Greetings, Gentle Reader,

The snow is melting from the North side of the house. I can no longer sit in my chair on our wide hearth and see the piled-up snow peeking over the window sill. Yes!

We always know this day will come. We watch for it each year, but it never fails to make my fingers start to itch for the soil. I walk around the front yard and count the tulip and daffodil blades coming through the soil, and I know Spring’s days are numbered and Summer is just around the corner.

The garden catalogs are clogging the mail box, and I am beginning to plot out this year’s garden and starting to wonder if there is not some spot (almost any will do) where I can plant another fruit tree. Aw, well, there is no cure for a gardenaholic. I’m not sure that is really and truly a disease, but it surely feels that way in midsummer, when zillions of weeds are mocking my humble efforts and driving me just a little bit crazy.

So, while the snow is finishing it’s disappearing act, and the heart-nourishing song of the blackbird is making me smile a lot, let’s discuss how to keep the pole beans and tall peas from dragging their climbing nets to the ground.

Being a farmer type, I have cattle panels surrounding various pastures. For the uninitiated, a cattle panel is a sixteen foot by about five foot piece of fencing, constructed of heavy steel and almost impervious to the attacks of cattle. (Guess what? Even climbing peas cannot drag these panels to the ground! They can try, and they will, but they can’t do it!)

Let’s discuss how to place them: Always make your rows go East and West, because that way your plants have sun all day, rather than one side getting sun only in the morning and the other side getting sun only in the afternoon.

Putting them up is a piece of cake, but they are very heavy, so a woman should not plan to do it by herself. They remain stiff, never sagging, but must be held up with what we call "T" posts. They need three posts, one on each end and one in the middle. The posts must be pounded into the ground, and it takes a man to pound them in sufficiently deeply that they will support the panel. Posts come in different lengths, but you will need to have about a foot of the post in the ground, in order to keep the panel upright. It is important that it remain perfectly upright, because those obnoxious (but heavenly flavored) peas will pull any weakly supported panel to the ground.

Put your panel up first - having already prepared your soil - then plant your climbing peas and/or beans about 2 or 3 inches from the panel. The panels have squares, allowing free movement of water and air, both of which are important to the plants.

Peas will make such a sturdy and abundant foliage that the panel will end up looking like a solid wall of vegetation, assuming you plant the sugar snap peas that climb six feet or more. Just be sure to plant them several inches apart.

Beans make a less abundant foliage, but will still make a goodly wall of leaves and beans. They’re just not as heavy and seemingly determined to pull their support down as are peas. You can plant them a little closer than peas, if you want to do so, but it is not necessary.

The vegetables will give you a crop that is easy to pick, because they will require little stooping, but be sure to watch the vines as they grow, because some of them may try to wander across the path between the panels, rather than climb where they are supposed to do.

Clematis also love to climb, as do certain other flowers, and can make a wall of tremendous beauty, if you choose to plant them on panels.

Hopefully, this panel planting will make your work easier this summer, so have a good one!

Return to the Neighborhood!

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