Looking to save space in your garden (and – yay – to be able to plant more crops than ever before)? Consider trellis gardening!
A trellis works for virtually any smaller space; even an apartment with a balcony can accommodate one. Trellises are eye-catching, too, bringing nature and springtime into your space, no matter how large or how small.
Ready to get trellis gardening? Here’s how.
Choosing Your Plants
When choosing veggies for your trellis garden, consider which climb well (generally, though not always, these will be vines) and which can be anchored to the trellis so their growth may easily be guided upward.
Plants that can grow on a trellis/be vertical-gardened include:
• Winter squash (zucchini)
• Small melons (these may need additional support – see below)
• Small to sugar-size pumpkins (these will need additional support – see below)
• Decorative or edible gourds
• Beans (pole varieties)
Be careful of the total vine length of your chosen varieties. For example, many pumpkin varieties, even smaller ones, need 8-10’ of vine length before a useful yield can be expected. If this is the case, a teepee-shaped trellis may be in order so that you can grow across or up one side and down the other (more on this below).
Choosing Your Trellis
There are many types of trellises to choose from. Select yours based on your personal style, what you’re growing, and space considerations.
1. A huge trellis in a tiny space will overwhelm the space unless the trellis “blends in,” so go for something natural or in a matching or complementing color to the wall or greenery behind the trellis.
2. Cross-hatching is generally needed for a trellis so that vine tendrils have something to hook around and so that you can place ties. Any style of cross-hatching is fine as long as it affords space for tendrils and/or ties.
3. Plastic, metal or wood are all options for your trellis. As far as expense goes, plastic is generally the cheapest. A plastic trellis need not look “cheap,” however; do your homework and look around at local gardening stores for nicely crafted plastic structures. If you want to try a wooden trellis, finish it in non-toxic coatings only (or buy one already finished). Metal is trickier, more expensive and generally more permanent, so consider this last option carefully.
4. If you can find or embed hooks in a nearby wall, you can create your own latticework of wire. This can really open up your options for creativity; you can make any design of trellis that you want. Another wire option is to make a wooden frame and cross-hatch wire inside the frame, or purchase a frame already made for this purpose.
5. If you need room for your plants to spread forward, try a teepee-style trellis (A-frame) so that you can lead the vines up to the top of one side and down the other side.
Using Your Trellis
In order to utilize your trellis, you will need to train your plants to climb it, and/or you’ll need to tie the growing plant along the trellis.
Your best bet is to plant seedlings, not seeds, into your garden, as you can’t tell which seeds will “take” in your garden but you can transplant seedlings exactly where you want them to go. Your best bet is to grow seedlings to about 2” in height (or above the first cot leaves in a squash, cucumber or pumpkin), then gently transplant along the base of your trellis, allowing space on either side of the trellis for root growth.
Vining plants, as they grow, will seek out whatever is stable and next to them in order to attach their tendrils, but you can give yours a boost by gently taking new tendril shoots and carefully placing them on or right next to the trellis. By the next morning, you should see attachment. From that point onward, your vines will continue to climb the trellis as they grow.
For plants that do not produce tendrils (tomatoes, for example), gently tie (leaving a bit of room) the stalk at intervals along the trellis as it grows. Do not use too many ties and don’t tie tightly; always allow for growth but tie closely enough for stability. Ties about 4-6” apart are ideal for stalks and vegetables/fruits that will be growing wider and heavier over time.
Accommodating Heavy Vegetables
Any climbing stalk will break if enough weight is pulled against it. Larger veggies and gourds may produce too much weight over time and could split your stalks, inviting disease and potentially ruining your harvest.
Your best method is to support growing fruits/veggies with something stretchy but supportive. You can create your own veggie “hammocks” using stretchy materials – believe it or not, pantyhose/stockings are great for this. Cut a piece of the stocking, gently put it under and supporting the fruit/vegetable, and tie the sides to the trellis. As the fruit continues to grow, the material will “give” enough to accommodate growth while supporting it so that it does not break the vine or stalk.
Always research your specific variety before planting it and trellising it. You will need to know the ideal time and conditions to plant, what type of fertilizer to use in your soil, and how far apart to space your seedlings. With that information and the instructions above, your trellis garden should produce wonderful, delicious yields.
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