Vertical Support Construction Questions

prairiemoon2 z6 MAApril 17, 2014

Raised beds are almost finished and the next project is vertical supports. The photo below is basically what I am considering building. I wondered if anyone had used something like this before and if they had any pros and cons to share?

Also this photo had no instructions for building, so we are just trying to guess what materials and construction methods we would use. I'm trying to first find a galvanized wire mesh that approximates the one in the photo. So far I found galvanized wire fencing at an Agway that has a 2 inch by 4 inch mesh opening in a 16 gauge wire that comes in different heights. Or they have one with a 2 inch x 3 inch mesh opening.

I've had very little experience growing vertically. Bamboo tripods and a nylon mesh are the extent of it. I would want something that would allow string beans, peas, squashes, cucumbers all to climb the supports, so is there any need for a certain size opening for growing any of those crops vertically? I guess I would lean toward the larger opening, for some reason.

Then I imagine we'd use 1" by 4" wood to build the frame and staple the wire mesh to the frame and hinge it at the top. I'm thinking of making them 8ft high to allow string beans to climb to the top. We will have a 17ft long bed to fit them into, so I'm thinking of using 5ft high wire mesh and make the frames that width. Or I could go with 6ft high wire mesh.

Would love any input you might have...

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moiraine_gw(5)

The issue I see is being able to reach the top of the trellis without having to step inside your raised bed, which you wouldn't want to do. When I had raised beds, I built a trellis and attached it along the length of one of the sides of the bed. I found it was plenty of room for the peas and beans, and I could always walk behind the trellis to reach any veggies towards the middle of the bed. This way I didn't waste any raised bed space between the supports as well.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 2:37PM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

"I would want something that would allow string beans, peas, squashes, cucumbers all to climb the supports, so is there any need for a certain size opening for growing any of those crops vertically? I guess I would lean toward the larger opening, for some reason."

I've used the same 1-inch mesh plastic fencing for both peas and cucumbers and they both climb it fine. However, I have to be careful to watch the cucumbers so that their fruits don't grow through the fence openings otherwise they get stuck in the fence and you can't get them out without cutting either the mesh or the cuke. If I needed new fence, I'd go for one with a larger opening to prevent this from happening. I used the same fence for melons once many years ago and the climbed it okay. However, they succumbed to disease and I know things now that I didn't know then. It was my fault they failed, not the trellis or the method.

For the supports, I staple the fencing to 8-foot long 2x2 posts pounded into the ground vertically (as in not on an angle) and things grow fine. At the end of the season I take the plant residue off the fence, pull the posts out of the ground with the fence still attached, and roll it all up to store it. In the spring I roll it out and set it up. After 2 or 3 years the bottom of the wooden stake rots out and the stake has to be replaced (I cut off the rotted part of the stake and re-use the rest of it elsewhere). Luckily stakes are cheap. Obviously I don't think the storage part of my method would work too well with metal fencing such as in the photo. But it's another option.

Rodney

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 3:14PM
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pnbrown

I'm very partial to the big wire cages that I make out of the 5'x10' sheets of 6x6-inch wire mesh you can buy at HD or Lowe's or a contractor's yard. You can also buy it in 100' rolls. It is the wire mesh used to reinforce concrete slabs. The roll is heavy (and not cheap) but easier to transport. However, one needs heavy-duty cutters (like bolt-cutters) and great care has to be taken not to let the curved pieces spring and cause harm. Cutting off the roll and making the cages is safer as a two-person job, and wear goggles, gloves and heavy clothes for sure.

The 10' pieces when rolled into a cylinder are perfect for a tomato or beans, peas, cuke etc but can be tippy in the wind when heavily grown over as with beans. So I often take a 12-15 foot long piece which makes a cage with a big enough base that it pretty much cannot blow over, just set it in place at the beginning of the season and move it away for the winter. This is heavy wire which lasts for many years, so although not cheap its a good investment. The light wire like in the picture will tend to get all bent up and hard to move around over the years.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 3:57PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

IâÂÂm already glad I asked because youâÂÂve all brought up good points that I would not have thought much about. Moiraine, I can imagine you might have to step into the bed for this design, to get into the middle. One reason I was leaning toward this design is that IâÂÂve had a single straight up panel of nylon netting and in the wind, IâÂÂve found peas and other plants will sometimes let go of the netting enough to start leaning away from it and I thought this design would prevent that problem to some degree. It could be I could use a board across the bed to step on to access the middle when I needed to harvest.

Rodney, IâÂÂve been looking at mesh with openings of 2inch x 4inch. IâÂÂm still working out the bottom of the support and how IâÂÂm going to anchor it. IâÂÂm debating pipe attached to the base of the frame that would fit inside large diameter pipe installed in the bed. And I am thinking about storage. We have a garage where everything needs to go for the winter.

PNBrown, IâÂÂve seen those cages made of CRW and they do look like that 6x6 inch mesh would make it easier to pick tomatoes. IâÂÂm thinking about tomato cages after this bean and squash support idea. IâÂÂve always done a combination of stakes and cages. The fact that CRW rusts is one problem for me. And the storage would be too. Great input about the light wire that will get all bent up over the years. WouldnâÂÂt have thought of that either.

Well, I keep looking at google images and Pinterest for ideas. I found this one todayâ¦. and theyâÂÂve used a pipe frame with a cattle panel attached and used it for espalier tomatoes. Suggesting that it gives higher production too. I hadnâÂÂt heard that idea before. I thought I could use the cattle panel on my AFrames too, if I wanted to and that would avoid the rust on the CRW and the light wire that bends over the years.

Thanks for the discussion, I'd really rather work out these problems before I commit to building any one particular design.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 5:12PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Mine are only 6' tall and I let the crop drape back down the other side. Easier to harvest and I don't need a ladder to pick.

And the bigger the openings the easier it is to clean the dead vines off at season end. Chicken wire you end up throwing away as it is a tangled mass that is too hard to clean up - don't ask me how I know - but 4x4 or 4x6 openings are fairly easy to do.

Dave

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 7:08PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

Prairy we use something like this, but zig zag it across the bed, so we end up being able to grow 5 large tomato plants in a 4x8'bed. We anchor it at each end with a couple of t-poles.
The wire, already being bent folds up to a very easily stored unit.
For green beans, this year we will be trying an upside down teepee type thing. Rather than having the beans on the outside like a ^, we will have them planted closer to the middle and have the poles more like a v, so the beans can droop down and be easier to pick from the outside.(I hope this makes sense!)
That way there will also be more room to plant things on the outer area that will be in reach.
Wish I knew how to post pics or I would! Nancy

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 9:11PM
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lantanascape(z6 Idaho)

I actually like to use electrical conduit for the upright parts of my trellises, and then drill holes into pieces of 2x3 for the "cross beam" at the top. This provides a sturdy frame that can be taken apart easily for storage, and different types of material can be used for the plants to climb, depending on your needs. The conduit can be driven into the ground, with or without rebar, and won't rot. The photo below is jute twine that I tied in a diamond pattern, which was kind of a pain in the rear. Now I usually use the 6" square concrete remesh mentioned earlier, and zip tie it to the electrical conduit. This works well for most kinds of climbers, though cukes would do better with jute, or maybe smaller wire mesh. I was constantly trying to train my cukes back onto the remesh last year and they didn't ever climb it very well. I put small screw eyes in the bottom edge of the 2x4, which are handy for tying the jute twine to, or zip tying remesh or netting.

This is a smaller trellis where I used a 2x2, which proved a little too lightweight. The twine configuration is a little simpler, and worked well for yardlong beans.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 11:16PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Dave, IâÂÂm guessing your beds are running North/South. The bed IâÂÂve planned as my main bean/pea bed is North/South, so I guess the growth on the back side would get enough sun. I wonder how that would work on my East/West beds though?

Nancy, what kind of wire do you use? Then you tie your plants to the trellis. Do you also prune your tomatoes? Is there room between plants for air circulation? Never heard of using an âÂÂupside downâ teepee. YouâÂÂll have to let us know how that works. Someone on the NE forum posted directions for posting photos to the FAQ section which IâÂÂve linked to below.

Lantanascape, your structure is very artful and attractive, but I can see where trying to do that diamond pattern had to be a pain in the neck. [g] IâÂÂm still trying to decide what I want to use for side supports. If I still do the A Frame it will have itâÂÂs own frame, but for tomatoes IâÂÂm still debating wood, galvanized pipe or electrical conduit. The conduit looks a little on the flimsy side, but I suppose looks can be deceiving. Thanks for the photos. In that 2nd photo, is that about 7ft tall?

Here is a link that might be useful: How to post a photo

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 5:57AM
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stevin(6)

here are mine. they stand 7' tall from the top of the raised bed and I can pick everything from either the sides or thru the back. I used the trellis netting that is sold at home depot and it going on it's 4th yr now with no signs of letting up. I use zip ties to attach the netting to the frame which is constructed of 2"x2" pine.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 11:45AM
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stevin(6)

and here they are last year. as mentioned in the post above, they are now going on their 4th year.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 11:49AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Dave, IâÂÂm guessing your beds are running North/South.

No my beds run E-W. Supports sit against N & S sides of the bed. Plenty of sun exposure on both sides of the trellis.

Dave

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 12:01PM
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lantanascape(z6 Idaho)

I have not had any problems with the conduit not being strong enough. If you want it really well anchored, drive a piece of rebar into the ground and slip the conduit over that, and then push the conduit into the ground a few inches. It can get pretty windy here and I've never had one fail on me in about six years of using these. However, I will only use 2x4" from now on, because they are much sturdier seated into deeper holes in the wood than the 2x2's allow. Using remesh instead of twine adds even more strength to the structure. I think in the second photo the pieces of conduit are 8' long, and pushed into the ground at the corners of the raised bed, so yes, about 7' sticking up above the bed.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 12:05AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Stevin, those are good looking too. I had been debating whether to use 1x2âÂÂs or 1x4âÂÂs. But your 2x2s look like the right size. Thanks for your photos.

Thanks Dave, good to know. Beans always go above what theyâÂÂre climbing I guess.

Lantanascape, good to know the conduit will fit over the rebar. I get a fair amount of wind here too. Not sure IâÂÂm following you about the 2x4s because if you are using conduit, unless you are talking about the wood piece at the top.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 5:43AM
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lantanascape(z6 Idaho)

Yes, I'm talking about the wood piece at the top. The photo of the smaller trellis uses a 2x2 at the top, which only allows drilling a little over a 1" deep hole to fit over the conduit. Using a 2x4 as shown in the larger trellis, I can drill about a 3" deep hole to fit over the conduit. This seems like a small detail, but makes the whole thing much more rigid. You want the drilled holes to be just big enough to fit the conduit.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 2:42PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Thanks Lantanascape, I see what you mean now and the reason you prefer the larger size wood. You did a good job. :-)

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 9:42AM
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bomber095(z5b MA)

This is how I do my cucumbers.....

It's two 2x4x8's w. lattice drilled across. Stands up year after year, and it gives more surface area for the vines to crawl on and cling to. Plus, the brilliant green color makes a striking contrast against the rustic looking wood :-D

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 9:54AM
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ju1234((8 Dallas TX))

Here is what I used last two years. Used chain link fence type pipe, I think it is 1 3/8 or 1 7/8" pipe. Vertical members and one top pipe. I had just two heavy wires across deviding the vertical into 3 segments. Of course I have the advantage of railroad ties wall behind. In the absence of that I would put some bracing supports in front and behind. I took heavy nylon fishing line from dollar store and zig zagged it vertically up and down. You perhaps can see the remnants of nylon in the picture. The nylon was no more than every 1-2 feet.

I grew cucumbers, gourd with heavy fruit, pole beans on those things. Climbing was not a problem. Wind did not cause any damage.

At the end of the season, all I did was cut the line at the top and bottom and hauled every thing away. Next season put new line on it.

I saw the suggestion some where of using twigs as support for peas and beans. So this year, I have cleaned up my yard of some of the 8-10 feet high tree growths and I plan to lean it against the fences and let vines climb up those. I don't know if that is going to work.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 12:07PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Gee, I just got an email in my box today with these two last posts. I don't know why I didn't get them sooner.

Bomber did you have any trouble training your plants through that trellis material? I just imagine myself breaking off the growing tips, trying to get them through.

ju1234, that is an unusual setup you have there. Is that stockade fence sitting on top of raised beds? Where did you get the chain link fence posts and the horizontal pipe at the top?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 6:26AM
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grandad_2003(9A/sunset 28)

Following are my vertical supports.... most appear to follow some of the above recommendations.

Cucumber trellis - upside down V shaped remesh. 3 V's with arched secion for canopy

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Bean trellis - remesh supported by 6 ft T posts. 2 X 4 light duty wire fencing wired to top section to make trellis 7 ft tall (which is about as far up as I can reach).

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Tomato & eggplant cages - 5 ft long sections coiled into circles (19 inch diameter) & supported by conduit legs wired to the cage. (Note: The legs were added due to the remesh rusting in the soil.)

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 10:29AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Grandad, you have some garden! I just noticed the date and that was today! Your tomatoes have a good amount of growth on them already. I see you have a leaf mulch, that's nice organic matter. I hope you will post photos of your garden later in the season.

One thing I'm trying to avoid is rust. I'm going to try to get galvanized if I use something metal. And I have to make up my mind what I'm doing soon, because the new vegetable beds are almost done.

Thanks for showing me how you use your vertical supports!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 6:31PM
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grandad_2003(9A/sunset 28)

prairiemoon2 - thanks for the kudos. Yes, mainly use leaf mulch collected during the December through February time period. A portion of the bagged leaf pile shows in the second photo above. This Fall I overdid it a bit by picking up 16 pickup truck loads of bagged leaves.- I normally use only about 10 to 12 loads each year.

I just wanted to also mention that I use black plastic for strawberries, canteloupe, watermelon, and summer & winter squash (see photos above).. I've noted that the preceding prefer plastic over the leaf mulch. I rotate the plastic and leaf mulched garden areas to help build up the soil in areas previously under the plastic.

My apologies to the readers for this off-topic followup.

This post was edited by grandad on Thu, May 1, 14 at 10:13

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 10:08AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

That is a LOT of leaves! I make do with what falls from a few trees in adjoining yards and my own. I have one neighbor who puts all his leaves over the fence for me. I love leaves as a mulch, when they're chopped up.

I undertand wanting to use black plastic for melons and squashes, but why strawberries?

I keep looking at your garden photos and I can only imagine how much produce you end up with. I wonder, do you have full sun on the whole garden?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 12:17PM
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grandad_2003(9A/sunset 28)

To answer your questions...

1) Strawberries are planted late September through Novemnber in south Louisiana. In short, the plants grow over the winter and begin producing (for me) in early March. Some of the commercial folks tend to get an earlier crop by planting very early and hoping that the weather cooperates. Plastic is the standard mulch for home growers and the commercial folks. It seems to warm the soil allowing the plants to grow faster during the December through February time period. Strawberries are finished in mid to late may. Plants are usually toasted by June. At that point I pull out some the strawberry plants and replace theme with cantaloupe which produces in late July and August.

2) For the most part I have full sun. I do get early morning shade from the neighbor's tree (photo @3). Rows run NE to SW. NW row begins to get mid-afternoon shade from the trees near the leaf pile (photo #2)... But, thus far it's not enough shade to make much of a difference.

This post was edited by grandad on Thu, May 1, 14 at 15:20

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 12:43PM
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jonfrum(6)

I use half inch conduit for trellis frames. I got a roll of heavy wire at Lowes that I use to anchor the vertical conduit to hold up in high winds. I use it for tomatoes by running lines down from the top and weaving from side to side. Works great, and breaks down easily. I use PVC elbows to connect the vertical and horizontal bars.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 2:53PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Grandad, your growing season is so different than ours here in Massachusetts, obviously. I see how the plastic can keep the plants from rooting the runners if you are going to pull them out after a main harvest.

We have less sun than we started out with now that the neighboring trees have matured. Not much we can do about that. I used to be able to grow full size tomatoes but now I stick to the cherries.

Jonfrum, anchoring is another way to go too. ItâÂÂs so interesting how people find their own adaptation to different ideas. Thanks.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 1:01PM
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