Saturday, January 22, 2011

Growing up

"What would you like to be when you grow up?" i asked the bean as she unfurled her leaves and raised her face to the sun. Being a bean she ignored me, leaving me alone to weave twine into trellis and wonder about the secret aspirations of a bean.

Trellis weaving is satisfying work and i'm glad for the miscalculation that has made this necessary. Can i tell you a secret? I grew only bush beans for years because i didn't know how to build a trellis. My puny attempts bowed, sagged, listed, and generally ended badly. The pole bean pages of my favorite seed catalogs stayed clean and shiny, free from dog ears and purple sharpie marker stains. I pretended that i didn't care about growing beans that measure two feet long or beans that curl and corkscrew like the tail of a pig. If it needed to be trellised i wasn't interested!

He offered to help, of course, but i demurred. I knew that his trellis would stand true and tall and bear even the weight of Jack's famous bean but i also knew that it would be a forever trellis.  Forever is good in love and marriage but in gardens, not so much. I wanted my trellis to be as easy to take down as it would be to put up, a trellis that would stand firm for only as long as i wished it to. I'm not quite there yet but i'm pretty close.

And here i really should insert a disclaimer. This is not my design. It's an idea i borrowed from another, more structurally talented gardener, offered here with a few minor modifications of my own.  It's simple and sturdy and the materials are easy for the average home gardener to find and to transport.

Click on photo to enlarge details
What you will need:
  • Two or more t-posts. I like to use galvanized posts but the green painted ones are a few dollars cheaper and work just as well. Maybe you can find them on Craig's list or at the Restore but i have had rotten luck with that. My second choice is Del's, a local farm and feed store. Lowe's or Home Depot are my back-up options. Avoid U-posts which are not as sturdy. T-posts come in different lengths. I went a little crazy and got seven footers and a sore neck. Be smarter than me and select five footers instead ; )
  • Enough 5/8" rebar to span the distance between your t-posts. You'll need one for the top and if you use twine you'll need another one for the bottom. Smaller diameters seem a little flimsy to me. 
  • A PVC 'tee' for the top of each t-post, 1 1/4" diameter.
  • Your choice-a big spool of garden twine or a 4 x 6 precut panel of concrete reinforcing wire.
This goes together pretty easily. Bang the t-posts into the ground just to the top of the bottom flange. This is far enough to be secure but will still let you pull the post later without getting too sweaty.  If you are using CRW you should space the posts to the width of the panel. Slip the PVC tees over the of the t-posts and thread the rebar through. If you are using twine then lash the second piece of rebar across the bottom of the posts. You won't need this second piece if you are using CRW.

If you are using twine then start by tying laterals between the posts.  Begin your trellis weave by tying your verticals off to the top piece of rebar.  Wrap the twine around each lateral as you travel down the trellis, reversing the direction of the wrap at each twist and maintaining even tension. Tie off to the bottom piece of rebar and repeat until complete.

CRW lashed to top bar
If you are using CRW lash the panel snugly to the top piece of rebar and tie the sides off to the t-posts. If you are using five foot t-posts this will give you a trellis that is six feet long and five feet high with about a foot of empty space at the bottom on the trellis. Your beans won't mind and you will be glad for the room when you are tending the soil between crops.

Beans tackle that open space at the bottom.
The CRW is a lot quicker than weaving and won't need to be restrung with each crop but you will have to peel the vine from the wire at the end of the season. The twine trellis can be clipped off and composted, vine and all. I've heard some gardeners claim that their beans don't like to climb the wire and if you live in a hot climate that might be true. I haven't noticed any problems.

I still prefer growing bush beans to pole beans but now it's not because i don't know how to build a trellis.


A Kitchen Garden in Kihei Maui said...

Wow!! Now that is a real trellis!! Mahalo for posting the instructions for how to build it. I need something like this as my trellises are soooo flimsy. I hope all of your beans are growing really well!

Julie said...

Thank-you Jane!

Good news on the bean front. The favas and runners are flowering already. Now to see if they make beans...

Mr. H. said...

I love your trellis, it looks to be an excellent support for your plants. I might even have to copy your idea in our garden as I would love to use soemthing like this for our cucumbers.

Julie said...

Thanks Mr. H!

I have five or six of these now and am trying out some different configurations. Kind of like rearranging the furniture ; )

I'm sure your trellises are much longer than mine!

Daniel said...

Aloha Julie,
I'm about to build my trellis but I'm following the square foot method using metal conduit and nylong netting. I would think that metal conduit would be cheaper than rebar...? I'm trying to find the nylong netting locally...any ideas?

Julie said...

Hi Daniel~
Your new garden is looking good!
I think i saw some nylon trellis at Walmart last spring. No telling if it's still in stock.
Have you checked out Linda's blog, Gardening in Paradise? I think she just posted about a new metal conduit trellis she installed. Seems like she has used the nylon netting before, too.
Is conduit well priced? Easy to work with? Look forward to seeing how it works out for you ; )