The Caging Method

DIY Caging

DIY Caging

 There  are many reasons to cage your growing plants. Caging keeps insects out which minimizes damage from caterpillars, leafhoppers, vine borers, aphids, and more.  Caging also keeps your seeds pure and true-to-type. For example, if you are growing 3 different types of beans this year that you intend to keep seed from, they can cross via bee pollen transfer. Although your plants will grow as they should this season, the seeds you collect from them will not be pure the following year. 

Please note that some plants require pollination. In order for a squash to grow, an insect must visit the male and female flowers on your plant. If the blooms were caged no insects could reach the flowers to complete this process and the plants would bear no fruit. Caging is still very beneficial to keep insect pollinating plants pure, however they must be uncaged, pollinated by hand, and re-caged. When this process is used it is important to mark each of the female flowers you pollinate (we use surveyor tape gently tied under the ovary so we know which veggies are pure to keep for seed). Generally, it is easier to bag individual blooms on a plant like this, instead of  the cage method. Bags made from organza, spun polyester, or pantyhose are ideal for this purpose and can be removed as soon as the bloom closes. 

Plants that are self-pollinating like most bean and pea varieties do not require insects, as they pollinate themselves as the name implies. These varieties can be caged to ensure pure seed. 

Caging is fairly simple. Window screen, organza, and spun polyester are popular choices of material. In the picture above I pounded wood stakes 1″ into the ground and then laid organza over that, burying all edges firmly in the dirt to ensure that no bugs could enter. The organza will be removed as pods develop and are ready to eat or we will allow them to dry on for seed collection. 

It is very important that no bugs are present before you cage your plants. The cage will protect insects from any outside predators and create a perfect environment for them to thrive on your plants. 

Cages are great for organic growers who do not wish to use pesticides. Notice the caterpillars unable to get into my organza cage in the picture below… 

Catepillars on caging material

Caging method keeps the bugs out

 A cheaper and better alternative to organza is spun polyester. I happened to have some organza on hand for this project. A great site for spun polyester is… http://www.gardensalive.com/product.asp?pn=82274 . The material is hardier than what it appears in the picture and water can penetrate it. It also provides great air circulation and does not hold heat in. Right now they have a 20.00 of of purchases totalling 40.00 or more. You can see the ad for this on the home page in the right-hand corner.

NOTE: Organza does retain some moisture. This was my first year using it over beans and the bean sections that the orgranza covered became TOO damp.

DIY Veggie Trellis

Many vegetables are climbers and benefit from a trellis, which can  also optimize space in the garden.

We recently had a bean bush which is a semi-vining and it seemingly went from bean sprout to jungle wonder in a matter of 3 weeks. But, that is what beans do best!

  I like to recycle items and use what is available to me so that I can avoid unneccessary purchases.  A couple of  years ago I came up with a quick and inexpensive way to make my own trellis and have used this method ever since.

You will need:

  • 2 PVC pipes (height depending on your needs but figure in 2′ extra to bury to ensure stability
  • Twine or thin braided roping of some sort
  • Darning Needle (large hole to accommodate the twine)
  • Drill
  • Scissors
  • Hammer or sledgehammer
  1. Pound both PVC  firmly 1.5 – 2′ into ground with hammer, one on each side of  the plant row you want to trellis.
  2. Drill holes completely through both PVC where you intend to run string through (spacing does not need to be measured or exact), space accordingly to your needs. Viners will vine wherever they can reach. We space our holes about 4-6″ from one another.
  3. Thread your string through the darning needle
  4. Begin to weave in one PVC hole, stretch to hole on opposite PVC pipe and then back again, ensuring you keep the line fairly tight.
  5. Repeat weaving until you reach the height you desire. Semi-vining plants may only require a 3′ height whereas 6”+ may be more appropriate for full vining varieties. Tie off ends, knotting at beginning and ending PVC hole.

NOTE: It is normal when you pull tightly for the PVC to want to lean in a bit. This is ok. Afterall, we’re not in it for the looks but the functionality.

Ending result should look something like this:

DIY Trellis

DIY Trellis

This particular trellis was strung about 5′ in height. In about 1-2 months it will be completely covered and resemble a wall. PVC pipes can be pulled from ground and stored for next season.

Of course there are other options to trellis if you are not a DIY person or if you don’t already have the tools mentioned above. A great trellis material is available at Gurney’s for a reasonable price. All are 5′ in height and you choose between 15′ to 60′ in width. http://gurneys.com/vegetable-trellis/p/12871/ Note that you will need wood on hand to mount it to.  this material can be re-used for years.

There are so many ways to create a DIY or recycled trellis project.  I have  seen items like old rusty swingsets placed over a patch of peas that made  an extremely functional trellis. Some create hoops on the ground made out of PVC. At harvest time you simply walk through your hoop tunnel and collect your beans or peas. Pods will hang from overhead vines and make picking a cinch. No matter how you trellis, be creative!