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Picture of My Best Vegetable Trellis: Durable, Collapsible, Flexible
trellis-originalplan-2views.jpg

(I'm aware that it might not be the best, but it is the best I've ever used.)

When I started growing cucumbers in my small garden, I rejected most store-bought trellises, and tried a few. They all fell short. Some were too flimsy to last more than a season. Others relied on string or twine, which was hard to reuse and ended up a tangled mess in the garbage. Some I didn't even consider because they were made of plastic. Others I ignored because they were clearly designed to be cute and whimsical, not to be functional. As far as I know there are no magical creatures at the back of my yard (other than some very cool insects), so I don't need the fairy garden look.

I needed a trellis that would support the weight of the plants, give them plenty of room to climb and still allow me to reach the highest ones when it came time to harvest. Because they have a habit of hiding among the leaves, I needed to find a way to force cucumbers into the open. I wanted a tall trellis that was stable without driving posts into the ground or running guy wires from the top, since neither of those methods would allow me to rearrange the garden easily (and I would definitely trip on guy wires).

I also wanted a solution that was durable, cheap and easy to build, easy to move out of the way and store in winter, and didn't have to be built again the next spring. Finally, it had to work with the raised beds I’d already built.

At least 10 years later the trellis I improvised from scrap lumber and a leftover piece of remesh was still fit to do its job. It didn't look very good, and—no surprise—the wood was starting to get soft at the bottom where it had been in constant contact with the ground for 120 months or more.

Above is that original trellis, before I disassembled it to reuse the remesh, and the new one (plus a couple of the plans that led up to building it (I had to do something while waiting for the snow to melt).

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools
ON3_5394-trellis-hardware.jpg

Lumber

  • 2 8-foot 2x4s, pressure treated** or cedar
    You could go with 10- or 12-foot 2x4s if you want (or 6 feet, for that matter), but it'll be harder to reach the highest cukes and it seems to me that the whole thing will be a lot more prone to tipping over.
  • 2 2x4s 53.5 inches long, pressure treated or cedar
    (could also use 5/4 x 4, as I did, but I don’t think 1x4 would be sturdy enough)
  • 1 or 2 1x4s (or 5/4 x 4 or 2x4) 43.5 inches long (the actual length you need may vary*)
  • 2 1x4s (or 5/4 x 4 or 2x4) 40.5 inches long (the actual length you need may vary*)
    (All the 1x4s needed could come from 2 8-foot boards.)

Hardware

  • 2 4-inch carriage bolts, 3/8 or ½ inch, plus a washer and a nut (or wing nut) each
  • 2 large screw eyes, (or eye bolts or u-bolts, with nuts and washers as needed).
    If you don't plan to anchor it, skip this.
  • 12 deck screws, 2 inches long (add 4 screws if you're adding the optional 1x4 near the bottom of the frame)
    (get the most corrosion-resistant ones you can, such as stainless steel or some of the modern coated ones)
  • Fence staples (or you could just use thin nails and bend them over)
  • 1 piece of remesh. It's in the concrete and cement department, near the rebar.
    (The ones sold at Home Depot, which is what I had on hand, are 84 inches long and 42 inches wide, with 6 inch squares. Other stores sell it in different sizes, so find out how big yours is going to be before you cut any lumber.)

Total cost for all materials was between $30 and $40, which isn’t bad for something that will last 10 or 20 years. If I hadn’t used up most of my excess scrap lumber, it would have been even cheaper.

Tools required

  • Drill
  • Drill bits:
    1 that is sized appropriately for your deck screws (meaning a little thinner than the screws)
    1 that is bigger than your carriage bolts (1/2-inch bit for 3/8-inch bolts, 5/8-inch bit for ½-inch bolts)
  • Saw (I used a miter saw, but circular saws or hand saws will work)
  • Tape measure
  • Hammer

*NOTE: The measurments given here are based on the size of the mesh I used. If yours is a different size, you’ll have to adapt the instructions. Basically, the width of the entire trellis will be the width of the remesh plus 1.5 inches. If you have a smaller space or plan to plant fewer plants, you could cut the mesh down to fit your needs.

**Another note: According to the reading that I've done, the new formulas used to treat lumber are either totally safe or such a slight risk as to be basically totally safe. I'm not claiming to be an expert. I will say that this trellis, if used with raised beds, never has any contact with the soil. If it's used on the same ground that the plants re growing from, it's still barely in contact with the soil. If you are concerned, you might want to put flat stones or cement pavers under the feet. You could also use cedar or redwood instead of treated lumber, or you could just use regular lumber. It might not last as long, but if you take care of it and keep the feet from sitting on wet ground, it should still last a long time.

Grand Prize! Just popping to say congrats. You totally deserved it.
Cheers,
Laura
chinooktype (author)  Lauradenhertog4 days ago
Thanks!
beaskywalk19 days ago
I just build my mini greenhouses and need to build a trellis. HAvin a slope sounds very convincing, even though I have to construct my own version.
chinooktype (author)  beaskywalk18 days ago
The slope is a big help, I think. It should be pretty simple to scale this down to fit whatever space you have. Remesh is easy to cut, or you can use any other mesh, fencing, etc. I'd stay away from anything with openings smaller than 4 inches or so as it's harder to clean the old vines off in the fall and cucumbers (or whatever) can get trapped on the upper side where they're harder to see or reach. Please post a photo of what you come up with (or write an instructable, of course).
I like this vertical/leaning space saving design- it solves a problem AND is aesthetically pleasing. As others have stated, stay away from pressure treated wood, if possible. Natural Redwood or Cedar are also good choices. They may not last as long, but no chemical leaching issues to worry about either!
chinooktype (author)  electriceyeguy24 days ago
Thanks.
Cedar/redwood aren't easy to get and are pretty expensive, so I have purchased some of the non-toxic wood treatment mentioned in an earlier comment. I will build the rest of them out of pine that I will treat myself. It will be interesting to compare how they age alongside the PT one.
davis500011 month ago
Great idea! well done. If you don't feel comfortable using pressure treated material, I use a product called TallEarth ECO-SAFE wood treatment. Non-toxic, VOC free. It will age the wood to a silver patina. Comes in powder form, just mix with water. Only needs one coat. I've used it on all my vegetable garden raised beds. Check it out at tallearth.com
chinooktype (author)  davis500011 month ago
Cool. Thanks.
I love being it plus the fact that you used items you already had.
A couple thoughts...

Pressure treated wood (especially the modern stuff) will eat through most steel that isn't heavily protected. Typically hot-dip galvanized or stainless steel is recommended, common zinc-plating is not sufficient. Have you had any trouble with this in your 10+ year old version (or was that untreated)? It might be a non-issue in this application, since the remesh is not embedded into the wood like a nail would be, but you should worry about the other hardware that is.

I imagine the remesh gets severely rusted over time? Did you bother trying to put on a protective paint or anything, or just let it rust?
chinooktype (author)  nflemming20041 month ago
Two more things I probably should have addressed!
Regarding the effect of the treated wood on the hardware: none. The old staples holding the remesh on the old trellis could have been reused on the new one. In fact I just tossed them into the container of staples and may well use them again. They were a little darkened with age, but didn't seem compromised at all. There was no visible effect caused by the remesh's contact with the wood. The deck screws that held the old one together were rusty, but they weren't coated so I expected them to be worse than they were. They all unscrewed without any heads breaking off or stripping.
As far as rusting goes, remesh comes pre-rusted from the store. The stuff I bought recently is covered in a powdery rust that rubs off on everything. I do plan to wire brush one and spray paint it, just to see how well that lasts (though it's going to be a pain). The one that was out there for 10 years is dark and rough--it's definitely oxidized--but it's not badly damaged. It's still plenty strong to do its job. You can see it in the photo of the cut-off sections.
This is brilliant! My snap peas, cucumbers, and beans will be so happy. Thank you for sharing.
chinooktype (author)  Lauradenhertog1 month ago
My pleasure. Thanks for the compliment. I've got 4 varieties of cucumbers going this year so I won't be doing any beans, but building this has me already thinking about how many different climbing vegetables I could grow next year.
BruinB1 month ago
Love the simplicity of the design! Like that you can move it if you want & easy putting away for winter. Well done!
chinooktype (author)  BruinB1 month ago
Thanks! Simplicity is always one of my first priorities when I'm thinking up a new project (because it's more satisfying, mentally, but also because it tends to be cheaper). The ability to change my mind is an equal concern. If I make something I can't move around as my needs change, then I know for a fact that my needs will change radically and show me the weakness of my idea.
SusanC2361 month ago
This looks wonderful, but I have one question. I understand you are using pressure treated wood for its durability, but I have always stayed away from it around edible gardens as runoff could be harmful to edibles? Has pressure treated wood changed so its no longer treated with poison?
I think the concern about using pressure treated wood in vegetable gardens was always overblown, as horizontal leaching is barely a thing, but current PT lumber treatment is much less toxic (except to decay organisms) than the original kind.
chinooktype (author)  dwieland1 month ago
I agree. Plus, the wood of the trellis is not in contact with the soil at all (at least if you're using a raised bed/planter like I am). Even if it was, though, I don't think the small amount of water that could run off the 2x4s would pick up any chemicals at all.
There would definitely be NO leaching from the wood to the vines or vegetables.
If using this without a raised bed, you could put flat stones or cement pavers under the 4 feet. (That's not a bad idea even if you aren't worried about leaching as it might extend the life of the wood.)
Thanks for reminding me of this issue. I should add something to the instructable.
lmccarthy21 month ago
would this design work for raspberries?
chinooktype (author)  lmccarthy21 month ago
If they climb, it should work. I don't know if the fruit would hang down, though. Raspberries are pretty lightweight, so they might end up on the upper side where you can reach them easily. You could make it hinged somehow, maybe, so you could lower the top half for picking. Most of my raspberry experience has been with free-growing tangled canes, so I can't offer much insight. If you try it, or if you adapt the design, please come back and let us know what you did and how it worked.
I love this design, I been thinking about a trellis design for my small garden and I think this fits the bill. Thank you for sharing.
chinooktype (author)  ChristopherT331 month ago
You're welcome. Thank you.
CraigP941 month ago
Nice. A much better design than the one I built for my raised bed, as this cuts down on the redundant weight of an A-frame.
chinooktype (author)  CraigP941 month ago
Thanks. That's a good point, and I hadn't thought of that.
This is cool! You should definitely enter this into the Gardening Contest!
chinooktype (author)  audreyobscura1 month ago
Thanks.
(I did enter it--waiting for it to be approved. Probably should have done it earlier in the contest.)