14 November 2012


Last year, I was looking for a simple trellis design that I could put up easily and take down and store during the winter - something that would last a long time.  I had done variations on a trellis that Mel Bartholomew uses in his square-foot gardening books, but I wasn't happy with that.  I wanted something sturdy that I could grow pumpkins or watermelons on if I wanted to.  I was browsing GardenWeb, looking for trellis ideas and I found people using cattle panels.  This seemed like the idea that I was looking for, but I needed to learn more.  I did some research on the different sizes and prices of feedlot fence panels and decided on the cattle panel.  They were the cheapest ($22 at Tractor Supply) and they were the best size for me.  The cattle panels are 50 inches tall and 16 feet long.  I was hoping to find a six foot tall fence panel, so I could make four trellises from it, but this was the best I could find.  50 inches is wide enough for the beds and 16 feet would get me two trellises with a little extra.

As a frugal gardener, I was a little hesitant about spending this much money on something I haven't tried before.  The panel plus four 6-foot posts cost about $42.  I was worried that it might not work out as I planned.  I went to Tractor Supply one night and did some window shopping and spent a good bit of time talking to the salespeople, asking how the fence panels work and how easy it is to cut - remember, I had to get these things home!  They also showed me a $25 post setter that I might need to get them in the ground.  Finally, I was ready to make my first buying trip.  I bought a panel and four 6-foot t-posts - I took with me a couple of different size bolt cutters to cut the panel to be able to put it on the top of our car.  In a perfect world I would have cut it in a 6-foot piece and a 10-foot piece, or cut the 10-foot down to 6-foot and 4-foot, intending to use the leftover pieces for half of another trellis - but it was just easier to cut it in half and tie it to the roof racks and go.  I used the 36 inch bolt cutters, but when I got home and trimmed the pieces - I tried the 18 inch pair and they worked fine too.  Once I got them home, it took less than 30 minutes to trim and put up both trellises.

A couple of concerns I had was the size of the t-posts.  I went with the six foot ones, but I worried they might not be tall enough once they were in the ground a foot, but they seem really sturdy.  Also, it was fairly easy getting them in the ground without the $25 post setter.  They went in about six inches with a little arm strength and it took a little body weight to get the rest of the way.  I would definitely recommend this if you need a trellis of any kind.  I put up two more the following weekend and I have a couple more ideas for them other places in the yard.

Update:  I am moving forward with my front-yard vegetable garden and plan to use similar trellises at the north end of my planting beds - always plant the tallest plants on the north side of the bed, so they don't shade the rest of the plants.  The same goes for trellises as well.  I'll be putting them up in my beds and using them for beans, peas, squash and any other vining crops.  Go browse fencing on the Tractor Supply Co. website.  They have a good selection to help you find the right size for you.  If there's not a store near you, call your local feed stores to see what they have for sale.

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