News Treehugger Voices Ways to Grow Your Own Plant Supports Instead of Buying Them They can be living, growing plants or branches pruned from elsewhere in the space. By Elizabeth Waddington Elizabeth Waddington Facebook LinkedIn Writer, Permaculture Designer, Sustainability Consultant University of St Andrews (MA) Elizabeth has worked since 2010 as a freelance writer and consultant covering gardening, permaculture, and sustainable living. She has also written a number of books and e-books on gardens and gardening. Learn about our editorial process Updated July 21, 2021 12:14PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process rootstocks / Getty Images Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Many new gardeners think it is necessary to buy new items for their gardens, when in fact, careful design and the right plant choices can mean that your garden can actually provide the things you need. One common example of something that people buy when they could grow them in their own garden is plant supports. Plant supports can be living, growing plants. Or they can be branches and stems pruned or coppiced from elsewhere in the space. While there are numerous plant supports on the market, my professional take is you can do without buying any of these at all. Living Plant Supports Many climbing and vining plants require some support as they grow. However, that support does not always have to come from a structure that you build. Sometimes, the plants you grow beside climbers or vines can provide all the support they need. Sometimes, plants like dwarf peas can simply be grown close together and will hold each other up. The same thing can be true of a number of taller perennials: growing them closely can avoid them being blown over in strong winds. Dense planting should be handled with care—as you will need to think about competition and avoid overcrowding. However, when the scheme is designed carefully, supports might not be necessary at all. Herbaceous perennials can be grown up through, or just in front (at the sunny side), of various shrubs. The woody structure of the shrubs at the back of the border can help keep these plants secure. In the vegetable garden, I find success using taller and sturdy plants like corn, amaranth, or sunflowers (for example) as support for climbing beans. Planting corn, beans, and squash together are well known as the "three sisters" planting scheme. The corn is the "support sister" in such schemes. Often, climbers and vines which can tolerate the light or dappled shade below a tree canopy can also be grown up and onto mature trees. So this is another option to consider. You may also be able to grow fruiting canes, for example, as part of a mixed hedgerow, with other hedgerow shrubs to support these canes and keep them in check. This is an alternative to creating purpose-built support structures for these plants. Any hedgerow might also become support for other plants growing beside it, as well as shielding vulnerable plants from the prevailing wind. Coppicing Trees For Plant Supports Of course, other living plants will not always be able to provide the support that is required. However, you do not need to go out to buy the materials for new fencing, trellis, or stakes to use as plant supports. I find growing and coppicing trees like hazel or willow mean you always have suitable material to use in your own garden. There are plenty of trees that grow relatively quickly, and which can be coppiced for stakes and thin woody whips over time. Planting these coppice trees in your garden can be a great choice. Do so early on in garden establishment and over time, you can easily become self-sufficient in garden plant supports—even in a small garden. Growing Your Own Garden Canes ImageKit / Getty Images I recommend bamboo canes, as they are useful as plant supports in a garden. And these are other resources that many of us can actually grow at home. There are bamboos that are suitable for a wide range of garden sites. And once established, they can easily provide more than enough canes for garden use. Make Your Own Garden Twine As I have written before, you do not necessarily even have to buy garden twine to tie your plants to their supports. You can make your own garden twine from stinging nettles, or from a range of other natural plant fibers. Before you buy plant supports for your garden, remember, you might already have natural materials you could use. If you don't, you can grow natural plant supports and many natural materials to use over the coming years. So when designing your garden and deciding which plants to grow, it can be helpful to think about longer-term needs in your garden. And to grow not just edible plants, but also a range of other plants which will allow you to become more self-sufficient over time, increasing the range of natural materials available to you for plant supports—as well as for many other home and garden needs.