Mary's Veggie Garden

July 27, 2014

How Vegetable Plants Climb

Filed under: Beans,Gardening,Peas,Squash,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 11:18 am

Many vegetable plants are eager climbers. Gardeners can take advantage of this tendency by providing the appropriate support. Plants on a trellis enjoy better air circulation, reducing disease problems. Their fruits are easier to reach for harvesting and much cleaner. There is also less insect damage, particularly from slugs.

Let’s look at a few climbers.

Pea tendrils searching for an anchor.

Pea tendrils searching for an anchor.

Peas have compound leaves with slender, forking tendrils at their tips. The tendrils eagerly wrap around anything with about the same circumference as a pea vine: string, wire, brush, and adjacent pea plants.

Well anchored pea tendrils support a big plant.

Well anchored pea tendrils support a big plant.

Young pea tendrils make a tender addition to a spring salad. Once anchored the tendrils turn tough and wiry, well able to support the growing plant.

Pole beans do not have tendrils: they climb using twining stems. After the stem encounters support, it grows quickly, often traveling 5′ up a pole in a week. Pole bean stems are coarse and rough so they cling easily to rough surfaces such as bark but the flexible stems will also wrap around string and netting. The vines are big and heavy so use a tall, sturdy trellis.

Pole beans climb with their flexible branch tips.

Pole beans climb with their flexible branch tips.

This picture shows three young pole bean plants. Two have touched the pole and are spiraling upwards. The third plant is still searching for support – you can see the growing tip silhouetted against the black hose. Sometimes I help my pole beans by laying the stem against the pole.

Squash tendrils emerge from the stems opposite leaves. The spirals of a squash tendril form a hemihelix – they spiral in one direction, then change direction to spiral in the reverse direction. My squashes have climbed tomato cages, deer netting and wire fences.

Squash climbing a tomato cage.

Squash climbing a tomato cage.

Hanging squash fruit under 5 pounds do not require support. The stem of a hanging squash responds to the stress by growing stronger and more fibrous – which means you will need loppers to harvest. Bigger hanging squashes and pumpkins benefit by some support – perhaps a bucket or barrel turned upside down and placed underneath.

For more information please see my blog:

A Pole Bean Teepee

Supporting a Hanging Squash



  1. Good article. Thanks. Would like to try the teepee for growing long beans and need to know how far apart the poles should be. Thanks. Joyce

    Comment by Joyce — June 15, 2016 @ 6:31 am | Reply

    • I place the bases of the poles 4′ apart. My friend Norma at likes a narrower structure and her’s are 2.5-3′ apart. I think the broader base make a more stable structure.

      Comment by marysveggiegarden — June 15, 2016 @ 7:55 am | Reply

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