Thursday, April 30, 2015

Trellis Ideas for Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Beans, Peas, Melons and Peppers

My little garden seems to have been transformed into the land of many trellises.
And I haven't even started with the peppers.
Wood and metal, twine and wire come together in various combinations to lend support to my tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, beans and tomatillos. I thought I would share some ideas that I've tried. Some worked better than others.

Tomato Trellises
Our growing season in the Los Angeles area is very long and so we tend to have large plants. The typical tomato cages are completely inadequate for our indeterminate tomatoes which can reach 10-12 ft in a good year. Our tomato trellises need to be tall and sturdy. I have learned that it works best to have the twine or wire run vertically instead of horizontally. I have tried both, and you can train the vine to twist around the vertical wire from the ground to the top. With horizontal wires, the vines can topple over the wire and get damaged.

This is a wooden trellis I built last spring.
It worked great for the green beans and tomatoes last summer, and supported peas during the winter.
It is still standing strong, and this year it will support cucumbers on one side and tomatoes on the other. The horizontal twine has been removed and more vertical rows were added. The cucumbers are also planted against the wire rabbit fence which will support them nicely.
Read how to build the wooden trellis here

This year I tried a new design using metal stakes, wooden furring strips and wire strung vertically. This one is ten feet long and will support 4 tomatoes. Read how to make this trellis here.
The only issue I found with this design is that I planted the plants in the center and there are no wires within reach of the plants when they are young.
I added a wire attached to a small "U" shaped stake which I pushed into the soil next to the plant. 
Once the vines grow they will reach the other wires but not when they are small. For that reason, I changed the design again when I made this one.
The difference is that this one has only one furring strip on the bottom which runs down the middle. This brings the wire closer to the young tomatoes, so I prefer this one. I haven't finished putting up all the vertical wires yet, and I may just add them as needed rather than putting up lots of wire strands now.

**Update: I would recommend using twine instead of wire for the vertical supports. It is less likely to cut into the vines. Read about that here.

Here is last year's version which was made of metal stakes with wire strung horizontally.
When the tomatoes outgrew the trellises I extended them by attaching round stakes using wire.
I just kept adding rows of wire horizontally as the plants grew. You can read about that trellis here.

Bean and Pea Trellises
This year I decided to try growing my pole beans on tee pee trellises. 
Growing the green beans in succession will prolong my harvest. These two tee pees were planted 3 weeks apart. They look happy. Click here for the link to see how I made my tee pee trellis using a round pole, pvc adapter, twine and "U" hooks.
I've grown bush beans on small trellises made of metal posts with twine strung horizontally. I find that spacing the poles about 10-12 inches apart works well. I planted two rows and ended up adding additional twine as needed to keep the bushes controlled as they grew.
I've also used string trellises that were bought at a garden shop and tied between poles. 
This trellis did not work well because I used round poles which were not very stable. I tied guide wires and attached them to the raised beds but it was still unsteady. I would recommend using metal stakes with the stabilizing cross piece at the bottom instead.

Melon Trellises
Last year my melons went crazy and ended up climbing up and over the rabbit fencing that surrounds our garden.
The fence held up well under the weight of the cantaloupe and Crenshaw melons. 
This year I plan to let the melons climb their fence again. 
I am also considering adding a couple of rows of rabbit fencing running across the bed in the "spill zone" to the right. I'm thinking of two rows of fencing running from top to bottom in the photo. The melons will be trained to climb up and over which will effectively increase the area that the melons can grow. Metal stakes placed every four feet worked last year. The rabbit fencing slips into the little hooks on the stakes which makes it easy. 

Tomatillo and Pepper Trellises
Well, tomatillos can really go crazy, can't they? They are hard to tame but definitely need support, at least in my garden. I have used tomato cages, but again they are too small and my plants outgrow them. This year I planted them in the melon bed, close to the rabbit fence, so one side has support from the fence. 
I put metal stakes on the other side running parallel to the fence and strung wire horizontally to provide support on that side. To support the branches between the plants, I ran wire in a zigzag pattern both down low and higher.
If they grow higher than the posts, I will add the longer round poles like I did when I extended my tomato trellis above. If I had longer metal stakes I would have used them but these were the only posts I had left. I've used this method to support my peppers and it works well for them too.

Last year I used bamboo sticks to tame the tomatillos. 
I had some bamboo growing in pots and the dead stalks had branches which were strong enough to keep the plants loosely controlled. Sometimes the simplest things work best. Read about it here.

I hope these trellis ideas inspire you to experiment and come up with your own versions. The hard work is done in my spring garden. March and April have been busy out there, tending the soil, building supports and transplanting my seedlings. 

Grow garden, grow!!


  1. La coltivazione di cucurbitacee ha bisogno di una buona ventilazione per prevenire malattie micotiche, cucumber trellis vertical, e la rete per cetrioli come spalliera lo permette.

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