Urban Gardening

From April 2008 E-newsletter

Annual Spanish flag vine quickly scrambles up a trellis.

April Q&A

Question: I'm looking for some dimension on my deck and want to plant an arching trellis that will be anchored in two containers. What would be a quick-growing vine that I could use here? Flowers, fruits, or vegetables would be great, too. I'm in zone 6, Nyack, NY.

Answer: You will need big containers to provide enough soil for a large vine. When choosing your vine, consider light and exposure. Most vines grow best with their leaves in full sun. However, their roots are another story. Clematis, nasturtium, and Dutchman's pipe are a few examples of vines that like sun on their leaves but shade on their roots. Those types of vines need shading for the container or some trailing plants that drape over the side to keep the container from getting too warm. You can group other pots or a bench or statuary in front of the container to provide shade.

Another consideration is the growth habit of the vine. Many have tendrils or twining tips to promote vertical growth. But some vines, such as sweet potato and cherry tomato, are ramblers that need to be threaded through supports.

Now that all the caveats are out of the way, here comes the fun part -- choosing among these spectacular plants. Vines are some of the most rewarding and colorful plants in the home garden. Most of the following choices should give adequate growth to cover your trellis within a season. A few of the perennial vines may take a season or two.

For flowers and foliage: Spanish flag (Ipomoea lobata), morning glory (Ipomoea), sweet peas (Lathyrus), sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), butterfly pea (Clitoria ternata), flame nasturtium (Tropaeolum speciosum), Dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia durior), sweet autumn clematis (Clematis paniculata).

For fruits and veggies: cherry tomatoes, pole beans, cucuzzi gourd (Lagenaria leucantha), grapes.

Leave oranges on the tree until a taste-test confirms they're ripe.

Question: I'm a peasant Kenyan farmer venturing into orange fruit tree farming. I recognize that in the normal fruiting season the prices are rock bottom. I have wondered if there is a way I could induce early or late flowering and fruiting. This way I would do a sustainable orange farming.

Answer: I love these types of questions: international and practical. Plus, any citrus question gives me a chance to call my friend and horticulturist, Vernon Bryant, in Florida. He advises that day length and temperature affect ripeness in citrus. Oranges do not ripen off the tree, therefore harvesting early is not an option. Also, do not rely on color because taste is a much better determination of ripeness.

Most oranges ripen their fruit from fall to winter but there are varieties that mature outside that time frame. By choosing several different varieties, it is possible to have maturing fruits for most of the year. Here are some suggested varieties: 'Washington' can hold its fruit on the tree for extended periods without losing flavor. 'Robertson' is an early-ripening variant of 'Washington'. 'Valencia' ripens from spring to summer. 'Campbell' is an early-ripening variant of 'Valencia'. 'Lane Late' ripens in summer.

We hope this information is helpful to your venture, and we wish you a profitable, sustainable orange farm.

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