Trellising Vegetables

Rita's Monthly Gardening Tips,  May 2, 2015

The best time to create a trellis system for vegetables is after you prepare the bed and before you plant. The second best time is while they are still small (less than 2 foot tall).

Crops that benefit from support structures:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Pole Beans/Peas
  • Winter Squash, Pumpkins, Gourds

Advantage of trellising:

  • Allow you to grow more in less space
  • Keeps vines and fruit off the ground
  • Decreases plant disease through increased air flow and drier leaves
  • Makes the harvest easier to reach

Disadvantages of trellising:

  • Time to assemble and disassemble
  • Expense of materials
  • Storage of materials when not in use

Growth information:

With beans you could opt for bush types instead, although pole beans produce more. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, and some winter squash varieties come in shorter, bushier varieties, but with limited selection. Trellising is still recommended, but it doesn’t need to be as tall. Full size plants of tomatoes, cucumbers, and pole beans grow to approximately 5 to 8 feet tall, much taller than the typical store bought cylindrical cage could support. Winter squash/pumpkin plants grow longer and wider than the other crops mentioned. They are, also, very heavy which requires a very durable trellis. A tall fence or well-built tunnel would make a great trellis.

Cucumbers and peas have tendrils that wrap around trellis material. Bean plant growing tips naturally wrap around supports. Tomatoes are multi-branched and lack any type of tendrils or curling tips, so they will be completely dependent on physical support such as cages or tying the vines to a support. Cucumbers and beans may still need some guidance to get them to go the way you want them to.

Examples of structures:

Welded wire mesh with 4”x4” holes can be used to make a round cage. Don’t use smaller holed mesh because it will be hard to get your hand and vegetables through it. The fencing should be 9’ long and at least 5’ high. Rolling and connecting the edges will make a cage with a 3’ diameter. Plant your vegetables then place the cage around it. Secure the cage with sturdy stakes around the cage to prevent it from falling over. Push tomato vines back into the cage as needed.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, or pole beans can, also, be trained on a single stake with careful, frequent pruning.

For multiple vegetables of the same type in one bed you can put in tall, strong stakes such as T-stakes at each end of the bed and run twine around the stakes and vegetables as they grow.

Trellises can be made out of fencing, stakes and twine, PVC, lattice, tree branches, hog/cattle panels, old screen doors, and many other creative materials. Designs can be flat, vertical shapes, round cages, tepee or tunnel shapes and more.

Make them sturdy enough to handle the weight of the plants and the force of the wind. Also, plan ahead to ensure the vertical structure doesn’t shade out neighboring sun-loving plants.

Be creative and have fun. Happy Gardening!