How do you cram an abundant, sprawling garden into only 500 square feet? For Kyle and Morgan Hagerty, the couple behind the urban farmstead East Sac Farms in Sacramento, California, the solution was to grow up—and they created this squash trellis to do just that.
"Take advantage of your vertical space, because the sky is literally the limit when it comes to growing upward," says Kyle. "If I grow cucumbers on a trellis as opposed to growing them along the ground, I'm going to be able to grow four times as many in that space."
This trellis was originally created for tomatoes that stretched skyward like magic beanstalks. ("Anyone who has tried growing them in tomato cages here knows that they outgrow those cages in about a month, and then they end up toppling all over the ground, so you have to find creative ways to support large tomato plants," says Kyle.) Soon, the butternut squash in a nearby bed crept over and flourished. Other crops that love the trellis include delicata squash, small pumpkins, green beans, purple pole beans and cucumbers.
"It provides better airflow and great access for pollinators," says Morgan. Kyle adds, "It also reduces the chances of fungus or disease and helps with consistent ripening. It brings the crops up to your height, so it's easier to harvest and prune. There are almost endless advantages to trellising." And when the summer ends, the couple turns the trellis into a hoop house to extend the growing season and start seeds in the spring.
All it takes are some easy-to-find farm materials and about an hour to set up. Voilà, produce paradise.
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• Four 5-foot or 6-foot T-posts (available at livestock supply stores; use 5-foot posts for harder soil; 6-foot posts for softer soil or raised beds.)
• One panel (16-by-4-foot) hog or goat galvanized wire fencing (available at livestock supply stores)
• Baling wire
1. Arrange one T-post in each corner of a 4-foot by 4-foot square where you want your trellis. Using a mallet, hammer the T-posts about 1 foot into the ground. (If your soil is softer or you're driving the posts into raised beds, use 6-foot posts and hammer them in 2 feet.)
2. Position the fencing vertically on the inside of two posts, bend it over to rest inside the two opposite posts, and bring it down to the ground to make an upside-down U shape. (At this point the posts will be holding the panel in an arched position like a coiled spring.) Use the wire to join the panel to the T-posts at the top, center and bottom of each post.
East Sac Farm has two trellises side by side to make theirs 8 feet long. To make a double-length trellis, use two sheets of fencing and two extra T-posts for a total of six posts, three on each side. Attach both fencing panels to the center post.
Once the trellis is in place, plant seeds or seedlings near its base. Climbing plants such as beans and winter squash will climb the structure unassisted. Tall nonclimbing plants like tomatoes and tomatillos can be assisted in vining up the trellis by gently weaving them through the wire as they grow.
Rather buy than DIY? Try the Titan Squash Tunnel ($100; gardeners.com).