I admit to having slipped off the wagon in terms of regularity of posts. Sheesh, the last one was in March! Tax season and the busyness of spring in general have contributed to my laxity, but here I am again, with tail figuratively between legs, ready to begin anew.
Today’s topic is a magical, nearly mystical gardening material – concrete reinforcing wire. You’ve probably seen it cylinderized to form a tomato cage, and that is indeed one of its finest uses, but lately I am liking it better as a two-stage trellis system for peas, as in the photo. By cutting a sheet into various lengths, I have created different length arches, the ends of which tuck neatly against the wooden sides of my rooftop raised beds at the level of the soil , providing stability to the arch. A whole sheet is 4’x7′, available at any building materials store, and were I designing my raised-bed system from scratch today, I would probably make the beds 7 feet long (inside dimension, of course) to accomodate a sheet without cutting.
In the photo I’m growing peas (Sugar Sprint, and Oregon Sugar Pod II) which get about 36″ tops, so this double-arch trellis system is ideal to accomodate early and later growth. Also, if I put the first arch on immediately upon planting, I can stretch a little greenhouse plastic over it, attach it to the wooden sides of the raised bed with some large metal clips, and I have a micro greenhouse to help speed the crop’s germination. The mesh structure of the sheet supports the plastic strongly and continuously, avoiding the inevitable dips when using PVC pipes as purlins.
So I’m assuming that if you’re working with concrete reinforcing wire that you already have some kind of heavy-duty wire cutter or fence tool. If you add an inexpensive package or two of UV stabilized zip ties (in the electrical section of the hardware store), then you are calling down a synergistic multiplication of possibility. Now the reinforcing wire sheets can be custom cut and tied to each other or to other structural elements (fences, railings, posts, etc.) in any manner of ways to create trellises, archways, gateways, windblocks, etc., etc., and this done in a matter of seconds or minutes.
At the $7 or so I just paid per sheet of this reinforcing wire at Lowe’s, it’s hard to go wrong. When something is cheap, lasts long, and is infinitely flexible, I wonder how any descriptor but “love affair” could capture what I feel for this marvelous material.