I’ve made this mistake too many times. I once assumed that since yellow summer squash could support itself that winter and acorn squash could, too – wrong! Winter and acorn squash grow on vines and will sprawl all out over your garden if you don’t give them a trellis or something to grow on. It was very frustrating to find them growing all over my patio and making attempts to choke out my other plants!
I’ve also made the mistake on the other side. I’ve discovered after wasting lots of money on extra tomato cages, that peppers have woody stems and can support themselves.
So, I wanted to spare you the same grief and decided to just make a quick list so you’ll know which of the most common fruits and vegetables need support and which ones don’t.
Why plants need support
If you don’t support plants that require it, you’ll end up with deformed plants that will become more susceptible to disease and pests as it lies on the ground. Even worse, you could end up with vines that grow on top of and choke out your other plants.
To solve the problem, you can support plants with stakes, a trellis, cages or any recycled item that you don’t mind your plants growing on. I’ve seen people recycle a baby crib – they used the wooden rails to grow peas and the bottom metal frame to grow cucumbers.
Supporting your plants can also help you save space by allowing plants to grow vertically. If you train them to grow upward, you’ll be able to grow more in less ground space.
Plants that need support
Tomatoes – they start out sturdy and then just when you least expect it, they topple over. Use a cage or tie them to a stake to keep them well supported. If you use a stake, you may have to repeat the process of tying them as they grow, especially if you have an indeterminate variety.
Cucumbers – they will resist more diseases such as mold if you keep them off the ground. Growing them on a trellis or in a tall cage is a good solution. This also makes it so much easier to harvest.
Peas – Peas need a trellis or a cage otherwise they will sprawl all over. You could also use a combination of a few stakes with string tied horizontally (works like a gate).
Winter and Acorn squash – needs trellis support similar to what you would use for cucumbers works well for squash.
Beans – most beans require support similar to what you would use for peas.
Blackberries and Raspberries – needs trellis support, although a large cage might also work.
Grapes – needs a trellis or vineyard style wire support system.
These plants grow just fine on their own:
I’ve tried and failed at supporting these:
These will grow vertically, but unless you’ve got strong support nets to hold up the ripening melons, they will get too heavy and will fall off the vine before they are ready. I was able to get a small harvest, but melons seem to grow better when you hill them up and try to keep guiding the vines away from any other plants. It’s a good idea to guide them in a circular pattern to keep them contained to one area.
These are just a few of the most common fruit/vegetable plants. Hopefully, this list will help you make better decisions about where you’ll plant these items in your garden. Some of these could also work in large containers. Experiment to find out what works for you.
For more on growing and training cucumbers and tomatoes to grow vertically on a trellis in small spaces, check out this cool video from Growing Your Greens.