Every year when we stake up our beans and tomatoes we use a simple piece of scrap wood and tie it on with cotton twine. This year I decided to shuck tradition and go for the all natural approach using sticks and fallen branches in the woods mixed with some twine. I decided I wanted to try two different types of trellises, a simple three leg one and a stand up one. I’m curious to see which one holds up better over time, and which one the peas prefer to crawl up. Eventually I would like to make a sapwood arbor which my peas can grow over, while my lettuce and basil grows under so they can have some relief from scorching sun and perhaps last longer. The only tools I needed were a small handsaw, large branch pruners (but I think the saw alone would be fine) and some scissors to cut your string/twine.
For all the wood below, give it a once over so you don’t bring diseased wood into your garden. Also, enjoy watching haying, but don’t get too close lest you get recruited to drive the tractor. Normally you wouldn’t care but you’re dying to try and make these trellises and nothing is going to stop you. Except the farmer, because you already feel like you’re shucking a neighborly responsibility. Sorry Steve.
People I know tend to refer to me as a little crunchy, which makes me laugh because I consider myself a homesteader but not particularly some super earthy hippie throwback. There’s nothing wrong with it, I just don’t see myself that way. While doing this project I looked down and realized I had just traipsed through the woods, picked up (or sawed off) branches and was sitting in the grass in a long maxi dress with a woven basket filled with twine. Then I remembered I make soap and a host of other cleaning products, I like showering every other day unless it’s really hot out or I have to, I prefer to be barefoot, I rarely if ever wear makeup and my favorite clothes in the world are either maxi dresses or chunky sweaters. Maybe I am a little crunchy. Country girl with a soft spot for a good pair of heels and a large makeup case she rarely uses but knows how to. I think that sounds good.
On this particular day though there was really no second guessing my crunch-level, and I was pretty much okay with it. Nothing wrong with a little creativity, work and savings. Oh, and did I mention I didn’t have to use the power tools at all to split the scrap wood into stakes? Yeah, I think that had a lot to do with it too.
Stand Up “Fence” Trellis
This was similar to fence building, in the sense you’ll need to do it in sections. Also, you may need to add some support to the lower legs because it ends up a little unsturdy. We’ll see how it holds up as the peas crawl but for now it’s good and hasn’t fallen down.
- Find two lengths of branch, rather straight but they don’t need to be perfect, which will act as your sides to the trellis.
- Figure out how much width you need and get smaller branches that will act as the climbing pieces for your beans. Mine were a little small but just remember they need to support the weight of the plant so nothing flimsy. Strip them of their branches and cut to width. You’ll want between 1-2″ at a minimum of overhang on either side so you can tie them up.
- Once you have everything lined up, cut a very long piece of twine and slowly start wrapping it. You may need to sturdy the first piece between your legs. Make sure your outer piece on the first side doesn’t get twisted so it won’t stand up straight, especially if your side pieces were slightly curved like mine. My in-between branches would only fit if I had them turned inward, so I had to make sure to keep them that way. To tie them on you’ll want to wrap once and do a tight knot while leaving a 3-4 inch tail on the starting side. Wrap again the opposite direction like an “X” and knot again. Now keep wrapping over, around, under, side to side until it feels tight. It might not look pretty, but it should be rather secure. Make sure to keep your twine very tight while wrapping.
- Continue this method for all of your branches until they are secure.
- To place in the garden, firmly press where you would like it to go and then remove and pre-dig the holes for the posts to go in. Put the trellis posts in place and firmly pack the soil in around the posts. Jiggle the posts a little and then pack the dirt in again. You want this tight. If it’s still too wiggly, you can tie two sticks onto the bottom to make a brace. Just tie them on like the other pieces.
This trellis is significantly easier to do, so I won’t even break out the numbered bullet points. Go find three sizeable branches. Cut them to similar lengths. Place them where you want them in the garden and lean the tops together until it feels steady, tie them together with twine. Make sure to weave in and out of each branch instead of just around all three. This will increase the strength of it and keep it from falling apart. For me, this version was extremely steady and I could easily pick it up to move it without any digging. I just placed it over my peas, helped them get started up it and moved on.
The winner as of today: The tripod trellis. Much sturdier, no holes, easily moveable, and easier to assemble. I think the other one will be easier to harvest from though, but that still doesn’t negate how good I think the tripod trellis will turn out. If my decision changes I’ll let you know.
As a side project, I used some left over cuts I had to stake up my tomatoes. Nothing fancy, just pounded the stakes into the ground and then used some pieces of scrap fabric I had laying around to tie them up. Easy Peasey. Just a few more weeks and those green tomatoes will be big enough to pick. Mmm.
I really like the rustic and utilitarian nature of the trellises. I also love that they were free, very simple to pretty simple in difficulty, and involved no power tools. Plus, they make my garden look a little nicer. Win, win and win.
P.S. There’s another photo from this day, of a sneaky little bugger with yellow fur, over on my Instagram page. You can follow me at username: likeacupoftea or like the Like A Cup of Tea facebook page and click on the “Instagram” tab.