I use trellises throughout my garden to make plants easier to care for, reduce disease and predation, and produce a larger crop in less space. A big part of my early summer garden work is trellising. Shell peas, snap peas, pole beans, cucumbers, tomatoes – all of them get the trellis treatment.
Trellising Peas and Beans
Most shell peas (except the Tall Telephone/Alderman variety) get a three foot tall fence with supports every two to three feet. Much wider spacing on the supports and the first good wind storm with the fencing laden with plants and wham! Over it goes.
Here are some of the peas I planted early this year in full bloom.
Pole beans and tall peas (Sugarsnap and Alderman) get trellis netting supported every five feet by six foot tall metal fence posts. A wooden cross piece on top reduces sagging as the season goes on. I can skip this step with the peas, but the pole beans really need the cross support. The trellis netting is tied to the cross support.
A Cucumber Trellis Produces Longer, Straighter Cukes
The long slicing cucumbers (Suhyo Long, our favorite Japanese slicer and Telegraph Improved European, a new cold-tolerant variety I’m trying this year) live up against wooden lattice. I train them up the lattice and tie them up with strips of old sweatpants. Eventually their tendrils help them cling on their own. I let the picking varieties roam free on the ground, but trellising helps the long fruit of the slicers grow straighter and gives them a more compact footprint. Here I am pounding in a tall trellis post next to the cucumber lattice. Nice photo, huh? With a sturdy post pounder in hand, you can drive a post in with just a few quick slams.
How to Trellis Tomatoes
The tomatoes get a “combo” trellis system. Each tomato plant gets three (or more) four foot wooden stakes to start them on their journey upward. Again, they are tied on with strips of old sweatpants. After they’ve started to stretch beyond the stakes, I drop tethers down from a wooden crosspiece braced by seven foot metal fence posts. In a good year heirloom tomato plants will easily reach six feet tall, even in our relatively short growing season.
Here are eight of this year’s 27 tomato plants. You can see our solar water heating panels in the rear. There are clear jugs behind the plants to gather sunlight, block some wind and create a micro-climate for the plants.
I prefer this method over boxes or cages, because it gives me better access to the fruit and accommodates the often rampant growth of the heirloom tomatoes. The posts are driven in fairly deep (one foot on the tall posts, at least half a foot on the short posts) and can withstand our high winds
What are the advantages of trellising?
- Trellising creates better air flow, which generally mean less disease, especially fungal problems.
- Elevated fruit/veggies generally mean less predation – the mice have to really work to get tomato access.
- Picking the crop is much easier, too. I’ve spent enough time over the years bending to weed and harvest. A little less is a good thing.
- One of the biggest advantages is getting a lot more productivity in a lot less space. (See “How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine” for more space saving ideas.)
Like a number of other things I do in the garden, trellising is more work up front but a lot less work down the road, especially at harvest time when it tends to get crazy busy. It’s a pleasant relief to have this step in our annual journey on its way – up!
Visit the Gardening page for more gardening posts.