once I give the plants suitable plant food.

In the photo below, there is a rather short lemon tree in the background; the next long stick I find might go from this frame to the lemon tree, itself somewhat stunted and water deprived.

Still no sign of the carrots planted across the middle of this bed. In the background, another line of large joyful pumpkins which will have to content themselves with spreading along the the ground.

My garden is not beautiful yet; it is a constant work in progress. Some views do have their charm, though:

The raised bed in the background has two more spaghetti squash angling for the neighbour’s fence, which happens to be perfect for vegetable vines. 🙂 Mulch littering the sides of this Hügelkultur will be cut up a bit more, and used here more sparingly; the rest will move elsewhere.

The purpose of this post is to document how ungainly my vining solutions have been. I hope that very little of the nutty construction is obvious in about a month’s time, when green foliage has spread everywhere. Besides, there are pretty flowers in the front garden beds – and one or two joyful pumpkins planted on a whim, if memory serves.

In the meantime, I need to weed in between my pea plants, and interplant with tomato seedlings. No point in restaking or rewiring that territory. After all, I need to focus on what on earth I am going to do about a trellis for the butternut squash, due for planting any day now.

You will have noticed that each trellis has a narrow side. This is chiefly for ease of access for watering, weeding and training the vines, and could be viewed as the beginner’s version of glorious, walk-through arches between raised beds. It should also be noted that I have chosen the site of each squash or pumpkin quite carefully, and trust that my intuition has been accurate in this regard.

With all these pumpkins and squash growing relatively close together, I am going to pollinate manually as much as possible, although I won’t be disappointed if the occasional cross pollination does occur.

©2019 Allison Wright

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