If you read my post on maximizing your garden space, you may be thinking about using trellises in your vegetable garden. Trellises are a wonderful way to increase the yield in your garden. But how do trellises benefit the garden?
I’m so glad you asked! Let’s find out how this little piece of infrastructure can allow you to grow more food in your space.
Trellises reduce the ground space used.
Cucumbers, squash, and melons can take up an enormous amount of ground space in the vegetable garden. In fact, if allowed to sprawl out on the ground, most of these need at least 6 feet of space between them. What a waste of valuable garden space!
Growing these sprawling vegetables on trellises allow you to plant more – and harvest more – in a much smaller space. By growing up, you can space these within about a foot or two apart. So instead of having 1 cucumber plant in 6 feet of space, you can now have 6 plants!
Trellises improve air flow.
Trellising your plants help give them room to breathe, and allow the air to move through them more freely. Improving air flow amongst your plants helps lower the chance of wilt and disease. If the plants are dry, they are less susceptible to getting a number of diseases.
Trellising reduces disease.
Lots of plants are prone to powdery mildew, which is actually a fungal infection. Powdery mildew can be controlled by using trellises to lift the plants off the ground, where there is a lot of humidity. The soil also has a lot of bacteria (which is usually good, unless it splashes up onto your foliage), that can cause or exacerbate diseases on your plants. Growing your vegetables on trellises gets the majority of the plant up off of the soil, which can lessen the occurrence of disease.
Trellising makes harvesting easier.
If your plants are growing on trellises, it will make harvesting much easier. Instead of having to kneel down to harvest your vegetables, they may be more like waist-high. This makes it easier to harvest. Your knees will thank you!
The fruit and vegetables may even be more naturally shaped if they are able to hang from the trellis instead of laying on the ground. I have seen lots of weirdly-shaped vegetables because of them laying on the ground during their development. If they are allowed to hang, their shape and colors will be more uniform.
Trellises make an interesting focal point.
This last point is more for aesthetics, but it’s still worth mentioning. Trellises can make a pretty, interesting focal point in the garden. Lots of vegetable gardens are mostly functional, with very little as far as interest goes. Trellises add a little bit of whimsy in the garden, making it a more enjoyable place to be.
I don’t know about you, but my garden is one of my favorite places to be. Having some fun accents in the garden makes it more pleasing to the eye, and makes it that much better.
How do plants grow up trellises?
Vegetables grow up trellises by one of three ways. Some plants, like cucumbers, grow up trellises by using tendrils. Some plants, like pole beans, twine around the trellises. Other plants, like squash, scramble up their supports.
Not all plants are natural climbers, but can be trained to do so. Tomatoes, for example, aren’t natural climbers, but do very well trellised. You may have to secure your tomato plants to the trellis with a loose cloth or piece of nylon, but they do good trellised or staked.
What vegetables can be trellised?
Although they are not natural climbers, tomatoes need to be trellised or staked. Tomato plants get heavy, and without proper support, the branches will break and the fruit will lay on the ground. The little cages that you buy at the garden store just don’t work well enough. Especially with indeterminate tomatoes!
Cucumbers are very prone to powdery mildew, and the fruit can get malformed when it lays on the ground. Allowing them to grow up a trellis helps mitigate both risks. And if the trellis is like a lean-to, the fruit will hang down through the holes in the trellis, making it very easy to harvest.
Most peas don’t do well if they aren’t trellised. They need to grow up, and since they’re lightweight, they can have a lightweight support. Peas grow up a trellis through tendrils that like to hook around whatever they are next to. Chicken wire or netting work well for trellising peas, and tee-pees can make a fun addition to the garden.
Bush beans don’t need support, as they stay small. But pole beans, on the other hand, need a very tall support. They actually twine themselves around their support system. Pole beans can twine up to 10-12 feet off the ground in a growing season.
Most people don’t think about trellising squash, but it can be beneficial to them as well. As with cucumbers, squash is susceptible to powdery mildew. Since the plant gets so full, it often doesn’t get enough air flow. Growing them on a trellis can improve air flow and diminish the threat of disease. Squash grow up a trellis with little tendrils that grab onto their support.
Zucchini is another plant that benefits from trellising. If you grow zucchini on a trellis, your fruit will be more uniform in appearance, and the plant will stay healthier. Zucchini also grow up with tendrils that hook on to the trellis.
Gourds are especially good for growing on trellises. If the gourds themselves sit on the ground, they can rot where the fruit touches the ground. Growing them up a trellis helps ensure all of your gourds are uniform and healthy.
Small melons can be grown on trellises as well. Melons climb via tendrils. If they start to get big, however, you may need to make a sling for the fruit. Nylons work well for this, as do pieces of a cotton T-shirt.
Pumpkins can also be grown on a trellis, as long as they are a smaller variety. You may also have to make a sling for these fruits to keep them from falling off the vine before they are ready.
Grapes absolutely need to be grown on a trellis. Popular choices are arbors or pergolas, but I have also seen beautiful grape vines grown on a sturdy wood fence.
Hops are scramblers, and will quickly grow up any trellis. Keep in mind, hops plants can get very tall, so the trellis needs to be big and sturdy.
Hardy kiwi do well growing on a chain-link fence. They need it to be as warm as possible, so growing them up gives them the benefit of getting sun all throughout the plant.
Aren’t trellises expensive?
They can be! But they don’t have to cost much at all, depending on the materials you have available to upcycle. And it depends on how creative you want to get. I made a video about using trellises in the vegetable garden, using materials we had laying around the farm. The video is on my YouTube channel. You can check it out here.
Are you going to try using trellises in the garden?
Have I inspired you? Are you going to try using trellises in your garden this year? Please let me know in the comments, or share a picture of your garden trellises!
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