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Reach for it! -- Trellis Gardening: Snakes and Ladders



 One of my best engineering initiatives was to construct a trellis over a section of my vegetable garden . I did it because I wanted to grow salad greens longer into each Summer of heat and humidity here in the sub tropics.

Now that I have 'planted out' the space with height in mind, I get to enjoy tendril creep as the climbers and ramblers I've planted head skywards.

My main impulse was to foster shade, but when I realized that in harvesting and creating shade I could also customize the source of the shade  a whole  new prospect emerged .

I've used old palm fronds as my initial shade resource by weaving them over and through the trellis frame. As the vegetation takes off and climbs  my plan is to  replace the fronds with living shade which I can trim back as required -- depending on the seasons.
So now climbing over my trellis are many bean species, Chokoes, cucumbers, Ceylon Spinach, and a grape vine ... in fact anything I can get that climbs or clambers. 

Underneath it is much cooler than elsewhere in the garden but not as cool as I'd like. I do, however, get better shading -- a cooler underneath -- from the palm fronds than I do from two runs of shade cloth in the mix.

So successful and engaging has been the exercise that I may build a further trellis system over the rest of the vegetable garden. 

I thought that the main game was to build a trellis out of so many uprights and rafters and to then climb the plants up the uprights. But my trellis design  has proven much more versatile. 


While I can rest bean poles/climbing poles/sticks against the frame to encourage climbing, I'm experimenting with dropping poles, ropes, old hoses, etc from the frame to the climbing plants below. I suspect my best option may be to use coarse, maybe jute, rope -- like so many bell ropes hanging down. For now, I'm using whatever I can get.

I've learnt that while bamboo is a useful material (also light, feral free and easily worked with) for building a trellis -- bamboo canes have a very smooth surface and don't foster tendril attachment as  coarser materials do.

The main game with trellises in my experience is to use  a bean pole approach rather than mesh as mesh is so hard to relocate and clean up after each seasonal usage. So single uprights (or 'drops' as in the case of ropes) make more sense to me as they are easier to manage than intertwined wire.

This means that my trellis is always evolving: new plants, new structures, new ways to climb up ... as I pursue a sort of 'Snakes and Ladders' approach: climbs up/drops down.



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