Concrete wire mesh, or remesh, or reinforcing wire is found at hardware stores and generally comes in panels that are 48″ x 84″ or rolls that are 60″ tall and 150 feet long. I find both useful for trellising, vertical gardening, and keeping billowing plants contained. I only use the rolls for cages as the wire really, really, really wants to stay rolled up and it is a battle I’m not willing to undertake. You can use the panels for any use, including cages. The rolls are only economical if you plan on making a lot of cages. I use them for everything that will grow up, for so us it was worth it.
The asparagus below is just starting to fern. I’ve stopped harvesting (for the most part) this year and will let the rest just grow. I know it doesn’t look like it will need support, but they will soon be over 5-feet tall and floppy. It is important to let asparagus ‘go to fern’ as this is the time it is gathering and storing nutrients and energy for next spring.
My affair with wire mesh began with a Mother Earth News article from a decade ago describing how to use the wire mesh to form tomato cages. Commercial tomato cages are only useful in supporting determinate tomatoes, as this type tends to top out at 3-4 feet in height. Indeterminate tomatoes have unbridled growth and will keep on trucking, generally to a height of 6 feet. I’ve heard rumours of 12 foot tall tomato plants, but I must say – if I saw such a thing in the Pacific Northwest I would be quite certain the-end-of-the-world was upon us after all.
No, up here in Seattle we have to work our asses off, pray to whatever and whoever suits us, shed a few tears, swear, beg, cross our fingers, and be willing to gamble just to get our tomatoes to ripen.
I followed the instructions in the Mother Earth News article but recently found much easier-to-follow instructions and photo sequence if you are going to make them! It is really easy in theory. The reality is that the wire will cut your arms and legs all to hell and you’ll look a bit like you lost a fight with 27 pissed off feral cats. But no matter. Your tomatoes will thank you profusely for their new sturdy home. You hands will be
somewhat extremely arthritic for a week or so afterwards from cutting wire. Again. Envision ripe tomatoes plucked from your own backyard. It helps. Plus, you will only have to do it once as they won’t wear out, rot, or fall apart. The painful memories will fade and you will only remember your sheer brilliance in undertaking the project. Trust me. I would suggest being up-to-date on your tetanus shot however.
This year I created a Pea Trellis from 2 panels. So far it is performing wonderfully and I really like the location I chose for trellising in general. I will also grow cucumbers and winter squash up the sides. If I decide to place it elsewhere next year it easily pops out of the ground and can be stored against a fence until needed again.
To make the trellis I stuck a panel on either side of the pathway. In our case this meant one side in a regular bed and the other in our raised bed. I secured each side with a 3-foot T-post, but I imagine any type of post about 3 feet tall would work (such as a rebar stake or the like). I secured them at the top with regular cable ties forming an arch.
The Ladyfriend (brilliantly) thought it would be wise to cover the tips of the mesh panels to keep bypassers from impaling themselves on rusting metal barbs. She is clever that one. I found a metallic grey silicone caulk outdoor use and applied small dollops to the ends, which worked perfectly!
We’ve established that the wire mesh is perfect for holding back floppy asparagus that has ferned out, critical for tomatoes, and makes a very cool pea trellis. What else does it do? Answer: everything. I find the panels endlessly useful. For instance, espaliered fruit support. It was growing taller than our fence so I inserted a panel behind the existing 2-row wiring I had in place. Easy and now we have multitudes of horizontal support!
Cane berries are fantastic. And grow a lot. With thorns. Somehow your berries must be contained. The last few years I’ve had a very simple T-post with 2 strands of wires to sort of keep the berries propped up. By mid-summer though I would get attacked trying to walk down the pathway to access them. Wire mesh panels to the rescue. The bushes are now contained and it is easy to tuck in wandering branches before they get out of hand. For this support I just stapled the panels to the existing horizontal supports.
Another way to keep berries in line – using tomato cages. Again, easy to tuck escaping canes back inside. Speaking of berries, is there a berry that has more thorns than a boysenberry? Ours are lethal. Ouch.
Lastly, most members of the squash (Curcurbitaceae) family are vines and will easily grow vertically. Cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, and even many of the smaller winter squash all benefit from growing up. Not only do they use less space, but in our damp climate growing vertically offers some protection from disease. I’ve used cages to grow cucumbers, zuchinni, and delicata squash, all with great results!
Do you use wire mesh in the garden? If so, how? Or, perhaps you have another favorite way to grow up? I’d love to hear!