Will this trellis design overwhelm my backyard ?

usha_srinivasan(z5/6 SE MI)May 24, 2012

Hello all,

Please see the pics of my mostly vegetable bed in our backyard. Also included is a trellis design that my engineer husband wants to DIY in copper to contain the plants from spilling into the gravel path. My concern is that the design is too big and industrial looking for our backyard. But other than using those useless tomato cages, I am stumped for a trellising solution that is permanent but aesthetically pleasing to my informal gardening style. Also since the vegatable bed will be bare for a good 7-8 months of the year the trellis will be visible (and prominent ?) for much of the year.

Any advice appreciated (but please be gentle, I dont want to wake any sleeping giants here :)

Some background :

I am a long timer lurker, gardener (of the plant collector kind) in SE Michigan (zone 5-6). I learnt a lot from the oftentimes thought provoking debates that seem to be the norm for this group.

We professionally landscaped our small backyard (90'X30') last year.The main cost of our landscaping went in improving the drainage of our backyard which prior to this used to be a soggy mess until May and then a hard clay block for the rest of summer.The gravel path in the pic was a big part of this cost (it has some drainage feature built underneath, I forget what it is called)

I originally wanted a more utilitarian garden since this spot is primarily for vegetables but my landscaped architect persuaded me to my current plans with more curves for the veggie beds. For the most part, I find it very pleasing.

backyard from side of house

backyard from patio door

backyard with trellis

He will also add copper wires between to add more support to

the vegetable plants. A similar trellis is planned for the other side of the gravel path (have not added straw mulch yet to this bed).



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natal(Louisiana 8b)

What all are your growing? You only need a trellis for plants that vine like tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans, etc. If it's made out of copper it could be a very attractive addition. How tall will it be?

I had a not so pretty trellis system in the former garden. It was fine when it was covered with tomatoes and other vines, but didn't look so great the rest of the year. Now I use Texas Tomato Cages for the tomatoes and put the cages in storage at the end of the season. I don't grow anything else that really needs support.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 3:08PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Tell your husband you want to be able to break it down at the end of the season. It shouldn't be hard. All of our stuff is either ornamental or removable. There may be corrosion issues with the copper, though. We use conduit.

Remember, you may eventually need to do some sort of crop rotation.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 3:45PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

As natal asked/said - what are you growing and what kind of support does is need? Copper is easy to work with and quickly turns brown and fades into the background of the garden. I have used it for quite a few things in the garden. It makes great peony rings - I got fed up with the flimsy things that are all you can find in garden centers! Tall tripods work better for vining things; straight copper pipes could be used as supports for vining/indeterminate tomatoes; and then make something like my peony rings for bush-type tomatoes. You can adjust the height of the ring support by cutting taller pipes for the legs. The legs on the peony rings I made are just sitting in the connectors - not fixed together permanently - so the whole thing can be taken apart at any time to adjust height or remove it for the winter - we left the rings in place though for the winter because we were lazy :-) (and I didn't want to risk damaging the peony roots putting the rings back in spring...)

What I used to make the rings:

Almost completed... (that's a friend who was helping; not me!) To close the ring, I put a small length of dowel/peg in the ends of the ring, bringing the ends of the tubing together, and then crimped the copper tubing down onto the peg with vice-grips...

A ring in place:

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 4:48PM
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The bulk of the plants will exceed the extent of the trellis. Placing the trellis at the outside edge of the beds will have the the plants spilling beyond, onto the path and patio. Look at images of copper trellis on Google for ideas of something less industrial. If there's a chance that things might change with plants in the future, create a temporary trellis of wood or bamboo stakes and make the permanent copper one after details are settled.

Nice peony rings, Woody.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 7:09PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

The problem is not so much that your husband's design is unattractive as that it will not do the job, as has been suggested.

Your engineer husband needs to start with knowing the structure of the plants he is trying to support. It seems, from this design, that he thinks of plants as one big amorphous mass that needs to be just kept off the ground. Perhaps that's what he's seen before, but he hasn't analyzed it into its component parts to a great enough degree to come up with a useful solution.

And then there is the obvious... how will you get in there to weed, tie up plants, and harvest the bounty? Unless you are VERY short?

Start with a path through the bed, if you need one (looks wide enough that you do). Then tell him what kinds of plants you want to grow, how they grow - and what kind of access you need to them.

Karin L

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 8:21PM
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Copper is being stolen a lot around here - it there a chance someone could steal the supports?

I generally prefer a wooden A frame secured at the top with a screw; at the end of the season it can be folded up and stored away. You can link several of them together with a top cross support.

This link to martha stewart shows one in the background - I have never taken a pic of the ones I have built.

Here is a link that might be useful: tomato support

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 8:31PM
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usha_srinivasan(z5/6 SE MI)

Woody, I love your peony cage. I have a large clump of old fashioned peonies in my front yard and I think your solution will be perfect. Thanks for the pics, it really helps.

Also, I see from some of the comments that I may have misrepresented my DH somewhat. I was asking for suggestions not showing you a final plan for the trellis. DH will be happy to make a trellising system that will prevent my veggie bed from becoming a tangled mess. Also our choice of vegetables may change from year to year (and there is crop rotation to consider), I would like a design that can be modified easily if the need arises.Ideally we would like to have a framework trellis that is permanent but we could live with one that will last us a few seasons.
Natal: Do the texas cages hold till the end of the growing season and do you use them only for tomatoes ? That might work as a temp solution.

So more details : the plants are mostly heirloom tomatoes, butternut squash, and cucumber. one or two eggplants and a few hot peppers. The bed has two rows of veggies and a gravel path on one side and a tile path on other (hidden by straw) so I have access to both rows without walking under the trellis. I am short but not that short (or flexible :).

The trellis needs to be at least 4 feet off the ground, 5 ft would be better(plus a foot buried in soil).

Here are more options I found, tell me your thoughts.

This is from GW using cattle fencing but it would require mixing copper posts and aluminium wire.

One with just copper

Copper A frame


    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 3:53PM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

Usha, I only use them for tomatoes. I love that they're sturdy and fold for compact storage. This was a few years ago. You can barely see the cages.

Here is a link that might be useful: Texas Tomato Cages

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 4:52PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Beautiful veggie garden, Natal.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 9:57PM
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