Anytime but the dead of winter is a great time to build a center-piece for your garden – a durable, eye-pleasing trellis!
Here are instructions to build a simple arched trellis that will be very strong as well as beautiful. You will leave this one in place all year around. It holds up to high winds – we know because we have had 70-75 mph winds several times during spring and fall tornado-like storms.
We added our trellises between two of our 4’x 8′ raised beds, but there are so many ways this can be done!
Building A Strong Trellis
Check the cattle panel sizes available in your area at the local Tractor Supply, Rural King, or farm store, etc. Ask for 36-38″ wide x 16′ long. This gives more than enough room to walk under, yet easy to reach beans, squash, or melons when you are ready to harvest.
What To Plant
Planting along the bottom of a trellis is perfect for squash, pole beans, and melon plants. As with any trellis, you will need to ‘help’ the plants up and onto the trellis for the first foot or so…just let the tendrils entwine the bottom rung or two and off they’ll go! They will flower better and bear more if given room and sunlight. Plant as many as you want, but thin leaving 6-8″ between pole bean and cucumber seedlings, and 9-12″ between squash or melon seedlings.
If you have the right soil for melons, these panels can be used to grow melons like cantaloupe or honeydew, but not watermelon.
The plants will naturally develop thicker stems to support the heavy fruit than if they lay on the ground. It will support all but the heavier of the squash varieties like the hubbards and pumpkins. Everything stays cleaner and leaves develop less fungus problems, although there will still be some.
Butternut squash (l.) can get 15-18″ if you let them (and still be perfect for roasting). Developing buttercup squash (r.) are so beautiful on the vine and on the plate!
Harvesting is usually at waist or eye level or above, except for cucumbers which don’t grow so tall. You can sit in a chair in the shade to pick your green beans! Over many years, my favorite is disease-resistant ‘Kentucky Wonder‘ pole bean.
You will need two people to install these safely. They are quite stiff and can poke you if it springs back when you arch it. Wear heavy gloves and thick jeans. One person on either end, walk together gently folding the panel. Do not push the ends together too hard, or it will bend the metal at the top and crease it. The 4′ x8′ boxes will hold it in place until you can fasten it permanently.
This can also be done without raised beds to arch between. An alternate way is to use sturdy, deep staking with 2 or 3 metal fence posts driven down 18″ and secured with heavy gauge wire.
Place the panels all the way down to the ground for stability. Use 3″ galvanized or exterior nails to fasten the panel to the box. Drive the nail in deeply and bend the head over the wire in several places all along the bottom.
Once there are vines (especially the giant leaves of squash like butternut and acorn) crawling up and over, they can catch wind like a sail. We get very strong winds from the west and southwest here most summers, so we put our panels arched so you can walk under them from east to west – the wind blows right through. The vines may take a bit of roughing up, but wind has never affected our crops.
These panel arbors should be pretty much carefree, and they will not rust. Ours are now 8 years old and still wonderfully strong!
Now, the foundation of your garden is in place. Later this summer, take time out for yourself; get a chair and rest in the shade of one of these leafy, cool arbors. Then watch the bees and hear their ‘hum’ as they work the flowers.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor! Literally.
“Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness…” ~2 Corinthians 9:10
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