This a fun weekend project that results in a high quality, durable garden trellis that can be used to grow any type of vine-type flower or vegetable. Vegetables that grow well on a trellis include pole beans, peas, cucumbers, grapes, cantaloupes and small watermelons, such as Sugar Baby watermelons.
Why build a metal garden trellis? First, a trellis saves space, especially if you have a small garden area.
Second, a metal trellis is very durable and will easily last 20 or 30 years. A trellis can be made out of wood, but wood is not always durable and pressure treated wood should never be used around food production due to the toxic preservative chemicals that can leach from the wood.
Third, it keeps the food production off of the ground, which results in cleaner vegetables and fruits, and fewer problems with pests.
List of Materials
- 4 ten foot 1-3/8 inch galvanized fencing top rails.
- 1 roll of 48 inch wire fencing. You can use other heights of wire fencing. If you do, adjust the sizes for the posts accordingly.
- 2 1-3/8 inch gate elbows. These are right angle brackets commonly used to make gates.
- 2 1-3/8 tension bands.
- 2 1-3/8 inch rail ends caps.
- 10 to 15 stainless steel or nickel alloy hose clamps. Or use galvanized wire. Hose clamps are SAE size #20, witha clamping range of 3/4 to 1-3/4 inches.
- galvanized carriage bolts and nuts as needed. These sometimes come with the hardware, such as the gate elbows, but not always.
- 1 bag of concrete mix.
We use chain link fencing parts for the garden trellis framework because the components are found at almost any hardware store, including major chain stores such as Home Depot and Lowes.
Step 1. Determine where the posts will go.
Step 2. We planned for a gap of 8 to 10 inches from the ground to the bottom rail to allow access for future soil amendment and raking. This is a permanent installation, so we we are using 6 inch round by 6 inch deep concrete footings. The posts should be set in the ground at least 6 inches deeper than the footing and some of the fencing will be wrapped around the rails. After doing some rough calculations we determined that the posts will need to extend 52 inches above the ground. Add 6 inches for the footing and 6 inches for the added depth of the post, and the post lengths should be cut to 64 inches. Top rails cut easily with a hack saw or a pipe cutter.
Step 3. Dig the 6 inch round holes for the concrete footings. Set the posts and pound them into the ground. Do not use a hammer directly on the posts or the tops will mushroom out. Either use a post driver or set a short piece of 2 x 4 lumber on the top of the post and use a 2 pound to 5 pound hand-held sledge hammer to pound the posts into the ground. Use a level periodically as the posts are pounded into the ground to make sure that the posts are set perfectly vertical. It helps if tape or a marking pen is used to mark a line 52 inches from the top of the post so that you know when the post is set deep enough. A length of 2 x 4 set horizontally across the top of the posts should be used to check to make certain that the tops of the posts are level with each other.
Step 44 Clean out any dirt that has fallen into the footing holes. Mix the necessary amount of concrete with water and pour the footings. Concrete should be mixed fairly thick and not soupy. Use a stick to compact the concrete and remove any air gaps. Check the posts with a level to make sure that they are still perfectly vertical We use a putty knife to taper the tops of the footings away from the posts so that water drains away from the posts. Let the concrete cure for one or two days. Sprinkling some water on the footings periodically while they cure will help to make the footings stronger.
Step 5. Cut the top rail to the appropriate length and mount the top rail using the gate elbows.
Step 6. Cut the bottom rail to the appropriate length and mount the bottom rail using the rail ends and tension bands. The lower rails do not have to clamp tightly to the posts using the tension bands. The lower rail is there simply to help keep the wire fencing in line.
Step 7. The trick to mounting the wire fencing is to plan for enough width and height to allow the fencing to be completely wrapped around the posts and the rails. Hold the wire fencing up to the trellis framework and add 3 to 4 inches to the width to allow for wrapping. Always cut the wire fencing so that a vertical wire is left on each end. Trim off the excess wire beyond the vertical end-wires.
Step 8. Wrap the ends of the fencing around the posts and rails, starting from the top. Corner sections of the fencing will need to be removed with tin snips or wire cutters to allow for the wrapping of the fencing. Use the hose clamps to secure the fencing to the posts and rails. At least three clamps will need to secure the fencing to the top rail, at least two on each side, and at least three on the bottom rail. If you decide to use galvanized wire instead of hose clamps, wrap the wire around each post or rail at least twice and twist the end using pliers. When using wire, add a wire loop at least once every 10 inches. Make sure that the clipped ends of the wires are located in places where hands will not get cut while harvesting the garden. Bending the wire ends parallel to the post or rail will help prevent future injuries.
This metal garden trellis project can be done by anyone with minimal mechanical skills. It is also a great way to get more productive use out of limited garden space.