A stake through the heart of paradise


Things are starting to look mighty nice in the garden. Our trips to the farmer’s market tell me that we’re still not pro growers–our broccoli has weeks to go before harvest, while local farmers have been selling gorgeous heads for nearly a month–but that’s OK. What crops we have are doing well, and we’re feeling good.

This weekend, I took a little time to hunt down stakes for the last few tomatoes. We’ve never bought premade stakes; we’re way too cheap. Plus, our land is covered with young, scrubby woods. There are literally thousands of tomato stakes just waiting to be harvested.

Our favorite stake material has long been ailanthus, or as it’s more colloquially known, paradise trees. It has the advantage of growing quite straight and being an invasive that we’d like to get rid of anyway. We cut down the young ones, trim off the leaves and voila: readymade stakes that usually last two years before they get too brittle.

We’ve always gone to one particular part of our land, near the garden, to find our stakes. And interestingly, now that we’re in our fourth year of gardening in this place, we’re noticing that there are a lot fewer ailanthus to choose from!

This is great news, and unexpected, because we’ve always been told that when cut, the trees just send up a bunch of new shoots and keep on growing. And that the only long-term solution is to use herbicides. It looks like, to some degree, we’ve been able to beat back the paradise with nothing more than persistence.

So, now we’re gathering stakes from another widespread invasive: Chinese privet!