Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Survival Gardening - Build a Zigzag Bean Trellis

I'm always looking for ways to save space in my garden, and one of the easiest ways to save space is to plant things so that they grow up instead of out. Pole beans are a good example of this. Since they grow up instead of out, you can get a lot more production in the same square footage than you would by planting bush beans on the ground. The problem is, pole beans are a pain; not the beans themselves, but the poles. Cutting poles and sticking them in the ground is pretty labor intensive, so I've tried several different methods of planting pole beans so try and cut down on the labor involved.

I tried the pole with strings running to the ground to form bean teepees. A lot of work, and I could have bought the beans for what I spent on string.

I tried setting up a welded wire fence for the beans to grow on. The problem is that most fencing is only four or five feet tall, and pole beans grow a lot taller than that.

I tried setting up a fence and then extending the fence posts and adding another two feet of fence above. Too much work. Pictured below: Extended height fence, it worked OK but it was a pain to set up and move

So I came up with a new idea that I'm trying this year. I asked myself, "How can I get a taller fence without having to extend the fence posts and piece the fencing together?" Well, I thought, I could cut seven feet of fencing and then turn it up and down instead of sideways. Good idea, but the fencing is very flexible and wouldn't stand up straight unless I had seven foot tall posts. Seven foot T-posts cost about $3.50 each and I needed seven of them. I can't see the logic in spending $25 to grow $10 worth of beans, especially when I have a whole pile of old five-foot T-posts that I could use. Then I had a minor brain-storm. What if I bent the fencing down the middle at about a sixty degree angle? This would keep the fence rigid, and because of the zigzag course of the fence I would get more feet of fence into the same length of garden row.

So that's what I did. I cut six sections of fence seven feet log. I laid a 2 X 4 down the center of the fence sections, stood on the 2 x 4 and bent the fence up at an angle. All I had to do to set the fence up was stick a T-post in the ground, use a couple of tie wires to attach a fence section, then put another T-post at the end of the fence section. The six fence sections and seven T-posts took me about thirty minutes to put up. Pictured below: Completed zigzag trellis

Now I have about thirty feet of seven foot tall trellis that take up only twenty-four feet of garden row. I can use this trellis, take it down, move it, and re-build it with very little labor; and it didn't cost me a dime. I hope this is the answer that I've been looking for. I guess I'll know in about three months. Pictured below: top, Zigzag fence with heirloom pole beans just breaking the ground; bottom, Zigzag trellis with pole beans one week later

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