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kitchen garden design
Published July 7, 2023 by Nicole Burke

What Kind of Trellis Should You Use in Your Kitchen Garden?

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obelisk trellis
panel trellis
arch trellis
garden design
garden elements
garden inspiration
kitchen garden
raised kitchen garden
vertical gardens
panel trellis

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).

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, there are lots of reasons to love trellises. 

There are three different types of trellises we use in our garden design—panel trellises, obelisk trellises, and arch trellises—and each has its advantages. So how do you know which kind of trellis to select to best fit your kitchen garden?

Option One: Panel Trellises

panel trellis in raised bed - Gardenary

Panel Trellises — 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 (gardens that are up against a structure like a fence or home).

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 ready to grow.

panel trellis in a border garden

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. Your panel might be 5 ft. tall, while your cherry tomato plant is capable of growing up to 8 ft. tall.

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 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. Others are shaped like cylinders with imperial crowns at the top.

Obelisks are best suited for the corners or the middle of square or rectangular gardens, lending height and interest to your space. Instead of planting just one plant inside, the way you would a tomato cage, you can plant three to four plants around the outer base of the obelisk and train the vines up. This still gives each plant plenty of space to thrive, and it makes tending and harvesting them so much easier.

obelisk trellises in a raised garden bed

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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). 

obelisk trellises

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. 

Shop Gardenary's Obelisk Trellises

Option Three: Arch Trellises

arch trellis in raised bed

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. 

arch trellis ideas

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 typically spend a good amount of time screwing parts together whenever I assemble an arch trellis, and you'll need a buddy to help you move it. It’s also really important to make sure your arch is secure and buried deep into your bed. 

arch trellis in garden
Shop Gardenary's Arch Trellises

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). 

arch trellises

You Can Use More Than One Type of Trellis in a Space

If you think several different types of trellises would work in your garden space, you can always mix and match. Arch trellises will be more permanent structures in your garden, but you could add panels or obelisks at the beginning of a new season as needed.

mixing trellis types - Gardenary

Find All the Support You Need to Grow with Gardenary

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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What Kind of Trellis Should You Use in Your Kitchen Garden?