Tendrils of the vine clinging on to the jute rope| Photos by the writer
Tendrils of the vine clinging on to the jute rope| Photos by the writer

We grew up listening to a story of Jack, a poor boy who traded his cow for a few beans in return. His poverty-stricken mother, furious at the unwise trade, threw the beans out of the window. The next day, when Jack woke up, he found the beanstalk had grown overnight and was reaching into the skies, where a giant lived in his castle.

Their overnight growth was simply explained as the beans being ‘magical ones’. However, this doesn’t just happen in stories.

I can easily recall how my parents and elders would also tell me to just throw the seeds of certain vegetables into the ground and a fruiting vine would grow out of it. Sometimes, this would actually happen — but it is never as easy as it sounds. One may help a seed to sprout without breaking much sweat, but growing a vine, sustaining it and optimising the fruiting quantity may require a certain set of regular efforts, and even the tools and resources to sustain the vines.

The stem of a vine is much weaker than, for example, a stout herb, plant or tree. It is the same weakness which provides a vine the flexibility to spread to any space available, instead of just growing upright. The vines which have tendrils, like cucumbers, tend to wrap and cling on to anything available. The vine, then, can magically grow in all directions. Vines without tendrils, like pothos and syngonium, may need external support in the form of string, tape, rope and zip ties, which are specialised tools to train the vine to spread as needed.

Vines are popular choices for gardeners with limited space as they twine well, but they can also be used to accent indoor spaces

As the seeds of any vine germinate, the seedling should be kept in the same space until at least the first true leaves grow. After that, the sapling can be transplanted to a new permanent space. One of the unique, attractive features of most vines for the home gardeners is the fact that they require very limited ground space and the roots underneath also do not engage vast pieces of ground. Thus, a vegetable vine, like different gourds and beans, can easily be grown in small containers, including plastic paint buckets or fruit baskets.

The vines need support to grow upwards. In certain cases, the parts of leaves or the stem that touch the ground can rot in case of excessive watering, or burn in case the ground absorbs too much heat in summers. It is thus initially important to support the young vines with a stick or a woody rod, so that the vine can wrap itself around it. These supporting rods or sticks should be inserted a few inches away from the vine stem into the ground to avoid any root damage.

Moss sticks, zip ties, ropes and other important tools for vine growth
Moss sticks, zip ties, ropes and other important tools for vine growth

As the vines grow further, and if there is a lack of ground space, there is an option of growing these vines vertically, a phenomenon known as vertical gardening. Vertical gardening can be ensured with the help of a trellis installation. This trellis mesh can be made with help of bamboos, or a mesh of rods planted in the ground in such a manner that, when the vine spreads on it, it can further grow either vertically upward or at 45 degrees from the ground and then on to a supporting wall.

Similarly, you can hang jute ropes from the roof, which are not tied from the plant’s end. The upper end of these jute ropes can either be wound into some corkscrew into the wall or around a heavy brick, which can be hung on the other side of the wall.

Colourful hanging pots for ornamental, decorative vines
Colourful hanging pots for ornamental, decorative vines

One popular technique is to slip the jute ropes through the holes in between two plastic pipes inserted into the ground. These vertical gardening methods provide a solution for space-cramped gardeners. It also helps in case one wants the fruit of bitter gourd or bottle gourd to hang, instead of lying on the ground.

When it comes to ornamental and decorative plants like pothos and dragon’s tail, the vines are supported with moss poles. It looks more attractive compared to ropes or sticks. The moss poles also help train the vine to grow around it, narrowing its expanse, instead of spreading horizontally. It is a popular choice, especially when it comes to decorating rooms or offices. These moss poles are especially tagged with those vines that have aerial roots. The aerial roots derive feed for the plant from these moss poles, resulting in much larger leaves.

Vine supported with PVC pipe and jute rope
Vine supported with PVC pipe and jute rope

Similarly, many ornamental vines, like turtle vines or Swedish ivy vines, can be grown from colourful hanging pots. These hanging pots are usually installed at the entrance doors or shade roofs in home gardens. Those vines that naturally grow downwards can be grown in these hanging pots.

Please send your queries and emails to doctree101@hotmail.com. The writer is a physician and a host for the YouTube channel ‘DocTree Gardening’ promoting organic kitchen gardening

Published in Dawn, EOS, December 4th, 2022

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