The importance of trellises in the kitchen garden
If you’ve read my book Kitchen Garden Revival, you know that I consider trellises one of the four essential structures of a healthy and productive kitchen garden (along with borders, pathways, and, of course, the raised bed itself).
As I discuss in Chapter 2: Gather, trellises help increase airflow to your plants, maximize your growing space, and keep your vining plants happy and healthy. Major bonus: trellises add visual appeal to an already beautiful garden, even in the winter when the rest of your garden is dead or buried under a pile of snow. In short, I love trellises.
So how do you know which kind of trellis to select to best fit your kitchen garden?
Option One: Panel Trellises
Panel trellis — the simplest, least expensive, and 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, fava beans—really anything that wants to climb. Panels often come in one piece, so you just place it in your garden, and BOOM, you’re done.
Downsides to 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.
Shop Gardenary's Favorite Panel Trellis
The squared metal bars of this stylish panel add a modern vibe, and the symmetrical pattern contrasts beautifully with the curves of your vining plants.
Option Two: Obelisk Trellises
Obelisk trellis — 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 interest to your space. I love that obelisks give you room to grow smaller plants around their base, while your vining plants grow right up their center and can be easily tended.
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 downside to using an obelisk trellis in your garden
A disadvantage 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 stay wider until the very top, when they close like an imperial crown, which helps prevent overcrowding.
Option Three: Arch Trellises
Arch trellis — 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.
The disadvantages of using an arch trellis in the kitchen garden
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.
The two main downsides of an arch trellis would be the cost (they’re generally the most expensive) and the time to put together. I spent a good amount of time screwing parts together when I assembled an arch trellis for a YouTube video. (You can watch me here if you want a good idea of the assembly process!) It’s also really important to make sure your arch is secure and buried deep into your bed.
On an arch trellis, the plant growth never has to stop. You could grow vines all the way over, flip them, and grow them back the other way, instead of getting stuck with a heavy mass of plants at the top of a panel or obelisk in need of more support. This makes an arch perfect for plants that grow quickly or that have a long growing season (100 or even 120 days in the 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, my friends, to have all the support you need to grow to your best selves!
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