Sunday, May 28, 2006

Gardening On The Cheap: Cheapstakes - Using Bamboo Stakes to Support Vegetable Plants

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.



  1. I love bamboo stakes and they are friggin expensive at Lowes, etc.

    I think the best thing about bamboo is it lasts forever if you put it away in the winter,

  2. Bamboo is good, I agree. And thanks for the info about A.M. Leonard.

  3. Yea - that link to the bamboo stakes won't come up. It's on A.M. Leonard's side I figure. It's probably getting too many hits from your readers! LOL I've got to get my tomato cages up this week, too. Now that the heat has finally arrived the garden is growing like crazy.

  4. My garden which is measured in inches not feet or yards, is still a place of joy. For the FOUR (count 'em) cherry tomato plants I have, I use bamboo stakes too, getting them in teeny tiny bundles at Home Depot. Since the plants are still only 8 inches tall, I only have one stake in for each. But this morning after reading your blog I went out and stuck in another stake on the slightly floppy side of one plant, admiring its effects as I did so.

  5. oh! I wish I could hug you@ I've been wanting to order some and the cheapest I'd found was through Gardener's Supply, and boy, are they NOT cheap there.

    I'm planning to plant some bamboo at the new property, but in the meantime, I'm placing an order. Thank you! Thank you!

  6. Thanks for the information! Those are some great deals.

  7. Juliar -

    FOUR cherry tomato plants? Yeow!!

    Like I can talk - I'm growing 8 different varieties (including black, white, green, yellow, etc) but only *plan* to put in one of each of the varieties and give the rest away. We'll see how well that works! ;-)

  8. I too love bamboo(have a small young grove in a far corner of my kids yard), however, I was watching a gardening show one night on HGTV, and this guy said to use metal or fiberglass stakes, because they attract static which encourages the plants to grow. He seems pretty adamant about this. He actually strings wire up across his garden for even more metal contact. I suppose there could be some truth to this since I heard somewhere that the first lightning of the year triggers a chemical reacation in plants that makes them flower.

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  10. I love your blog... very fun to see other enthusiastic gardeners!

    I don't use bamboo, I use SUNFLOWERS! :) I live in a crazy hot climate and the previous owners planted no shade trees, so we grow sunflowers wherever we need the shade to give plants a break. I use these live sunflowers for beans and peas. Then in the fall I harvest the flowers and veggies, and saw down my sunflower stalks and dry them for staking other veggies, like tomatoes the next year. Great way to re-use!

  11. What a great way to use sunflowers! Thanks! :)

  12. I have sworn off the plastic coated steel poles from Lowes and Home Depot. My brother has a lot of bamboo growing at his place in AZ so I brought a bunch of it back to S. Calif. I use 5-foot pieces about 1/2" to 3/4" in diameter. I then drill 3 holes up near the top and insert 3" chunks of white coat hangers. That gives you something really solid to attach your lines/strings to.

  13. Why wouldn't you cut your own bamboo? Is it unsafe to use fresh cut bamboo?


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