A bundle of natural bamboo stakes
Last week Christy asked how I stake my tomatoes and peppers after seeing this photo of pepper plants in one of my raised beds. "I was intrigued by the poles!" she said.
I'm in love with 'the poles,' which are actually bamboo stakes. Once you have these handy items, well, on hand, you will probably wonder how you ever got along in the garden without them.
I use them for all kinds of things around the farm. I find myself constantly grabbing for them. But one of the main things I do with them is stake up my pepper plants. Many pepper plants don't need to be staked, but I've found that certain varieties—such as my favorite Aconcagua Sweet Red Peppers—grow fairly tall, and when the plants are heavy with bounty they tend to fall over, especially during big storms.
One little bamboo stake holds up a plant just fine. I usually tie the plant to the stake in one or two places with some baling twine recycled from the hay bales, but if you place the stake right, sometimes that isn't even necessary (this lazy gardener says).
I don't usually get around to putting in the stakes until the plants are much bigger than in the above mentioned photo, but this year something has been running through my raised beds at night and literally breaking the tops off the pepper plants. Once I put the stakes in place, the problem stopped.
Okay, so now you know you can no longer survive without your own supply of bamboo stakes, but you vaguely remember seeing them at the garden center for a whopping two or three dollars a piece just for the little puny ones. Ridiculous! I agree. That's why I buy everything I can in bulk, including my bamboo.
A.M. Leonard has been 'serving the horticultural industry since 1885,' and they have very reasonable prices on top quality bamboo stakes in various diameters, and up to 12 feet high. You just have to buy several hundred at a time. No, that's not too many; you can share them with a gardening pal or two or three.
Anyway, here are a few examples of the different natural bamboo stakes they offer (prices don't include shipping). 2011 Update: Five years later, I'm still using many of my original bamboo stakes for all sorts of things in the garden. These are the current prices, which have gone up but are still a good deal, even with the high shipping costs:
—$39.99 for a bundle of 500 (!) 7/16" x 36" stakes (less than 8 cents each).
—$55.99 for a bundle of 250 1/2" x 60" bamboo stakes (less than 23 cents each + $43.99 shipping = less than 40 cents each).
—$63.99 for a bundle of 250 1/2" by 72" stakes (less than 26 cents each + $46.99 shipping = less than 45 cents each).
In the A.M. Leonard online catalog, it says that natural bamboo stakes are three times stronger than wood. It also says that they generally only have a lifespan of one growing season, which is probably why they're so inexpensive, but I've been using some of my stakes for about 10 years, and they are still holding up (ha, more gardening humor).
If I think about it, I store them out of the weather when I'm not using them, but some have lived through all kinds of rain and snow and ice storms and are fine.
As for my tomato plants, they need more support than just bamboo stakes; they need to be caged. I'll hopefully be writing about my cheap tomato cages here soon.