How to Build An Easy and Beautiful Garden Trellis

vegetable Trellis in the garden

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In this blog post, I’ll walk you through the steps of building a simple and eye-catching vegetable trellis to add height and a little bit of wow-factor to your garden. These trellises are the most commented-upon features in my home garden.

August in Wisconsin is the peak of beauty in the vegetable garden. The plants are big and lush, bursting with growth and tumbling every which way.

My garden feels a bit like a living, breathing beast that’s going to take over my entire yard. It’s a jungle out there, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. There’s a special kind of magic that can be found in the chaos.

One of my favorite quotes from Growing Beautiful Food: A Gardener’s Guide to Cultivating Extraordinary Vegetables and Fruit explores a topic close to my heart – growing food not only to feed your body but to feed your soul as well. 

“If you begin to imagine growing food as an art form, where you move beyond the supply and demand of feeding yourself and others and into the realm of aesthetics, then you begin to cultivate beauty as well. And beauty is a fundamental human need, as essential as breath.”

When the summer garden hits its peak I focus on soaking in the aesthetic beauty of my garden and embrace the extra joy it brings to my life. Every year I’m re-convinced that having a gorgeous vegetable garden is just as important as having a productive one.

vegtable garden Trellis

Which brings me to the subject of vegetable trellises! Each season I try to pay close attention to which parts of my garden I feel drawn to visually, so I can make mental notes about especially striking flower combinations, stand out vegetable varieties, and anything else that elicits a feeling of happiness in my heart.

One element of my garden that’s consistently been a favorite are the “temporary” vegetable trellises I created on the fly one season to add more visual interest to the garden. I wanted something quick, easy, and inexpensive to start with while I work out my plans for future structures.

After some scheming and dreaming, I decided to try a livestock panel trellis. I love the height and artistry they’ve added to my garden so much that they become more permanent than temporary!

First, we’ll walk through the various options for trellises, then I’ll show you step by step how you can create one for your own garden, and then we’ll end by exploring the specific flowers and vegetables that thrive on trellises.

Easy vegetable Trellis

Options For Building a DIY Vegetable Trellis

THREE DIFFERENT OPTIONS

Here are three different styles of vegetable trellises that are simple and inexpensive to build. 

Style #1: Arched Trellis

Vegetable Trellis Simple

With this trellis design you can keep the livestock panel in one piece, there’s no need to cut it. You’ll simply bend it over into an arched position.

You can see in the above photo that each side of the trellis begins in a different garden bed. The arch is over the aisle between the beds forming an arbor you can walk under. 

Some of the things I’ve grown on this trellis are:

Vegetable Garden Trellis

Delicata squash on the left-hand side of the vegetable trellis and two tomatillo plants on the right side (purple and green).

You can also see the pink flower of a Mandevilla Vine and the green leaves of a Sweet Autumn Clematis. I have a tendency to overplant my trellises!

trellis in vegetable garden

This year was also a crazy one! Love Vine is growing on the left and Purple Hyacinth Bean on the right. It eventually became so lush and overgrown I had to practically crawl underneath the trellis.

The Love Vine flowered too late in the season in my zone 5a/b garden, so I haven’t planted it again. The Hyacinth bean pushes out amazing purple flowers and I’ve planted it several seasons in a row.

garden trellis

And finally, one more year with Purple Hyacinth Bean (you can see it’s flowers reaching for the sky) and Sun Gold cherry tomatoes. It looks like there might be a Diva cucumber in there as well. 

Style #2: Triangular Trellis

woman picking tomatoes under trellis in garden

This is a great option if you need to cut the panel in half for transport. Again, I have one “foot” of each vegetable trellis in a garden bed so I can walk underneath it.

There’s less dead space under the trellis with this design because it has a slightly more compact footprint than the arch.

Some things I’ve grown on my triangular garden trellis over the years:

easy vegetable garden trellis

Two tomatillo plants on the left side (purple and green) and two Diva cucumber plants on the right side of the vegetable trellis. Both vegetables do well on this style trellis and I grow them often.

vegetable garden trellis

Sun Gold cherry tomatoes and Black-eyed Susan vine on are both enjoying their time on this trellis. I’ve tried growing Black-eyed Susan Vine twice and it’s not vigorous enough for me, so I’ve quit planting it.

Style #3: Flat Trellis

trellis in vegetable garden

A flat trellis is another wonderful option if you’re not able to transport a full-sized livestock panel. The one in the above photo is installed in an 8′ long bed. I was able to cut a 16′ long livestock panel into two flat trellises.

Confirm the full length of the panel you find locally and then measure your garden beds to figure out how many vegetable trellises you’ll be able to get out of one panel. 

My favorite vegetables and flowers to grow on a flat trellis are:

easy garden trellis

Peas! Did you know there are other options besides boring old green peas? My favorite variety is Golden Sweet Peas

vining vegetable trellis

I experimented with Cucamelon vines one season and the young girls who live next door absolutely loved them. The plants produce a lot, so you should have a plan for them!

There are plenty more ideas for vegetable garden trellises using livestock panels on Pinterest. Just search the term “livestock panel trellis” and have fun browsing.

vegetable trellis

How to Build Your Vegetable Garden Trellis

Now it’s time to delve into how to “build” your trellis. But, don’t worry, it’s more like assembling, no building skills necessary.

DIRECTIONS:

Step 1: Purchase cattle panels at a farm supply store like Fleet Farm or Farm and Fleet. They should be about $30 each.

Important note: They’re very long, so if you don’t have a truck you might want to bring bolt cutters and cut them in half for transport or borrow a large vehicle from a friend or neighbor. Trellis styles #2 and #3 above are best for cut panels.

The panels look like this at the store. You might want to take a scouting trip to see what your options are and confirm the full measurements of the panels.

vegetable trellis diy

Step 2: You need a few more supplies in addition to the panel: posts, zip ties, and an optional post pounder.

For trellis styles #1 and #2 you’ll need four 3′ light duty u-posts for each trellis. They should cost around $2 each.

For trellis style #1 the u-posts won’t be strong or tall enough to hold it upright. You’ll need two heavy duty t-posts for each flat trellis.

They’re made in different heights, so make sure you get a height that is taller than your panel because you’ll be pounding the bottom of the post into the ground. 

You’ll also need a bag of zip ties to secure the posts to the panel. I like the green ones!

The posts you purchase will need to be pounded into the ground. You can probably get away with using a hammer or a mallet for the small u-posts, but the bigger t-posts require a post pounder.

Note: I consider t-posts and a post pounder essential tools in my garden. I’ve has both in my garage for 18 years and use them all season long for all kinds of different projects. But, if you don’t want to buy either of these supplies choose style #1 or #2.

Step 3: Make any necessary cuts to your livestock panels if you haven’t already. 

Step 4: Play around with positioning the trellis until you get it right where you want it. This is definitely a two-person job.

Simple Garden Trellis

The light-duty u-post with trellis attached.

Step 5: Use a hammer, mallet, or post pounder to drive the posts into the ground. Attach the livestock panels to the posts using zip ties. You can also use metal wire if you’d like to cut down on your plastic use in the garden.

If you’re building style #1 you’ll simply bend the panel over to make an arch and secure the other end with two more posts and ties.

If you’re assembling the triangular vegetable trellis (#2) you’ll need to use zip ties or wire to bring the top of the triangle together.

The flat trellis can also be secured using zip ties. I use one in each of the four corners. Make sure they’re tight so the trellis doesn’t slip down the post.

That’s it! You’ve just added some eye-catching trellises to your garden. You’ll be the talk of the neighborhood.

Now you’re ready to plant.

vegetable on trellis

Diva Cucumber

What to Plant on Your Garden Trellis

The best vegetables and flowers to grow on your garden trellises are naturally vining or very tall plants.

Most vines will come equipped with twining stems or tendrils that will assist them in climbing and holding on to the trellis. They’ll require very little assistance from you. The tall plants that aren’t vines will need some support and guidance to climb the trellis.

Vining Vegetables

Cucamelon

Cucumbers: Diva, Lemon, Boothby’s Blonde

Peas: Golden Sweet, Sugar Ann

Pole Beans: Fortex

Winter squash: Delicata, Butternut, Honey Nut

Annual Vining Flowers:

The flowers on this list will need to be replanted every year if you live in a colder climate.

Black-eyed Susan vine

Cardinal Flower

Climbing Nasturtium

Love Vine

Mandevilla Vine 

Purple Hyacinth Bean

You can shop for interesting vining flowers at your local farmers markets and garden nurseries.

flowers for vegetable garden trellis

The striking flowers of Purple Hyacinth Bean

Vegetable plants that grow tall, but aren’t vines, will need some support from you to hold on to and climb the trellises.

Usually, this means tying some of the branches gently to the trellis to encourage them in certain directions, mostly up! These vegetables are still a great fit for garden trellises.

Tall Vegetable Plants

Tomatoes: Sun Gold

Tomatillos: Purple and Green

You can find all of the seed varieties in this list in one spot in my Amazon store here.

If you like the idea of creating a garden that feeds your body with abundant harvests and your soul with beauty and joy, then this vegetable trellis project is for you!

With a few dollars and an afternoon of work, you’ll instantly add height, visual interest, and an exciting new feature to your vegetable garden.

I’d love to hear what you grow on trellises in your garden. Share in the comments below..

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Comments

  • Avatar

    Megan, these are lovely!

    What are you growing on yours? They look so lush, yet not overwhelming.

    I used a triangle-style arch for tomatoes one year. I’m a notorious too-close planter, and the panels bowed under the tomato bounty. Ha, we practically had to crawl inside to pick! Kids loved it though. 🙂

    • Avatar

      Hi Amy – I was thinking about writing another post about what I’ve grown on them. On the rounded one I have clematis, delicata squash, Mandevilla vine and tomatillos. On the triangular one I have Sungold tomatoes, Red Kuri squash and cucumbers. Livestock panels are very strong, so I find they don’t really buckle under the weight like other wire. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Avatar

    Great idea! I have had trouble finding a strong enough trellis. I love this idea! Thank you Megan for such wonderful blogs. I am anxious to read about all that you planted for your trellis to be so lush. I have some old trellis roses that were neglected when we moved to the homestead that I have been loving back to life with compost. I will use this idea to have them climb the side of my porch! Thank you!

  • […] .Read more about adding beauty to your vegetable garden:How to Grow a Colorful Garden5 Ways to Create an Artistic GardenEasy & Beautiful DIY Garden Trellis […]

  • Avatar

    Thank you so much for sharing! This is EXACTLY what Have been looking for and was literally days away from dropping $300 on an archway trellis. Now I can spend my savings on more plants. 🙂

  • Avatar

    Another hint – Get the black (UV protected) zip ties. The standard white ones often get brittle and break within a season but the black ones last for years.

  • Avatar

    Love this idea. I saw these on your site and wondered what you used to make them. It would be great for pole beans. I think I would love to try this idea in my garden this year. We have a farm & fleet right down the road from us. Thank you for sharing.

  • Avatar

    your trellises are really beautiful! I am using an old rotary clothes airer as a trellis to grow malabar spinach on this summer. I’m trying it for the first time. I have heard it is very heat tolerant, and as I grow in south east Spain (zone 10) our lettuce and regular spinach season is December through to March or April. I’m looking forward to trying the malabar spinach in salads, smoothies and sautéed with lots of home grown garlic and tomatoes.

    • Avatar

      You’re on a very different time schedule than I am here in Wisconsin! Thanks for sharing what’s happening in your garden, Elaine.

  • Avatar
    Sandi Galion Hodge

    I Always plant Peas, Beans, and Cukes.
    They work Great Every Year.

  • Avatar

    Hi Megan:

    Enjoy your articles.

    Have used the cattle fences for the school gardens the past few years and haven’t had any success with finding a vegetable that clings to the fencing and climbs. Tried pole beans, cukes and small pumpkins. I even tie the tendrils to the fencing and it still doesn’t want to grab. I’ve used the arch and pyramid method. Any suggestions?

    Thanks…Bill B.

    • Avatar

      Bill – I’m not sure why they’re not climbing up your fencing. Sometimes I have to help mine get started, but then they take over. Delicata squash is one of the most vigorous I grow on my trellises. Try that?

  • […] it remains one of my most favorite things I’ve ever built in my garden (along with these easy DIY trellises) and it was so easy! You don’t need any special tools, talent, or know-how to build one in […]

  • Avatar

    I bought two cattle panels last summer. First time for me. We learned that you do need a truck to haul or a trailer. I have a van, but they will not fit. The panels are heavy wire and will not bend easily which also makes them so nice for holding up lots of vines. I planted pickling cukes on one and a variety of gourds on the other. Both worked well, although the gourds clung better than the cukes. This year I will use them again, and I will watch the cukes closer and help them along, if needed. Last summer I did not thin out my cukes enough and had a massive amount of vines/leaves to find cukes in. The gourds worked great. I had a lot of birdhouse gourds, and they hung straight down while growing. They had nice straight necks on them when harvested. I did use black zip ties and didn’t realize they were better than white ones, as another comment suggested. When we cleaned the garden out this fall, we did remove the cattle panel trellises for the winter. We’ll reinstall again for the coming planting season. I have also used metal futon frames and metal baby crib sides to make “v” shaped trellises. I find them at auctions. I zip tie them at the top and have a nice “v” to have things climb. I used them for pole beans and Sungold cherry tomatoes last summer.

  • Avatar

    I’m concerned I won’t be able to reach produce growing at the top of the arches(I’m 5’4”). Is this a problem for you?

  • Avatar
    Katie Mulvaney

    Hey!! I’m getting ready to do this in my garden, love the idea…. But I’m trying to figure out how much space I need. Do you know the length from end to end? Thanks!

    • Avatar

      Great question, Katie! The length of the livestock panel is 16′. How much space it takes in your garden really depends on how you position it. If you cut it in half as I did, each side will the 8′ long. You can make them as narrow or as wide at the bottom as you’d like. There’s lots of room for play to make them fit your garden situation. Good luck!

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