Trellising for a More Productive Vegetable Garden
Why a Trellis is a Good Idea
Most common vegetable garden plants will do well enough if simply allowed to sprawl over the garden soil or bed: Many vine producing plants will benefit from trellising, however, and some absolutely require trellising to grow properly. Trellising leads plants like pole beans, cucumbers, Limas, peas and some squashes up into the sunlight, and away from insects and diseases on the ground. It also allows a more efficient use of the space available to the gardener, as the plants are growing vertically rather than horizontally.
The simplest trellis available to the gardener is provided by the walls of the garden fence. If the garden is fenced to deter deer, it needs to be at least seven feet tall and ideally taller and this is an ideal height for a trellis. The fence is likely to be made of wire cloth or poultry wire, and beans, peas and cucumbers will scale this material with next to no coaxing from the gardener. Of course, care must be taken to plant the climbing veggies in such a way as not to block sunlight from the rest of the garden. Still, most of two sides of the garden fence should be available for this purpose.
A quick and dirty trellis can be erected within the garden by cutting two poles from saplings, leaving a fork at the top of each pole. Drive a stake about a foot into the ground and set the poles into the holes created. Alternatively, the poles may be nailed securely to the sides of wooden raised beads. A cross pole is then set across the two forked poles, and poultry wire, wire cloth or individual strands of cord or twine attached to it and then led to the ground and fixed in place with small stakes. The climbing vegetables can be easily trained up such a trellis.
A Trellis Built to Last
If an attractive and versatile trellis is desired, one can be easily made from two by four construction lumber ripped into two by twos. Construct a square frame by screwing or bolting the pieces together in any size you like, 36 inches wide by 72 inches tall is useful, multiple trellises of this size can be easily linked together for a larger run. Apply several coats of a bright attractive paint both to improve the appearance and also to extend the life of the trellis.
Vinyl coated wire cloth with 2” x 4” or 4” x 4” mesh can be purchased at almost any garden center or hardware store, usually in widths of 2, 3 or 4 feet. This can be easily attached to the frame with poultry wire staples.
If you have painted the trellis a vivid primary yellow, and purchased forest green wire cloth, the trellis will make an attractive presentation even before the veggies begin to climb and flower.
Getting the Most from a Trellis
The trellis can be made mobile quite easily; this is a good idea because generally it is best to move crops to different patches of soil each season. Simply screw two large screw eyes into the bottom of each trellis upright. Acquire two short pieces of pipe that will slide threw the screw eyes, and drive them through the eyes and into the ground. This will secure the trellis in place and yet make it very simple to move.
A trellis made as in the last example can be used year after year; particularly if stored out of the elements over winter. Even better, it may be flipped to fit the crop desired. A 3’ x 7’ foot trellis can be placed with the 3’ side vertical to support peas, and then rotated so that the 7’ side is vertical to assist lima beans.
All the materials required are readily available at a home and garden center, and the cost is modest. Now give your veggies a leg up, by presenting them with a trellis!
Support Your Local Pumpkin
Generally we think of beans, cucumbers and peas—the smaller vegetables—when we think of trellising. But vining members of the squash family will often self-trellis if not prevented. With smaller squashes, up to and including acorn squash, this is fine. In fact the fruits developed are often more visually pleasing as a result of growing without ground contact.
But beware the larger butternuts, Hubbard’s and pumpkins. Their own great weight will tear them from the vines well before they mature. Should these become entwined with the fence, provide a cloth sling or other support to remove the stress from the vine and all will be well.