Climbing towards the sun.
Climbing towards the sun.

Many of our favorite vegetables in the Beekman Heirloom Vegetable Garden require some sort of trellising – tomatoes, beans, peas, melons, cucumbers. When we put in our raised garden two years ago, we were determined to devise a trellising system that was easy to assemble, and would last for years. We were sick of weaving together bamboo sticks, and snapping together plastic cages. We learned that if something was cheap, it wouldn’t last more than a month, and if it had any sort of moving parts, it wouldn’t last more than a week. (If we could figure it out in the first place.)

We think we’ve perfected the perfect solution – and it’s relatively inexpensive to boot. (especially considering that we haven’t had to replace anything in three years.)

Our secret weapon? Livestock panels.

Livestock fence panel for trellising.
Livestock fence panel for trellising.

These lengths of panels are 12′ long, and come in a variety of heights. Made of thick welded galvanized steel, they don’t get rusty or bent out of shape very easily. (If only the same could be said for us.) How do we use them? In many different ways…

Our most ingenious discovery was that if we inserted one end of the panel into the soil on one end of the bed, and then bent it over, we could insert the other end of the panel into the opposite end of the bed. This forms a sort of “hoop” over the bed. We call it our “Calistoga Wagon Trellis.”

By mid-summer, this trellis is covered with bean vines.
By mid-summer, this trellis is covered with bean vines.

We use this hoop system for our tallest vines – usually our beans. It allows six feet of growth on either side. To make the most of our bed space, we plant the beans at the base of the trellis ends, and lettuces and other greens  in the middle. The lettuces get full sun while the bean vines are young, and as the beans grow to cover the trellis, they shade the greens underneath – keeping them from bolting in the increasingly hot summer days.

We employ another method using livestock panels for shorter vines (cucumbers, melons, peas.) For these, we cut our 3 ft tall livestock panels into 6 foot lengths using a bolt-cutter. They fit exactly in the length of our beds, and we use one on each side to form a teepee. Like with the Callistoga Hoop method, we also plant tender, heat sensitive greens underneath their shade.

Pea, melon, & cucumber trellising.
Pea, melon, & cucumber trellising.

One added bonus, we realized that first year, is that before any seeds have sprouted, the two panel segments can be laid over top of the beds to discourage cats and other animals from digging in the exposed dirt.

Laid flat, trellis pieces offer early protection from cats and other digging creatures.
Laid flat, trellis pieces offer early protection from cats and other digging creatures.

Another added bonus, we learned, was that the spare old windows we found in the barn can be placed on top of the panels to create a simple coldframe. These help warm up the beds quicker in the springtime, and keep them from freezing for another month or so in the winter.

A window laid on top of flattened trellising creates a cold frame with ventilation around the edges.
A window laid on top of flattened trellising creates a cold frame with ventilation around the edges.

Pretty ingenious, no?  So where can you buy livestock panels? Check out your local Agway or farm supply dealer. Ask for cattle or hog panels (different heights) and be sure to purchase the heavy-duty ones. Each panel, if we remember correctly, cost us about $25. (from which we get three small trellis sections, or one large Calistoga hoop trellis.)  Seems costly, perhaps, but when we step back to think of all of the cages, netting, broken stakes, and what-have-you we’ve thrown away over the years, we think it’s a pretty good value.

 

See what we do with what we pull out of the garden!  Click here

by Josh and Brent

Reader Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

sita

great ideas. the large arch for beans could also go from one bed to the adjoining bed and would still leave room to walk under.

Reply
badamsenBill

This is a great idea. For trellis’ these livestock panels look fab! You’ve shown a good breadth of uses, your commenters have added a few more, and I can think of several others. Thanks for the inspiration!

Like so many other “commenters” I’ve been using the rolls of steel (but not galvanized) concrete-reinforcing mesh” purchased at the local mason’s yard. They rust which doesn’t bother me – but oddly none of my friends seem to think that’s acceptable. They’re relativelyt easy to make into cylinders (comes pre-formed in a roll) and they’ve lasted five years so far.

Reply
Lisa

One of those “why didn’t I think of that” ideas. Can’t wait to try this in my garden next summer. Just saw you guys at the Sun Valley Harvest Festival and am excited to try new recipes in your cookbook with all my garden-goods. Question: how should I stand up the “cattle fencing” to use for my tomato plants that seem to want to tip over using those other cheapo stands?

Reply
Bill

I have used 16 ft cattle panels cut in 8 ft lengths (they will cut them with bolt cutters at most farm supply stores). 8 foot long panels fit nicely in the bed of of pickup truck. I use 6 ft metal “T” posts to hold the panels in place at each end. I use 8 in lengths of metal coat hangers to tie the cattle panels to the “T” posts. Have done this for years and it works great.
FYI- cattle panels are next to impossible to bend to make tomato cages. Concrete wire mesh is easier but it rusts.

Bill,
Wichita, KS

Reply
Elizabeth

I do like this idea, but it's more expensive than just buying a roll of 4×4 concrete reinforcing wire. I got 100 feet for about $120 at Home Depot. I use it for the same things you do–except that it's much easier to curl into tubes for tomato and pepper cages, and harder to uncurl to use for flat trellises. It can be done, though. <3

Reply
Sheila Brown

I love the idea of the livestock panels. Our neighbor is moving and is going to give some panels to us. We have a rather large garden, I don't do raised gardens, but this would work great for my cucumbers! Thanks for the ideas! Sharing this! Have a wonderful day! 🙂

Reply
Tiff Severson

This last season I used the interior metal frame of a box spring mattress (we took the coils off) bent it into 90 degree angle and staked it down. It worked well for beans but rusted. I look forward to trying your method this year. I am planning on building and modifying a pergola with trellising up the sides and my three existing raised beds by it. We're hoping to have pumpkins maturing on its roof by August.

Reply
Don Gardocki

I like your idea very much. I have tried fencing and chicken wire but both buckle and wave around. I like the ridgedness of the panels. I have a suggestion for reusable garden stakes. I have purchased 1/2 steel conduit pipe which I reuse every year. Thanks

Sat Hi to my son Tim in your merchtile store for me.

Reply
Marilee

So happy I came across your website and saw this idea! This looks easier and cheaper than the square foot gardening trellis made of rebar, electrical conduit pipe and nylon trellis netting. Really excited to try this since I have a small yard in the city.

Tell me, how big are the squares in the fencing? Can you reach right through to harvest the fruits/veggies? And is it hard to bend for the "hoop" effect?

Thanks for the ingenuity, much appreciated innovation I will be sure to try this season!

Reply
Ed Paynter

Have you tried putting one end of a long panel in each of two raised beds so you could walk under the trellis between the beds? This would leave more space in the beds themselves for plants in their middles and make harvesting the veggies easier.

Reply
sparkling74

Ingenious. Love that they dont' rust. I started using old windows on a wheelbarrow to make a mini greenhouse and it was amazing what went on in there!

Reply
Kellie

I just found your site and I love the idea of the panel for the beans, I made A-frames last year and looped jute string for the runners, I wish I would have seen this last year, much easier and will last. My question for you is do you attach the panel to the wood for the wagon trellis or does it just stay by the force of the bent loop against the bed wall?

I too have to figure a way to bring home the panel!

Reply
Toby

Did you ever find this in LA? The closest I have found was in Bakersfield. I did find something similar in Agoura but they are much longer than I need. If you still need them let me know and perhaps we can figure out a way of sharing the cost to ship.

Reply
Lisa

do you think the cattle paneling would safely work teepeed in 8 ft tall teepees (16 foot cut n half and resting on its other half?) Do you tie it together with something like a zip tie or anything? I'd like to do the "wagon" but I don't think I'd have a way to transport a 16ft peice home. As it is the 8 ft would have to be manipulated to fit.

Reply
Dr. Brent

Hi, Lisa

We have made "tepees" as you suggest using 4 foot panels and tied them at the top with zip ties. These work especially well with the cucumbers. It makes harvesting so easy

Reply
Bill

Excellent idea. I made 2' tall boxes some 10 years ago and set 12' 2×4's vertically in them, leaving 10' exposed. I attached 2×3" mesh plastic coated wire between them. I've had tomatoes (Mortgage Lifter) use the whole trellis (I harvested from 11'high!) and green beans grow like crazy on them. They grow to the top and then start forming a layer of nearly a foot thick on top of the 2×4 that runs along the top of the verticals. My neighbors garage is only 6" off my lot line, so I keep the south-facing wall of it adjacent to my garden painted white. Works like a charm! My garden is in Detroit, MI

Reply
Nicole

WOW! I love the bent over trellis. Fabulous idea!! Adding it to my garden this year!

(twitter- @nicoledeleasa)

Reply
Sandy

Hi Guys

Thanks for the great idea . I went to the local Farm & Tractor Store and found the farm panels that you describe. What a simple solution for many aspects in the garden.

Reply
Polly K.

Love this idea!!!!!!!! I have been searching high and low (Lowes, Home Depot, local garden store Armstrongs, Amazon, gardeners.com, etc) for a reasonably priced trellis system for my beans, peas, cucumbers, etc that will last more than one season. Now I know where I'm going next– to my local farm supply company to look for these panels……but to figure out how to get them home in my little four door sedan, lol!

Reply
Linda Schnell-Leonar

Now, that was easy!!

I can find them locally, if I just head a bit south in New Jersey to where there are still farms.

AND…. Gary's late wife, Kathy, LOVED to collect old doors and windows, so,,,, there is a collection in his garage that I will sort through to find some usable windows for the cold frame.

YES, there is a G-d, oh, and is his name Brent or Josh????

Reply
M. C. Bayer

Gentlemen,

First off, I'm glad you have been renewed for a second season. My wife and I look forward to your show every week and were disappointed when the season was over. It seemed to go so fast.

After reading the posts and your replies above, I was hoping you can provide some assistance (or anyone else reading). My wife and I expanded our garden from approximately 20 sq ft last year to 250 sq ft this year. For our tomatoes, I have seven foot tall steaks planted in the ground to hold them up. As they grow, we just tie them to the steaks. Unfortunately, this doesn't provide as much stability as I'd hoped. I love your bean trellis and will be doing that for our beans next year, but was hoping you could provide details on your tomato trellises.

Thanks for your time. Can't wait for season two!

Reply
Dr. Brent

Hi, MC

We use Texas Tomato Cages. We have found them to be the sturdiest as well as the easiest to store in the winter. You can find them easily online

Reply
Veronica Selz

Hi Josh and Brent,

I said earlier on a post that I couldn't find this post…well I found it! =) Very clever idea you had. I have my pole beans growing on bambo and I tell you what…whew this years the last time for that! I love this idea and I live in Colorado so hog panels are EVERYWHERE and will be very easy to get ahold of. Thanks for the ideas I love them all I can't wait to read more! =)

Veronica

Reply
Jackie

Thanks for sharing the great tips! I love the look of wooden trellis, but this is so much easier and less expensive.

Reply
Kris

i GOT SOME TULLE FROM THE WEDDING SECTION AT WALMART FOR SUPPORTING THE CANTALOUPE AS IT GROWS.BUT IM STILL THINKING PANTY HOSE WILL WORK BEST.I WAS JUST THINKING THE SUN WOULDNT GET TO THE CANTALOUPE IN THE PANTYHOSE.IM REALLY READING TOO MUCH INTO THIS.I JUST WANT TO DO IT RIGHT.THANKS

Reply
Kris

WISH I COULD POST A PICTURE OF CANTALOUPE TRELLIS ON HERE.I HAVENT ACTUALLY SEEN A PICTURE OF SOMEONE TRELLISING THEM AND SUPPORTING THEM WITH PANTYHOSE OR NETTING

Reply
Kris

I DID TRELLIS WHAT I COULD EASILY UNTANGLE.BECUZ THE CANTALOUPE WERE COVERING PEPPERS AND SHADING THEM.I WANTED TO KEEP IT NEAT LOOKING.THE ONLY THING ON THE GROUND IS WHERE THE BASE OF CANTALOUPE STARTS.IM EXCITED ABOUT GROWING THEM ON A TRELLIS.BUT IM WONDERING ABOUT SUPPORTING THE ONES THAT I FOUND GROWING.I NEED SOME EXPANDABLE NETTING,WHERE COULD I GET THAT?I KNOW I COULD USE PANTYHOSE BUT I THOUGHT THE SUN WOULD GET THRU NETTING BETTER.LIKE THE NETTING AROUND TOYS??…..MY GRANDMOTHER AND OTHER PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO DISCOURAGE ME FROM GROWING THEM ON A TRELLIS BECUZ THEY THINK IT WONT WORK!!SO IM DETERMINED!!

Reply
Kris

My cantaloupe are taking over everything.Vines are long and tangled.I dont think any cantaloupe has started growing yet.Its hard to tell.Can I do this tepee trellising now?How do I untangle them without breaking them?

Reply
Josh Kilmer-Purcell

well kris, if you're worried about untangling them, then it's probably too late. but don't worry. they don't need to be trellised…the main reason we do so is for space and to keep the melons off the ground. sometimes, in wet weather, melons can rot or be infested with insects as they lay directly on the soil. in your case, i would simply watch for melons to form, and as they near ripening slip a plastic plate or coffee can lid underneath each one.

Reply
Karen Byrd

Love the trellis idea. What could I use on the ground (under the raised bed) to keep the moles from tearing everything up? My yard is looking like a road map!

Thanks

Karen Byrd

Reply
Josh Kilmer-Purcell

you could try something called hardware cloth (or wire), karen. i think if you got the kind with 1/2 inch openings, the water and roots could go through without letting the moles up. (we've given up on trying to control the moles in the yard. if our army of barn cats can't catch em, they deserve to live!)

Reply
Judie E

Sounds wonderful but I'm wondering, with the trellises, how do you manage to get to the greens to harvest them?

Reply
Josh Kilmer-Purcell

hi judie…it's really quite easy…both ends of the "hoop" trellis are open, so we can reach in that way. the lengths of the beds are six feet, so as long as we can reach three feet from both sides, we can harvest right to the very middle.

Reply
MaryJane M

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, How simple and clever! What a great way to keep the cats out, shade the plants, save money, make life easier etc. etc. Also am a big fan of your goat milk soap. Used it for our grand daughters to give their teachers for Christmas and they all loved it [8 in all].MJ

Reply
K. Martin

I found your blog when Googling for "ramps," and after just a little exploration on it, am delighted with your ingenuity and practical ideas.

The ideas on this page? Superb!

Thanks so much for posting!

Reply
Elaine

Hi, Josh! That is truly an ingenious idea! I'm sure I have seen those at the feed stores here. Thanks for posting about the different ways to use them – it's so versatile!

I knew y'all would find a use for those old windows! Another great idea!

Reply
jolj

This works well, post with wire or bamboo canes work well too.
Some people use PVC pipe or metal conduit pipe also.
I have small 40 inch X 42 inch panels of wire also, that work well with cucumbers & melons, when stood at a 45% angle.

Reply