Our Top 4 Reasons to Use a Trellis in Your Garden
Trellises are trending for a reason, and unlike waterfall countertops or skinny jeans, we just don't see these going out of style any time soon. Here are four reasons to add a trellis in your kitchen garden space.
trellises maximize your growing space
When you add taller structures to your garden, you encourage plants to grow up instead of growing out. This is especially important if you're growing in a smaller bed, but I'm sure we all want to make the most of the precious garden space we have. To me, my raised beds are prime real estate.
Trellises help you increase production because you can have smaller plants growing underneath or alongside your vining plants. Instead of just having the square-footage of the horizontal space in the garden, we now have available to us all that vertical space that stretches out over the the garden beds.
trellises keep your plants healthier
As trellises help rambling vines stretch upward, they're also increasing air circulation and exposure to sun for the plants down below. The leaves will stay clean and dry, which prevents mold and discourages pests—that means healthier and happier plants all around.
trellises give much-needed support to climbing plants
Kitchen garden staples like cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and vining beans need a strong structure to cling to, or they just won't grow and produce like you want them to.
trellises provide year-round beauty
Trellises aren't just functional. They're also beautiful. During the height of growing seasons, your trellises will be covered with lush greenery, but even in the coldest season when everything else may be dormant, your trellis will add vertical interest to your space. You can even create a sense of harmony between your home and your garden by selecting a trellis that mirrors the architectural style of your house.
what to grow on your garden trellis
The Best Kitchen Garden Plants to Grow up a Trellis
The best climbing plants for a trellis will vary based on your growing season. Here's a breakdown of vegetables that need a trellis for each growing season:
vegetables that need a trellis in the cool season
Cool season plants that love support include sugar snap peas, snow peas, and fava beans. When the weather warms a bit, you can plant your trellis with runner beans.
vegetables that need a trellis in the warm season
Cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, winter squash, and pole beans will dominate your trellises during the warm season.
vegetables that need a trellis in the hot season
During the hot season, you can turn over your trellises to eggplants, asparagus beans, yard-long beans, Armenian cucumbers, tomatillos, or luffa gourds.
The Best Flowers for a Trellis
Few things are prettier than flowers growing up a trellis in the garden.
In the cool season, you can plant your trellis with sweet peas (just be sure everyone knows not to eat from these plants—they're poisonous!). Transition into growing climbing nasturtiums, passion vines, or hyacinth beans for the warm season. Passion vines or coral vines will get you through the hot season.
A list of the best climbing plants for a trellis:
- sugar snap peas
- snow peas
- runner beans
- fava beans
- cherry tomatoes
- pole beans
- winter squash
- Armenian cucumbers
- luffa gourds
- yard-long beans
- asparagus beans
two measurements to keep in mind before selecting a trellis
When selecting a trellis, keep two measurements in mind. The first is the height.
How high can a trellis be?
Be aware how high you're capable of reaching when tending and harvesting from your garden. Unless you're over six feet tall, you probably don't want your trellises to be much taller than eight feet. Make sure to also calculate the height of your raised bed and how deeply the trellis will be buried.
The lowest recommended height for a trellis would be four to five feet above the soil line. That's enough to support peppers, eggplants, tomatillos, and bush tomatoes. You'll need something taller for vining plants.
How wide can a trellis be?
The second measurement to consider is how wide you need the span of the arch or the panel to be.
These two measurements will give you a better idea of what type of trellis will fit in your space and whether you should purchase a pre-fabricated trellis kit, build your own, or order a custom trellis for your space.
materials and styles of garden trellises
There are trellises to support every style and every budget. After gardening for many years and experimenting with all different kinds, I've solidified my personal favorites as metal trellises, specifically metal panels, obelisks, and arch trellises. We're going to look at all the different ways you can provide support for your kitchen garden plants, though, so let's start with trellises you can DIY.
Garden Trellises You Can Make Yourself
DIY projects in the garden have the benefit of costing you less (usually). Let's look first at wood trellises.
DIY wood trellises
Wood trellises are a basic and inexpensive option. When I first started gardening, I scavenged for bamboo sticks for free. I formed the stakes into panels and connected them with netting in my garden beds. The little tendrils of my cucumber and bean plants loved clinging to the netting.
You can also use collected sticks to form a sort of teepee tied together with twine. (Look at this $22 bamboo pole teepee on Amazon or these beautiful willow obelisk trellises from Terrain for design inspiration.)
The downside of wood trellising is that it often only lasts one season or so. It also needs a lot of reinforcing to prevent it from falling over.
how to make a garden trellis
The best and most secure DIY garden trellis, in my opinion, is a Florida weave, and this is a great option if you don't mind a more casual look to your garden.
To make a Florida weave, you'll hammer tall wooden stakes or bamboo poles at opposite ends from each other, several feet apart. You'll run twine or thin wire back and forth between the poles to create a zigzag pattern from top to bottom. Plant your vining plant (cherry tomatoes work well) on either side of your weave. You'll work your tomatoes in and out of the weave as they grow upward. (This also works well with a simple panel.)
You can purchase bamboo stakes on Amazon here.
Farm Fencing or Cattle Panels
You can buy entire rolls of fencing or cattle panels from a tractor supply or hardware store.
the advantages of using farm fencing or cattle panels in your garden
This inexpensive type of material is great to use between two or more strong vertical supports.
the disadvantages of using farm fencing or cattle panels in your garden
This type of support structure doesn't add the vertical interest of a wooden or metal trellis. Additionally, lighter material is too flimsy to serve as an arch trellis if you're wanting to DIY your own arch between two beds (you'll need cattle fencing for that).
Tomato cages are readily available at the hardware store and give support to your larger plants by encircling them with large cross sections of wire.
the advantages of growing in a tomato cage
Tomato cages are inexpensive, and unlike heavier trellis structures, they're easy to add to or take away from your garden seasonally or move around.
the disadvantages of growing in a tomato cage
For my first experience growing tomatoes, I bought tomato cages from the hardware store. I found that the vines often burst through the open sections and then put too much weight onto the rest of the cage, causing it to fall over. Cages with more narrow openings also make tending and pruning difficult—you either have to maneuver your hand holding the tool inside or work from the top.
What works better — tomato cages or trellises?
The only plants I'd recommend a tomato cage for would be a bush tomato plant, which tends to grow no higher than five or six feet tall. I like having my plants grow on the outside of their support structure so that I can regularly prune, tend, and pick fruit from them.
For that reason, I vastly prefer paneled trellises or arch trellises for vining tomatoes. It's easy to train your vines to grow up a trellis and tie stems if needed when your plant is growing on the outside of a structure.
If you do want to buy a tomato cage for your garden, go with the biggest size you can find.
panel, obelisk, and arch trellises
Panel Trellises — your easiest-to-use option
Pan means flat, so a panel trellis is a flat structure that allows vines to climb it—perfect for doubling your growing space in narrow beds or border gardens. You could also use a panel trellis in the middle of a wide bed that you can access from both sides. It will accommodate pole beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, and fava beans—really anything that wants to climb.
the advantages of using a panel trellis in your garden
We love using panels along a fence, garage, or home to maximize space. If you have an L-shaped garden, you could even look for a similarly shaped panel trellis.
Panels often come in one piece, so you just place it in your garden, and boom, you’re done.
the disadvantages of using a panel trellis in your garden
One downside is that I sometimes find panel trellises to be a little flimsy; they might need extra support by being pushed deeper into the bed or attached to the surface that you’re growing against (such as a wall or a fence). Another downside is that they limit the height of vining plants that could grow beyond the height of the panel if given the opportunity.
Explore some of our picks for panel trellises on Amazon.
NO SPACE FOR A FULL ARCH? ADD A METAL PANEL INTO YOUR RAISED BED!
Contemporary Panel Trellis
The symmetrical pattern on this unit contrasts the curves within your shrubs and flowers, and the black powder-coated finish brings a modern element.
Obelisk Trellises — the best trellis option for smaller vining plants
Obelisk trellises are sometimes shaped like a tall pyramid, wide at the bottom and narrow up top. These are best suited for the corners or the middle of square or rectangular gardens, lending height and unique interest to your space.
I prefer obelisks that are less than a foot wide; otherwise, they take up too much room in the bed, without actually maximizing your growing space (that’s also why I don’t typically recommend them for border gardens).
the advantages of using an obelisk trellis in your garden
I love that obelisks give you room to grow smaller plants around their base, while your vining plants grow right up the center and can be easily tended (unlike with tomato cages). You can grow three to four plants up and around the outside of an obelisk trellis, rather than just one plant inside.
the disadvantages of using an obelisk trellis in your garden
One downside with the obelisk is that you have way more planting space at the bottom than you do at the top due to the trellis coming to a point. By the end of each season, I often have vines reaching over the top and have to decide whether to cut them or trail them back down.
Some obelisks (like our Wide Pillar Obelisk Trellis Kit) stay wider until the very top, when they close like an imperial crown, which helps prevent overcrowding.
Explore our obelisk trellis picks on Amazon.
Arch Trellises — my top trellis option for a kitchen garden
This is, as you may have guessed, my favorite type of garden support. Spanning an arch trellis between two beds is the best way to tie your whole garden together. When I create gardens for clients and for my students, I want them to feel like their garden is a private getaway. Walking under an arch covered in vines can feel like you’re entering your own little oasis—just you and the bees and the butterflies.
I wouldn’t put an arch trellis in beds that aren’t at least three feet wide. I also think you need a good, wide pathway so that your arch feels cozy but not crowded. You want your arch to have that Ta-da! factor.
My favorite arch trellis is the Gothic Large Arch Trellis we sell on the Gardenary shop. I mean, if you want to make a statement, you can't get much better than this huge arch!
the advantages of using an arch trellis in your garden
Arch trellises can form a gorgeous living bridge between two raised kitchen garden beds. The surface area provided by an arch also allows your plants to grow as tall as they like. In fact, the plant growth never has to stop. You could grow vines all the way over, flip them, and grow them back the other way. This makes arches ideal for plants that grow quickly or that have a long growing season (100 or even 120 days in the garden).
the disadvantages of using an arch trellis in your garden
The two main downsides of an arch trellis would be the cost (they’re generally the most expensive) and the time to put together. It’s also really important to make sure the bases of your arch are secure and buried deep into your bed because a lot of weight will be placed on the middle of that arch.
Browse our curated list of arch trellises on Amazon.
tips to help you select the best trellis for your kitchen garden
Match Your Trellis to Your Home
Look at the distinctive features of your home, including the windows, doors, columns, gates, light fixtures, and roof lines. Notice the type of metals, woods, brick, and/or stones that are on the exterior of your home and be mindful of the finishes of those materials. Match the style of a new trellis to the style of your home to make your garden feel as though it's always been there.
Look for Trellises That Are Easy for Your Plants to Hold Onto
Small wires are great for pea and cucumber tendrils to easily grab onto. When you're shopping for a trellis, look for small breaks from one section to the next; most plants will only grow a few inches from week to week and will need the next rung to be close by to cling to. If you fall in love with a trellis that doesn't have these small breaks, you can always run your own twine or wire between the larger supports.
Budget for the Best Material Possible
It may be more expensive, but a trellis made of steel will resist rust and discoloration and grace your garden with beauty for way longer than a wooden trellis, which rarely lasts more than a year or two. The most durable trellises are made of powder-coated steel.
There's also just something about a metal trellis covered in vines that instantly elevates a garden space.
Purchase Your Trellis Before You Install Your Kitchen Garden
Don’t wait until your garden is installed to add your trellises. Otherwise, you might end up having to dig up loads of soil to retrofit your massive structures. It's best to place your trellises before you finish loading in all the soil to secure them in place.
metal garden trellis — buy it or have it made?
Unless you're a blacksmith, you probably can't easily make your own metal trellis. That typically leaves you with two options.
DIY Trellis Kits vs. Custom-Made Trellises
The discovery of ready-made kits for obelisks, panels, and arches changed how I designed gardens for good. These kits arrive with all of the pieces ready for assembly. If you bury the legs of your trellis about one foot down in your raised bed, the soil will hold it in place. Most kits also include ground spikes to safely anchor your arch if you’re placing it in your landscaping. Most kits cost between $200 and $400, so this is still an accessible option when you consider how many years this will bring structure and aesthetic appeal your outdoor space.
If your budget and timeline allow for it, however, there's nothing like a custom-made trellis, a piece crafted to perfectly suit your garden space. Plus, you can support a local business and craftstman.
Either way, you're going to end up with a beautiful hardscaping piece that you can enjoy for years to come in your garden.
Just as a beautiful trellis can lend support to your plants, Gardenary is here for you as you grow yourself and your garden. We want you to have all the support you need to grow to your best selves!
I can’t wait to see what you grow on your own trellises this year!
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