Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

A Trellis For The Garden

Overall view showing how it fits into the raised bed garden. Blue Lake Pole Beans were planted along the trellis this afternoon.

This end view shows how the sides extend out past the edges of the garden. Also shown - in the foreground are bell peppers, the empty space beyond the trellis has newly-planted sweet potatoes, and beyond that is eggplant and squash.

A raised bed garden such as ours can present some added challenges when it comes to accommodating climbing plants. Once a trellis is filled, then it can really catch the wind, so having a structurally stable design is important. It also needs to be light enough to be able to move around easily. I had thought about having trellis capabilities built into the basic concrete structure but decided against it.

This trellis is 6′ wide at the top, while the inside dimension of the garden is 4′. This gives me the ability to simply reach straight up to pick the beans (or cucumbers or whatever I’m growing). Another benefit is that I could use an entire cattle panel (the standard size is 16′ long) without having to cut anything on it; if the sides had been straight, the top edge would have been another foot higher. I am 6’6″ tall, but there are still limits to how high I want to reach to pick vegetables.

Bending the heavy wire of a cattle panel is not easy. I bolted a fence stretcher to it so that I would have something to bend it around. It turned out to be easier than I thought it would to bend. Not easy – just easier. The cross braces are pressure-treated 2×2 with notches cut to hold the wire (I made two saw cuts and then used a wood chisel to remove the excess). They are secured with stainless steel wire wrapped and twisted. Before final assembly, I used cable ties to make sure it would work and the dimensions were right.

A fence stretcher was used to help bend the heavy wire


  1. Wyandotte

    A smart idea, to build it so the wind doesn’t take it. But pole beans grow at least 10′, at least in my cold part of Canada they do and in your area probably c. 12′ & more. Actually, they tend to just keep on going. My understanding is that when they are made to go horizontal (as in your case) the pods closer to the bottom will begin to fill out (but don’t quote me).

    I think that if they grow too much you can lop them off. Am going to try that this year, since I am fed up with getting on a wobbly ladder to get all of the beans.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      In the past when I’ve grown them, they were on those same cattle panels, only in their normal orientation. The beans would grow up to the top and then go horizontally along the top in a big mass. Many of the beans were just above ground level, but I don’t know that it has anything to do with the lack of height for them. The beans that are growing up the water tower will definitely have more height so I’ll have to see if that has any effect on their growth habits.

      Staying off of ladders is a good idea! I have tried to put a good bit of thought into making things easier and safer. I’m getting rather close to 60, so I try to think of ways to make sure I can keep doing this for many years ahead.

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