It’s a shame there aren’t more display vegetable gardens. When I see how beautiful they can be, I’m tempted to toss the flowers and fill my borders with glossy winter squash and dazzling berries. Of course, I have to keep my precious edibles locked behind gates, or my resident wildlife would wipe me out. Still, whenever I visit a display garden I take away plenty of ideas I can use in my veggie patch.
I’m fascinated with structures that lift vegetables off the ground. We take tomato stakes for granted, but tomatoes are vining plants and they’d be just as happy to sprawl on the ground. The fruits stay healthier if they don’t, so we all finagle some type of cage or support. But tomatoes can gate very, very heavy and surprisingly tall. That’s why I was so intrigued by this trellis at The Samuel F. B. Morse Estate – Locust Grove, over in Poughkeepsie.
This is an historical vegetable garden and even the structures have been researched and recreated. The genius of this trellis is that the plants can be splayed open, for maximum sun and air exposure. It can even be angled to catch the southern sun.
This is an imposing structure, with multiple sections spanning at least 20 ft. long and 6 ft. high. Even so, it collapsed its first year, from the weight of a prodigious crop of tomatoes. But it was reinforced and has performed well enough.
Here’s my take on it, in my vegetable garden. I didn’t want to sacrifice space to the support brackets, so my structure does not lean backwards. I lose a little sunshine, but I positioned it in a sunny spot.
I also did not want to use wood, partly because it’s very heavy, but also because it will need replacing sooner than I would like. My version can be set up in minutes and moved each season I don’t lose out on rotating my crops, which is very important with tomatoes.
I simply use 6 ft. metal fence posts and stretch heavy gauge wire along them. I have 3 posts that span about 12 ft. and support too many tomatoes. (I know, I should give them more space.) As the plants grow, I stretch the branches out and secure them along the wires. I’ve been doing this for 3 -4 years and I’ve been very pleased.
I also tried a version with pairs of fencing posts at about a 45o angle, with a central metal reinforcing support. With wire stretched across it, it’s still great for tomatoes. With plastic netting, it’s perfect for other vining crops, like cukes and squash.