If you grow a garden, even if it simply for beauty, then you may need a trellis. It is especially wonderful to use for things like climbing roses, pole beans, peas and sweet peas. There are many different ways to trellis up plants, here are some great ones.
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Trellis with other plants
One of the most common and ancient techniques is to use other plants to trellis up vining plants. A common one is the three sisters method which uses corn, pole beans and squash to control weeds, fix nitrogen and use corn as the trellis.
You can also use trees, especially medium sized fruit trees in permaculture, as a trellis for vining food plants such as grapes, pole beans and peas. Using a plant as both support and to grow food or beauty is an excellent way to stack functions, a main component of permaculture.
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Another great plant to use as a trellis are sturdy sunflowers. Even after the flower goes to seed, the stalk will remain rooted and upright for quite a while. They are good companion plants with squash, cucumber and tomatoes. Just remember, like with the three sisters, you want the sturdy plant trellis to have a head start on the vine so wait a few weeks in between planting corn or sunflowers and the plants you want to trellis.
Trellis with fencing
I use the perimeter chain link fence as a trellis for all sorts of crops. Chain link is excellent for plants such as all squashes, peas, tomatoes and melons. One of the most successful plants on my back fence line was cantaloupe which produced 9 healthy melons from just one vine.
You can use other kinds of fencing as well including wood, bamboo and living fencing such as willow. As long as you have a vertical substrate that the vine can grab on to and free to attach in a horizontal direction. The only problem with fencing is the limit up or if the food grows on the other side and that is not your property. Definitely guide your vining plants as best you can.
Other types of fencing, such as dog-eared wood panels and white picket fences may need some help to be good trellises. However, since these are sturdy and made to last a long time, you can use your set up over and over, year after year. The key here is to use things like string to tie vines to thicker poles and areas that plants have trouble grabbing onto. You can even attach other materials such as cow panels to these types of fencing to make them into a decent trellis.
Many materials lend themselves well to being a trellis. A very popular one is using cow panels across raised beds. Most people use rebar staked into the beds on a corner and connected over a walkway into another raised bed. This means that the fruit or food can hang down on a sturdy trellis into the walkway, making it super easy to harvest.
Other materials include bamboo, willow, string, chicken wire, fishing line and hardware mesh. For some plants, all you need is a tall stake in the ground such as a tall piece of bamboo or rebar. Plants like tomatoes can be trained to grow up these to a certain point. You may need to train different vines along horiztonally to keep the growth going.
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These homemade ones may take a little extra work. For example, for a descent bamboo trellis, you’ll need to cut them to specific lengths, probably lacquer them and lash them together securely. Finally, you will need something sturdy driven into the ground to keep them upright through storms and strong winds. However, the outcome may be well worth it for a pretty, naturalistic looking fence and trellis. You can also be more free with the design.
There are some truly beautiful trellises you can buy in the store. My favorite is the function and pretty pergola. Also many places sell arbors and arch trellises that look nice as well as serve a specific purpose.
The great thing about these kinds of trellises is that they can last many seasons and support perennials over a long time. This can be especially important for roses you need the sturdy support but will come back year after year.
Also there are simple trellises at the big box stores that will be easy to install in any garden. They can even be used in pots and raised beds if you are limited on space or choose not to use an inground garden.
Tips on using a trellis
There is a lot of variation on trellises that you can use in your garden and some of them will be better suited for different vining plants. Some vining plants such as peas, beans, squash and melons send out tendrils that grab onto the trellis. Other vining plants such as ivies use small roots on the underside of the main vine to stick to a surface, which is why they can climb up flat walls.
Finally, other plants, like tomatoes, have neither of these and just grow indeterminately long and need to be tied or drapes. If left alone, tomatoes and other larger fruiting vines like squash, will simply spread out on the ground, which is fine and will produce food if you have the space to do this. Tomatoes will naturally send out shoots that you can simply weave in and out of a given trellis.
What is your favorite way to trellis plants? Leave a comment below and remember to share!
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