Green beans are one of the most reliable warm weather home gardener’s crops in Southwest Idaho. I like to start with bush beans, for some beans to eat earlier in the summer, but pole beans are the staple of late summer and freezing for winter. The trick has been to find a trellis that:
- Isn’t too expensive
- Isn’t too time consuming for relatively helpless me to construct
- Is stable in the wind gusts
- Isn’t too heavy for me to move
- Is tall enough for my favorite variety, Garden of Eden
My search has brought me to the simple arched trellis made from a 16 foot ranch panel and 4 foot “U” posts (or at least that’s what they told me they are at my local D&B Supply store.) It doesn’t meet criteria number 4, but I have decided that multiple trellises throughout the garden could be useful.
I am able to measure out placement and pound in the posts by myself. I use a post hole pounder like so -
I show you this, because I humbly admit that I frequently am unaware of what others consider to be basic tools. Maybe someone will be relieved to know that they don’t have to wail on the posts or stakes in with a hammer. The post pounder is heavy enough to do the work for you. Strong word of caution, though. Use the handles at all times. A few years ago I was trying to put in a rather tall post and could not easily get leverage with the handles. I resorted to holding the pounder just under them. With the first pound, everything went wrong so fast, I can’t even tell you the sequence. But the result was my thumb was split open severely and I was in agony. My son had to take me to emergency and hold my other hand as I groaned loudly while they stitched me up. The numbing wouldn’t take effect. :-(
But let’s go on to happier things, like actually going through the steps of constructing the arched trellis! With some help from this same long-suffering son, I determined that it would work fine to slightly overlap the ranch panels, and thus be able to use fewer stakes. With that in mind, assemble all your supplies and proceed:
- Measure and place your posts. If you can, it is easier to do before you plant. However, I used the same system for grapes, which are established, and was able to work around them.
- Drag your ranch panels over and place one of the short edges against 2 posts near the dirt. At this point, I found I did not have the physical strength to bend the panel myself, but if the posts are all in place, you should be able to find someone to help you for a few minutes…
- While one person holds the panel there, the other person needs to bend the panel and place the other short end in front of the posts just opposite. I recommend a 20 or 25 year old son for this (thanks, Ben and Jesse) Now it is spring loaded, so be careful!
- Twist about 8 inch lengths of aluminum utility wire around the posts and fencing, both at the bottom and top of the post. Do this for each ranch panel. There are holes in the “U” post which can be used to thread the wire through to make sure it stays where you put it, too.
- Find a son or husband to reach up to slightly bend the middle of the panel. This removes some of the pressure on the posts and gives the structure a pleasant cathedral door shape. I never tried to do this myself. The men seemed to have so much fun doing it, I took advantage.
- Plant your beans. I chose to do this just inside the arch, thinking the plants will more naturally attach themselves.
There was great rejoicing when they sprouted, because I rejoice when everything sprouts. It brings me much happiness!
The one draw back I have found is that the presence of the trellis makes weeding a little harder. I have gone ahead and walked some on the raised bed between two arches in order to weed completely. I definitely prefer to have the arch over a path, though, because otherwise I would have to walk on the raised bed even more for thorough harvesting.
I planted pumpkins (not sprouted at time of photo) to the right of the beans and hot peppers to the left (still small and some mostly bug eaten, will be replanted).
Here is what the grapes look like on the trellis. The largest plant (the only one you can really see… ) is about 3 years old. I pruned it before putting in the trellis.
I don’t know that my garden will ever be as elaborately trellised as this smaller backyard garden, but they have brought trellising to a level I’ve not seen before. It is fun to look at!
Happy trellising – let me know how it works for you and if you discover any good ideas. :-)
Update August 6, 2012: See the progress and read about Magic Under the Bean Trellis