2016-03-31 / From The Garden

Pop-Up Structures Bolster Young Plants

By Cynthia Gibson

The 2016 planting season has some terrific new products for the active gardener.

One of the hottest items available is the pop-up grow bag. It has a coil inside; when released, the enforced plastic sides pop up to form a cylinder that is three feet tall. Plant your tomato and place the cylinder right over it. The bag also has a circular zippered top which acts like a mini-greenhouse and increases plant growth by as much as 25 percent. It not only keeps rabbits away from young plants, but it will hasten the time to harvest.

Young seedlings are most vulnerable to weather during the spring planting months, whether in the form of high winds or a late frost. This bag will give your plants the protection they need. Using a narrow tomato cage inside of the pop-up cylinder is a great idea for added structure. Once the plants are established, remove the bag and store it for the following year. They collapse just like a Slinky. A smaller pop-up bag is available for squash and cucumbers.

There are also potato bags, which are great for growing a small amount of potatoes on the patio or terrace. They come in a variety of colors, from a wild purple to a more subdued terra cotta, and of course chic black. They are made of a special fabric that allows the roots to take hold and breathe. These bags are tough; they can hold 50 quarts of potting soil, perfect for growing colorful potatoes, and water drains easily.

If you have a patio or a large set of back door steps, these bags are perfect for your growing needs. Purchase your seed potatoes this spring and plant a few bushels in the backyard. Harvesting is easy. The bags feature two very sturdy nylon handles and can be turned over so you can shake your potatoes out of the bag in the fall instead of digging for them. Digging is fine, but often a sharp spade or pitchfork will injure your spuds, which you don’t want to happen. The bags are reusable for years, and are also suitable for carrots, tomatoes, peppers, and basil.

The bags are light, and the soil makes them heavier, particularly after watering, but they can be moved around by their handles. This makes them ideal for small space gardening.

And speaking of the pop-up craze, what gardener doesn’t want his or her very own greenhouse? Pop-up greenhouses assemble and disassemble in minutes, so you can finally have that heated space that you have always wanted. They come in all sizes. Some look like a gazebo, while others are a more practical rectangular shape. Some even have access for a hose and heating elements. They start at a very low price of $30 for a tiny one, to a 60-inch tall by 60-inch wide version for just over $200. You can place growing shelves inside, along with a potting table. The roof and sides are clear plastic and come with plastic tubing that supports the entire structure. The entry door opens with a zipper. They are great for starting young plants.

Another useful item this year is a netted berry cage. Many people try their green thumbs at growing raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or blackberries, only to be discouraged by local wildlife or netting that blows off with a light breeze. Now you can protect your plants with good-looking cages that give excellent access to the berry bush. Also known as crop cages, they are excellent for any plant or shrub. They can be as large as a small greenhouse and have a zippered door. The larger sizes come with stakes and pins to make sure they are securely fastened to the ground. They are excellent!

To Do:

. Make your wish list of pop-up structures for your garden. . It’s tool-sharpening time. . Think about how many potatoes you want to grow this year and start looking at the varieties of seed potatoes. Agway in Portsmouth has an excellent selection beginning in April. You could sample a variety from the supermarket; when you find one you like, find the seed potatoes to grow it.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport.

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