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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

New innovations in gardens

Monday, June 20, 2005

P.D. Glaus and Jack Barber pick cucmbers from their garden.
SIKESTON - After gardening for about 40 years, Jack Barber and P.D. Glaus have learned a thing or two about gardening.

One of the things they have learned is how to keep their garden cleaner and make chores such as picking the produce and keeping out weeds a bit easier.

Like several other gardeners, they are using materials usually reserved for the farm or construction sites to give their plants a structure to grow up on.

"You can take care of your garden better," Glaus said. "It makes it easier to plow, get out weeds, and come through with the tiller."

While Barber and Glaus use concrete wire, obtained from construction sites, several others use cattle panels, according to Jerry Gentry, Riggs salesman and Glen Adams, salesman at Ag Mart.

"We have customers who have been using cattle panels in all kinds of ways," Adams said. "They use them for what they're made for and for landscaping.

Customers use the panels to guide their plants, either vegetables or flowers; and to make arches and entryways.

And Jason Whitten of Vanduser added cattle panels may be used to make teepees or be laid flat on the ground over a shade tarp used as a weed barrier to keep the wind from blowing it away. Plants can still be planted in the squares, Whitten said.

"They (customers) come and use them or their garden and many things," Gentry said. "Some bend them and make trellises."

Which is exactly what many gardeners, including Barber and Glaus, do for their tomato plants, and sometimes pepper plants as well. "It takes about five feet to make one hoop," Glaus noted.

And using these innovations isn't too expensive. A 16-foot roll sells for between $15 and $17 at Ag Mart and Riggs.

And it is an investment that lasts quite awhile. "They don't wear too bad," Glaus said, adding that he and his neighbor, who garden together, have used them for several years.

"You can even leave them outside all winter," Barber added. Although the bottoms sometimes rust out, and he simply cuts them off to make the cages or paneling shorter.

Of course, tomatoes aren't the only plants that can be trained to grow on these fences or panels. Barber said he has been using them for his cucumber plants for a long time. And Glaus added they can be used for anything with suckers, the small green vines that climb and wrap around, such as butter beans and pole beans.

Whitten started using them last year for his green beans and blackberries to grow on. "I started because my wife is an art teacher and into crafts," he said. "I usually grow gourds on them."

And the gardeners are thinking up ways to make the materials even more beneficial for them. "I even lay wire on top of them in case they (the cucumber plants) grow taller than the fence," Barber said.

These innovations also aid gardeners in picking their produce. For Glaus, who is disabled, it is better for his back and part of the reason why he can continue to enjoy his gardening hobby.

And they aren't too hard to assemble. The wire is quite flexible. While cattle panels are made out of a small diameter rod and not so flexible, it is also beneficial because the cattle panels are a bit more sturdy and able to hold themselves, Adams pointed out.

"You just use some steel posts - some call them tomato stakes - and put one on each end and one in the middle ," Whitten said. "You drive them down and attach the panel and it works great."

Glaus pointed out that sticks or other materials also work to anchor the fencing and panels, but he also prefers steel posts. They are more durable if a hard wind comes through and easy to get out of the ground, he said.

Barber and Glaus couldn't name a single problem they've had over the years, and Whitten couldn't foresee any either.

"It makes it so simple and easy," Whitten said. "They're very sturdy, and there's no telling how many years they're going to last."