Here's how to choose and use the right kind of garden supports for the plants that you're growing.
First, some general tips:
Place stakes or other supports early in the season, before your plants need them. It's much easier to set up the supports while the plant is still small, rather than work around sprawling growth later in the season. Insert your plant supports before or at planting time or spring emergence, and then guide the plant onto it as it grows.
Anchor supports deep in the ground for strength and stability under wind, heavy rain and the weight of plant growth.
Some plants will cling to their supports with sticky growth or tendrils. Others will need to be tied on. For the latter, use soft material to tie the stems to the support. Wrap the tie in a figure eight so that the center of the eight sits between the stem and the stake.
Now, types of supports and their applications:
These are single rods, sometimes with a loop at the top through which a flower stem can pass.
Use stakes for tall, clumping perennials like delphiniums and also for plants with tall, single flowering stems, like foxgloves or lilies. Thick single stakes work well for pole beans and tomato plants, which will need to be tied. Twining vines like morning glories can also be trained up a single stake.
Cages and grids
These are typically a frame made of a horizontal hoop (or multiple hoops) that ring the plants growth and hold it tight and upright. The hoops may be crisscrossed with bars to create a grid through which individual stems pass.
Cages and grids work well for bushy perennials with large, heavy flowers, like peonies, and for shrubby edible plants, like tomatoes and eggplants.
A trellis is an upright panel with crisscrossing horizontal and vertical lines. It can be rigid, like a trellis made of wood, or soft, like one made of string.
Use trellises for plants that cling with tendrils, such as sweet peas, cucumbers and gourds. Clematis and nasturtium can also make use of a trellis.
Teepees and tuteurs
These are pyramidal structures. They may be made of single stakes tied together at the top, or they may have paneled sides that incorporate a trellis.
Depending on the design of the teepee or tuteur, it can accommodate plants that need to be tied to single stakes or those that climb with tendrils or vining growth.
Image credit: poppet with a camera / CC BY 2.0