Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Garden Recipe: Covered Bean Trellis

First off, sorry for the delay in posting! This ended up being a more challenging post to write. But here it is, and I'm proud of it.

Ever  since I visited a friend's family garden where the paths were covered by bean trellis', I wanted my own. I've grown beans on teepee structures and on corn, as part of the three sisters. But with each of those models, I'd miss beans. And then the beans would become huge monstrosities, which is no fun. And let's be honest, a bean tunnel looks awesome. So I set about making my own.

Gardenista published an article a few years ago with a how to create a similar bean trellis, but the instructions, tools, and materials left some details out.


Copper pipe
Rebar cut to height (instructions below)
4 copper elbows per trellis
Welded wire fence
Zip ties


Pipe cutter
Rubber mallet
Wire cutter
Measuring tape
Large u shaped stakes


After buying supplies, 2 to 3 hours per trellis

Measuring Instructions

Your garden trellis will be specific to your space so the first thing you'll want to do is determine the path or area you'd like to cover and then measure that area. You'll be taking three different dimensions: Height, width, and length. The height you'd like your trellis to be will determine the length of rebar you'll be buying, the width of the area will determine your copper pipe length, and the length of area covered will determine how wide your welded wire will be. And both the width of the paths and the height of your trellis will determine how much welded wire you will need.

For the height of your trellis, I would recommend about 8" to 10" taller than the most common bean picker's height. I'm 5'7" so a bean trellis that is 6'4" is just right for me to reach up, but is likely not be my dad's favorite picking height as he is 6'4" himself. This is your bean trellis so make it custom for you. When purchasing your rebar, round up for the addition length you will need to pound into the ground; I would recommend an extra 3' to 4' to the above ground rebar height to ensure a stable rebar stake and to support the eventual bean weight. So for a 6'4" trellis, I would want around 10' of garden stake. You can also cut down rebar in most stores using a giant rebar cutter (staff will need to help you).

For the width of your copper pipe, I would add on about about two to three inches onto the width of the path both to give you wiggle room and to compensate for the width the trellis will grow to when covered with beans. Copper pipe is sold in longer lengths that you will cut down with your pipe cutter, so add up the total number of pipe length you will need, rounding up 10% to 20%.

For the dimensions of your welded wire, the length of your path will determine the width of the welded wire. I wanted to cover two 4.5' paths so purchased 5' wide welded wire. If you have a longer path than 5 feet, I would recommend setting stakes in the ground every 4.75' and using 5' wide welded wire, with each section of welded wire wrapped around the joining rebar stake. For the amount of welded wire you'll need, multiply the height of the trellis by 2 and add the length of the copper pipe, and then round up by 10% to 20%. Welded wire is sold in larger rolls, so look for the roll closest to what you need, but again, round up to the nearest roll size. 

Assembling Instructions

Put your stakes in the ground at the four corners of your trellis. Using a measuring tape, level, and your rubber mallet, pound the stakes into the ground until they are all the same height, level, and about a half inch shorter than your custom trellis height--the copper pipe will add back that extra half inch.

On one of the ends of a piece of copper pipe, add a copper pipe elbow. Place the elbow on top of one rebar pointing across the path. Measure about a third of an inch shorter than the connecting rebar length and cut your pipe there. Add on the second copper pipe elbow and connect the two rebar length. If this is the proper width--it should be!--I found it easiest to duplicate this copper pipe length four times as each of my trellis' were the same width. If you have different trellis width, repeat this step for each trellis width.

Next up is cutting your welded wire to size. Over a large flat surface, roll out your welded wire fence to the length determined while you were measuring; I found it was easiest to add on about 4" to compensate for the wire being curled and just to double check we have enough length--better too much then too little as you can always cut again later. Using your wire cutters, cut the fence at the desired length. I found it was helpful to have a second set of hands helping me move the wire over to the trellis stakes and help me drape it over the top of the rebar/copper pipe supports.

With your second pair of hands stabling the draped welded wire, use your zip ties to secure the fence to your rebar and pipe supporting structures every foot or so. You should have extra fence on each side of your trellis that will later be trimmed and twisted around the rebar/copper pipe supports. You may have some extra material on one of the bottoms, which you can now trim off. I found it was helpful to use large metal stakes to secure the fence to the ground. After the fence is attached to the supports and staked down, your fence material will likely still be bowed; softly bend your fence material to fit the shape you want, joint by joint.

Once your fence is bent, it's now time to trim your sides down. Using your wire cutter, trim off the last vertical wire past your rebar so that you have several inches of horizontal wire to wrap around the rebar. Carefully wrap each wire end around your rebar/copper pipe support and twist the wire toward the fence (a picture is worth a thousand explaining words, so see below photo for what I'm trying to describe).

Phew! You're done. While my initial inspiration for building this trellis was beans, you can also train cucumbers, melons, winter squash, and even some summer squash up these. Look at my melon and cucumbers climb! This keep your gord family plants off the ground, which helps them avoid diseases like powdery mildew and makes for easier harvest.

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