Here at the Light Homestead, we have always monkeyed around with the concept of vertical gardening, but to be perfectly honest – we haven’t done a great job of it.
There was our first attempt at holding back peas with small bamboo stakes (4 foot) driven into the ground vertically, and horizontal bamboo poles woven through the vertical poles like a basket. The peas brought those down by season end, and we had a mess on our hands where the peas outgrew the 4 foot poles.
We bought bigger bamboo poles, ran a top pole across the span, lashed it all together with twine, then ran our twine grids, and the peas and beans managed to wreck that too before the season was out, and once again, we had a mess on our hands.
We used the tripod style trellis, but didn’t really like how it worked.
We’ve used the one you can see in the header photo that the pole beans grew up on – we liked it, it worked really well, but it took up a lot of space, and was really difficult to set up initially.
So as we started laying down the plans for this year’s garden, we started seriously thinking – how can we do this differently? What can we do that will provide us with a strong enough trellis that won’t get battered in the wind, that is tall enough and strong enough to allow the peas to grow up it. Not to mention, something versatile enough design-wise to grow peas, beans, our vining heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, etc.. The answer came to us in Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening book.
Metal frames – he advocates steel pipe, but I decided ultimately on galvanized electrical conduit.
Thing 2 and I made a trip to the neighborhood Home Depot, and picked up the supplies we needed. Typically we like to scrounge up our parts and try to do it on the cheap, but unfortunately, the peas we’re supporting needed the support now. No time to scrounge.
Perusing the electrical conduit aisle, we found the lengths of 1/2 inch conduit that we needed (10 feet) for $1.95 each – not terrible. The connectors to give us our 90 degree connection though, those were outrageous. $4.45 a piece and we needed 6. BLECH! They were the only 90 degree connectors they had… we picked up the ones we needed to take care of the length for now until we come up with a better system (already got it figured out – and will detail later)
We picked up lengths of 1/2 x 3 foot rebar, and we were off.
We came home and made the cuts to the conduit that we needed to – the top bar to make it equal to 4 feet with the connectors needed to be 45″, so we cut three of those.
Then we trimmed down the pieces we already cut to 6 feet high, leaving us with about 3 inches of waste. Not too shabby.
We continued this process so that we had enough to do a 12 foot run (3 trellises)
Began to connect the 90 degree connectors to the top bar (notice the two additional garbage cans for potatoes!)
Once the top bars were all together, all that was left to do was connect the vertical posts on both sides of the top bar, drive the rebar into the ground on 4 foot intervals, sliding the vertical posts over the rebar anchors, and then lash the whole thing together with twine.
Here the poles are up and sitting on the rebar over the center of the peas, really sturdy – I was pretty impressed by that.
Once the twine was on them, they were very sturdy, and it should work great for the peas this year.
Here’s the problem.
At $2.78 cents each for the rebar pieces, $1.95 each for the lengths of conduit (took 2), and a whopping $4.45 a pop for the elbows (2 per trellis)… the grand total for a 4 foot length of this frame was $18.36. Even if you had access to lengths of 1/2 inch rebar, you’re still talking $15.00 a pop, which is pretty pricey for a trellis.
So, while these are nice – and I really like how they came out. I’ve already decided based entirely on cost, what I’m going to do for the rest of them in the garden is take 2 10 foot pieces of conduit, bend the last two feet into a 90 and pick up a butt connector for $1.78, that will connect the two together. (Total expense for the remainder of our trellises with that design is $11.78 -$5.56 if I can get 2-3 foot chunks 1/2 inch rebar free – and we get the added bonus of a near 8 foot trellis.) Quite a bit better price overall too – for an exceptionally sturdy trellis which can be removed each season and stored. Might look into putting some sort of nylon grid system on it that will last better season after season than the twine, but we’ll see.
What about you – what kinds of trellises have you used in the past? What has worked well for you?