Garden Trellis – Exploring the Options
by Dawn Lesley Stewart
I have a large vegetable garden that runs the entire width of the house. Several of the plants in the garden require trellis or something to climb. Over the years, I have tried a lot of options for my climbing plants.
Arbors and Archways
I envy my brother his arbor. He built the wood structure in a corner of the property for grape plants that he inherited with the house he purchased. The grapes love the arbor, and the vines are attractive. However, while I love the arbor, it does take up room that I can’t afford in my yard. Another option would be to choose an archway. They resemble a doorway (without the door) and often have lattice side panels where plants can be trained to climb. My problem is that my garden is not a design where an archway would look natural. Both of these options can also be expensive.
Our family has grown pole beans off and on for years, and we have used a variety of methods to contain the vigorous vines. Our best solution was purchasing several Bean Poles. They were all-metal constructs with a wide circle at the bottom, a vertical pole in the center, and a smaller circle at the top. String is guided vertically between the two circles to create vertical lines for the bean vines to climb. Those Bean Poles lasted a long time, too, before succumbing to inevitable wear and tear associated with age. A less expensive way to create climbing surfaces for pole beans is to place three or four long poles together in a teepee formation. Tie the poles together at the top, leaving long string ends; then attach those strings to the ground where the beans will climb them and the poles.
For a long time I used chicken wire strung between metal stakes. The chicken wire has hexagonal holes. This made an excellent sturdy cucumber or pea trellis. A huge downside to chicken wire is that it eventually rusts. I have been cut by rusty chicken wire, which resulted in a tetanus shot. I don’t use it anymore.
I have purchased nylon netting several times for cucumbers and peas. I bought white netting a few times, and once purchased it in orange. The netting I bought is soft and flexible. It also had large squares so that birds could easily move through the holes without being hurt. I strung the netting vertically across tall garden stakes, tying the net in place.The nylon lasted several seasons before fraying and breaking.
Obelisk – A Non-Traditional Approach
When I saw a metal obelisk for sale at a local store, I couldn’t resist purchasing it. The obelisk was available in several sizes. I opted for a smaller size as an experiment. The obelisk is a beautiful design, and I’ve owned it several years and so far there is no rust. However, I’m having trouble with the plants I want to encourage to climb it. So far the obelisk has been a mixed experience. It’s lovely but proving to not be a practical choice for the vegetable garden.
Like the nylon netting, plastic netting serves the same purpose. Whereas the nylon netting was soft and flexible, the plastic netting is stiffer. I string the white plastic netting vertically across garden stakes, tying it in place. My most recent plastic netting purchase lasted three years in the garden. This year a heavy animal must have tried moving through it because along the bottom of the netting are large holes where something obviously broke through the weathering plastic.
Prefabricated Metal Trellis
I also own several trellis made from metal. These were bought ready-made from various nurseries. The designs range from simple geometric with squares and rectangles to more elaborate scrollwork. Each trellis is decorative and works well for climbing plants. They have supported cucumber plants and one is home to some perennial clematis. I have owned the trellises for about ten years, and they are just beginning to show signs of rust.
My vegetable garden would not be complete without garden stakes. For the longest time, I used all-metal stakes ranging from four feet to over six feet tall. Over the years, the stakes incurred serious rust damage. Now the garden is populated with plastic garden stakes that have a steel core. These newer stakes have a bit of flex in them and are strong. They have never bent or broken. These stakes are also useful for supporting tomato cages.
I grow a lot of tomato plants, and they need support. Metal tomato cages work best for me. I try to buy the larger size when available. Tomato cages have either three or four metal “legs” that are inserted into the ground. Metal hoops are welded to these legs, smaller circles at the bottom growing in size so that the largest circle sits atop the metal poles forming the legs. In order to stabilize these cages so that they don’t tip beneath the weight of the tomato bushes, I also place a stake at opposite sides of each cage. I have also experimented, trying to train cucumbers to grow up the cages, but the cucumbers didn’t cooperate.
Happy Gardening !
Dawn Lesley Stewart has enjoyed organic gardening for over forty years, learning at a young age from her father. First love is vegetable gardening followed by her interest in butterfly and bee habitats. She considers her yard a sanctuary for birds and wildlife. Her writing has appeared online and in print and has won writing awards. Dawn is the author of Harriet’s Horrible Hair Day (picture book), Mist-Seer (paranormal novel), and her newest book 300-Plus Quilting Tips, Tricks & Techniques features over 35 years of quilting knowledge.
Copyright 2010 Dawn Lesley Stewart