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Building Your Trellises

Another advantage of square foot gardening is that you can grow vining crops vertically, saving much garden space.  The first year I had my garden, we built trellises out of 2″ wood lathe strips.  These worked ok for the first year, but quickly deteriorated to the point where they were not usable the second year.  Mel Bartholemew (Should we call him Uncle Mel?) again had the solution: galvanized steel frames with nylon netting.  I’ve had them for years now. The netting lasts from season to season and the frames are very stable.


To build your trellises, you will need the following for each trellis: (For a 4′ x 4′ bed.)

  • 2 – 3′ lengths of rebar
  • 2 – 1″ galvanized pipe or conduit, 6′ long
  • 1 – 1″ galvanized pipe or conduit, 4′ long
  • 2 – 1″ galvanized elbows
  • small brackets to secure the pipes to the bed
  • Garden trellis nylon netting. 6′ for each bed – here’s where to buy it: Dalen #TP-30C 5×30 Heavy Duty Trellis Netting
  • large plastic zip ties

To build your trellises, begin by pounding the rebar into the ground, 4′ apart, right next to the corners of the bed at the North end. These two rebar stakes will serve as anchors for the frame, so only pound them halfway in. Next, slip the 6′ length of pipe over the rebar at each end. Attach the elbows to the top of the pipe. Last, secure the 4′ length of pipe to the elbows at the top. You may need to trim this top pipe to fit between the brackets.  Voila! You now have a frame for your trellis.  Secure them to the bed box with brackets to stabilize. (The gardener of these beds pictured above didn’t attach them to the bed frames. Since my garden sometimes faces hurricane force winds, securing the frames to the beds gives them much greater stability.)


I use zip ties to attach the nylon netting to the frame because it’s much quicker than tying them. The netting has 6″ square openings, which are vital for harvesting later on, as you can reach through them to pick your fruit.  This netting is also very strong. It can even support large fruit like cantaloupe.  Any vining plant can be encouraged to climb up rather than out and will save space as it grows vertically.

You’ll need to start at the top of the frame, attaching the netting with the zip ties. Then, working your way down, tightly pull the netting so that it’s stretched to the frame and attach it square by square to the side poles. When you get to the bottom, secure it to the bed itself by pounding in a few nails with big heads and stretching the netting to hook over the nail head. Voila! You now have your trellis.

Remember that your vegetables that will be climbing are used to having plenty of ground to cover so you’ll want to give them enough real estate.  Cucumbers and cantaloupe will need the entire back row of square feet, two plants or seeds per square foot, and don’t crowd them by planting tomatoes right next to them. The tomato roots will eventually kill your climbers.  Instead, in the second block of squares from the trellis, plant things with less invasive root systems like herbs, marigolds, peppers, onions or garlic.  Make sure you don’t plant tall things in front of these or they’ll be shaded out of the competition.

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