An Easy Garden Trellis

How to make a simple, cheap trellis for your garden.

Any variety of vegetable plant that sprawls across the ground is a candidate for trellising. Not only does it look tidier, it keeps the fruit up off the ground,  increases air flow and prevents fungus, helps to minimize insect damage and gives you more planting space in your garden. Peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, small melons, gourds and pole beans are best grown on a trellis.

Trellising gives you more planting space when you're using raised beds by growing your larger plants vertically. You can even plant cool weather plants in the shade of trellised plants to protect them from the summer sun.

Lightweight plants such as peas and beans can be grown on netting, but heavier plants will need something more sturdy. Heavy fruits such as melons can be supported with slings tied to the trellis. Old t-shirts, net bags that onions come in, and old nylons can be used as slings.

There are as many ways to trellis plants as there are gardeners. Of course, the easiest and least expensive way is to use materials you have on hand. Here are some examples:

Tomato cages work best for determinate tomato plants.
  • Tomato cages are one of the first things you might think of when growing tomatoes. They are rather flimsy though and tend to topple over when the plant gets huge as some tomato varieties do. They are better for determinate tomato plants that don't get as large. I used one this year for my one and only cherry tomato plant. I thought it would be sufficient, but the plant just keeps growing and the cage is already leaning to one side. I've tied it to stakes to hopefully keep it upright. I've found that these usually last one season, which makes them not-frugal.

  • The Florida weave method holds tomato plants upright between stakes or poles. I've used this method a few times in the past, but it took a lot of stakes and continuous tending. It works better in a garden row rather than a raised bed. You might enjoy this Facebook video demonstration of the Florida weave from Savers and Preppers.

  • Sturdy wire fencing scraps can be tied together into a circle around plants. You might need to attach them to t-posts or stakes to keep them upright. Depending on the type of fencing, you might want to cut a few hand-size or vegetable-size holes in the wire.

  • Plants can be tied to t-posts or stakes, one plant per stake. If you use this method, drive your stakes in when you plant your tomatoes so they won't damage the plants' roots by being driven in later.

This year I happened to look at several pieces of cattle panels that I'd leaned against the garden fence in the fall, and had a light bulb moment.

I used two pieces of cattle panel, also called utility panels. The panels are sold in sixteen-foot lengths, but hubby had cut these a few years ago using a rotary cutter. They are between four and five feet long, and aren't both the same length, but that's ok, this still works. One side is just longer than the other.

This year I made a tomato trellis with two cattle panels.

I stood the two panels up along the long side of the raised bed, one on each side and touching at the top to make a tent-shape that's longer than it is tall. It was a bit interesting getting them up by myself, a second pair of hands would have been helpful. I attached the two panels together with baling wire at the top.

It looks like there are t-posts involved, but those are part of my garden fence, not the trellis.

Put your trellis in place before your plants grow too large to train.

The bottom of my panels are held in place by the side of the raised bed; the soil level is slightly below the top of the wood so they're lodged in there pretty well.

How to make an easy garden trellis.

As my tomato plants grow, I tuck them into the next space of the panel, weaving them in and out, and tying them in strategic places with the string from the top of feed bags. If necessary, when the plants are more mature and much heavier, I can tie the plants with a stronger yet gentler material such as strips cut from old t-shirts or sweatpants.

Continue to train your plants as they grow, weaving them into the trellis and tying them where needed.
Borage plants grow in between my trellised tomato plants.

Very simple and easy. So far this has held up through several strong wind storms. Be sure to set up your trellis before your plants get too large and are more difficult to train.

Do you let your plants sprawl on the ground or do you tie them up? What is your favorite method of trellising?

An easy-to-make tomato trellis and 4 more ways to trellis your tomatoes.

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