Love me tendril
Be my feet
Never let me go....
[Sorry, I couldn't resist.]
If you are growing squash, cucumber, peas, pole beans, or grapes, you have seen tendrils.
Tendrils are modified stems, leaves, or petioles, depending on the plant. In case you don’t know, petioles are those tiny stems that connect leaves to twigs. Rhubarb is a petiole, but I digress.
Tendrils are used to help a plant climb or hang onto supports. Tendrils can even photosynthesize, but the really amazing thing about tendrils is that they can use chemicals in the air to help them decide which way to turn!
The evil side of tendrils
Not all garden plants mean well by their neighbors. In fact, it’s pretty much a battle zone out there. The delicate, innocuous-looking tendril often has evil motives, using its tight curling abilities to choke the life out of the competition, or even to invade and parasitize other plants.
No, this is not what you think. Tendril perversion is a geometric phenomenon that occurs when a tendril switches the direction of the curl (chirality) halfway to its destination. It ends up being very common, but no one is really sure why it happens.
If you are very, very patient, you can get a tendril to wrap around whatever you like. The biggest mistake people make when attempting this is to confuse the plant by providing multiple points of contact via fingers and the intended support. If you handle tendrils delicately, you can wrap them around a wire or other support multiple times, making sure that the end is tucked under, holding it in place. You can also use other supports, such as narrow bamboo poles, to hold the lower stem in a position that keeps the tendril where you want it, until it grabs on for itself.
Tendrils are lovely to look at, but they are only so strong. If you are growing pumpkins or melons up a trellis, you may need to provide hammocks for the fruit as it grows.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!