Plants such as climbing beans, sweet peas, cucumbers, grapes and passionfruit all grow on vines with small twisting tendrils that enable them to climb upwards in search of sunlight and space for their fruit and flowers to thrive. In their wild, natural habitat they will clamber over a shrub or up a tree and in our gardens we need to offer them something that provides them with a similar means of support.
For annual climbers - things like cucumbers, peas and beans that grow, flower and produce fruit in one season before dying off - a support is often only temporary. Bamboo canes and sticks are most often put up at the start of the season and then removed to a shed or garage after the harvest. This means that a new location can be chosen for these crops each year. When you put up a wigwam or a row of canes its important to take into account the weight that a productive, fruit-laden plant will exert on them â€“ as well as the wind resistance that dense foliage can offer. To ensure you create a solid structure that will be up to the job push your canes or sticks well into the soil and tie them firmly. You structure should be tall and wide enough for the growing habit of the plant in question - for instance, most climbing beans will easily grow to six foot plus. Your support should also provide enough options for the plant growing on it to attach itself. Peas like a crowd of random twigs or some mesh to grow up whereas supports for beans are usually a row of poles with string or twine woven between them to give the vine something to hold onto. As well as homemade climbing structures you can buy obelisks and wigwams made from hazel rods, metal and plastic to suit your taste.
For permanent plantings such as passionfruit, grapes and kiwifruit supports can be made from trellis fixed to fences or walls, a pergola with wires attached to it, training wires or sheets of metal mesh fixed to a wall or frame, arches and even small buildings likes gazebos. You can recycle retired garden features like an old greenhouse or a washing line. When thinking about a permanent addition to your garden remember that it not only has the task of being functional but also of looking good - or at least appropriate. A permanent structure needs to be built to last and may require the services of a carpenter, landscaper or a builder.
Structures can look great in summer covered in lush foliage but in winter they can become an eyesore - covered in a tangle of bare stems. It all comes down to personal taste, so think about the look of your garden and how a temporary or permanent structure will fit in with everything else. A pergola clad in dense foliage can cast heavy shade that can be beneficial over an outdoor dining area. But then again, grape vines have a habit of attracting wasps that can be a nuisance if you happen to be doing a spot of outdoor dining nearby. A row of bean poles can create dappled shade and shelter from wind on one side that will favour leafy plants like lettuce, silverbeet and spinach. Then again you might not want shade, so position your poles where they won't deprive other plants from sun. A series of obelisks or wigwams can give a vegetable garden a sense of order and decorative layout but should be accessible for maintenance and harvest of produce.