How to Identify Vegetable Vines
Identifying vegetable vines is fairly simple because only a few vegetable plants -- beans, peas, tomatoes and cucurbits -- have a vining habit. Most vegetables, such as lettuce, carrots, peppers, corn and broccoli, have an upright habit. Bush varieties of beans, tomatoes, melons and squash may not vine either, but have a compact, upright form. With the exception of peas, which thrive in cool, spring weather, all vining vegetable plants thrive in warm, sunny conditions and need 2 to 3 months of summer weather to mature.
Examine the plants for a trellis or support system. Snap peas, English peas and pole beans must have support to thrive. These plants cling to wires or string via tendrils. Other plants, such as tomatoes or cucumbers, may also grow on supports, but they don't cling. Instead, gardeners secure them to support systems with twine, strips of fabric or plastic ties.
Consider the height and width of the plant. Tomato plants usually grow at least 2 feet high without a cage or trellis. Caged tomatoes may grow 6 feet or higher and 3 feet wide. Melons, pumpkins and cucumbers usually remain fairly low to the ground, growing 2 feet high. However, the vines sprawl across the garden soil, stretching 6 feet or more.
Evaluate the leaves. Peas have small, oval leaves, while pole beans produce heart-shaped, slightly fuzzy leaves. Many people find bean leaves irritating to the touch. Tomato leaves are lobed, crinkled and have a distinctive tomato smell. The leaves of cucumber and cantaloupe plants are 3 to 4 inches across, lobed and wrinkled. Pumpkin, squash and watermelon leaves resemble cucumber and cantaloupe leaves in shape, but are much larger -- 8 to 10 inches across.
Inspect the plant for flowers and fruit. Peas, beans and tomatoes produce small, white or yellow flowers followed by small fruit, while cucumbers, melons, squash and pumpkins produce extravagant yellow flowers followed by large fruit.
- University of Illinois Extension; Plant Your Vegetables Right; James Schmidt
- "The Garden Primer"; Barbara Damrosch; 2008