Rock-n-Zen Garden: Building Garden Trellises Part 2

four square gardening and rock landscaping

2014 is my first serious attempt at vegetable gardening and living in Nova Scotia, Canada, we are a growing zone rated for 6b hardiness. Living on the edge of an ocean and wilderness brings some extra challenges we had to consider with building our vegetable garden.

I figured by placing the 4' x 4' x 6" garden plots in our sunken yard out back of our house, it would be the most advantageous spot to growing a vegetable garden, with ambient warmth from the rock wall and house, also creating some kind of shelter from the ocean winds.

We think the deer will not bother with this garden spot because it means they would be walking into a pit, a potential trap...lest we hope! The deer have LOTS of clover and wild grasses growing all around to eat and with the help of Ziggy, our 14 lb. Silky terrier, who takes his job as security very seriously, keeps the critters cautious and running for the woods! Only the crow gang knows he is all bark and no bite!

Ziggy our dog is home security alert and wildlife patrol!

Ziggy is our home security alert and wildlife patrol!

Dog sleeping on chair in sunlight.

APRIL-June 2014

Wide window ledges and an old pop-up card table with passive solar were my in-house greenhouse. Ziggy is sleeping in his favorite spot, dreaming of catching the groundhog, who just moved into our rock garden walls in May.

I started a few seeds in April, but only the tomato seeds seemed to flourish the best in our windows.  I discovered that most seeds need constant 70 degrees to sprout. Our windows can get lots of warmth and light but we got too much FOG, RAIN, and cold days in between.

The heritage indeterminate tomato seeds, which were started in mid-April, grew like weeds. I ended up with 54- three feet plants as you can see in the above photo, they seemed to thrive just fine in our windows! I could only transplant about 35 tomato plants so I gave the rest to friends.

I found out that heritage indeterminate tomatoes are climbers which require trellising and we would need to design and build sturdy trellises. The bonus of heritage indeterminate tomatoes over determinate tomatoes is their nutritional value scores much higher than determinate bush tomatoes and will produce abundantly throughout the growing season and will keep producing till the frost kills them off. Determinate tomatoes are short and bushy and can be grown in pots but only produce their abundance pretty much all at once.

The heritage indeterminate tomato types I selected: Bloody Butcher, San Marzano (Italy's top flavored tomato), Candy Stripe cherry tomatoes, & Alaska.

I watched this YOUTUBE of Dave's Gardens method for making newspaper pots for seedlings. The paper pots worked GREAT and will do this every year for my seedlings.

Pie plates and various other kitchen pans were the perfect size for my window ledges and filled them with the paper pots, watering the seedling paper pots from the bottom, not disturbing the delicate seeds. The paper pots kept plants moist and when it came to planting, I peeled off some of the paper and lightly squeezed the root ball before planting. You can leave some of the paper on for delicate plants but make sure there is no paper sticking out of the dirt as it can wick away moisture and it looks ugly!.

All my vegetable garden planning was based on an easy-to-read book called Square Foot Gardening. For a beginner like me, it helped me to get a grip on how to get started and it seemed the least amount of effort to maintain this kind of gardening, once it is set up. The above video demonstrates Mel Bartholomew's methods of Square Foot gardening.

6 tomato trellis and 3 pea/pod trellis costs us
$60.00 including: 

3 bags of 7-inch nylon garden net, the roll of heavy jute, 27 feet of re-bar, 12-10 foot length electrical conduit pipe, 6 ferrule tube connectors, 12-1/2 inch u-brackets, and some cash to our electrician for bringing over his TUBE bender for the trellises corners. 

Tomato Trellis and Bean/Pea Trellis
The first plants to go into the garden in June were jalapeno peppers, parsley, pumpkin, and tomatoes. I found some wood strapping to use as stakes in the recycle garbage for FREE at our building supply. Tomatoes and jalapeno peppers had to be staked right away as our ocean winds will flatten everything in one PUFF. Still, we had to get the tomato trellises made FAST as a cyclone would soon hit Nova Scotia.

Garden peppers

How to make tomato trellis

Supplies needed to make trellises: 

Tomato Trellis 5 feet high 4 feet wide: 

Electrical conduit pipe (1/2 inch interior diameter), one ferrule tube connector for each trellis, 3/8 inch re-bar cut 2 feet for each post, hammer or mallet to HIT hard the re-bar into the ground. U Clips that can go around the conduit pipe, 7-inch white nylon netting for tomato trellis (one bag did two - 4x5 feet trellises), tied trellis netting to conduit pipe with fishing line, string, etc.  

Peas/Bean Trellis 3 feet high, 

sloped to a growing box:

2 feet re-bar posts,  mallet or hammer, leftover conduit pipe from the tomato trellises measuring 3 feet, Drill to make 3 holes at the top end of conduit pipe, a roll of heavy jute string, some coated wire to loop through drilled holes, screwdriver, 13 screws approx. I had some little planter pots and stuck them on top of the conduit pipe for decor.

Metal piping and string netting to make trellis

Two tomato trellis that measures 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide are set into the corner of the garden box 
maximizing space and the sunlight.

trellis corners zap strap attached

The corners of the tomato trellis, are ZAP strapped together for extra wind bracing. The best tomato trellis is a 7" white nylon netting that is easy to install. I found this netting type at Lee Valley Tools. allows for airflow, doesn't block views and you can reach your hands on both sides.

ferrule tube connector that joins both halves of the electrical conduit pipe in the center

Example of one ferrule tube connector that joins both halves of the electrical conduit pipe in the center to make one 5-foot tall x 4 feet wide tomato trellis. The outside corners of the trellis were created with a pipe bender (borrow or rent one if you can or can use other types of joiners and would have to cut the pipe in three parts instead of two parts). The book I referenced for making the tomato trellis is the Square Foot Garden which has similar instructions. 

U Clips where screwed into the box corners to aid trellis support.

3/8 "Re-bar is cut about 2 feet long, then pounded into the ground one foot deep. The electrical conduit pipe slides right over top easily and gives more sturdiness to the trellis. U Clips were screwed into the box corners to aid trellis support. 

Tomato Trellises:  We cut 3/8 inch re-bar 2 feet, to pound 1 foot deep with a mallet into each of the corners where the electrical conduit pipe will slide over top the remaining 1 foot of re-bar. This is to secure and steady the electrical conduit pipe trellis. Could not get every corner perfectly straight but that's what we call ORGANIC! We then screwed on u-clips to hold the conduit pipe even firmer against the wood garden plot.

Tomato netting:  I found the 7-inch large trellis soft nylon netting that was recommended in the Square Foot Gardening book, at Lee Valley Tools. It works great so you can get to all sides of your trellis by reaching through the large 7-inch netting. I tied the netting with a fishing line and or could use any kind of string you have on hand.

Pea/Bean Trellis: After cutting the tomato trellis lengths from the electrical conduit pipe, there were 3 feet left over so I thought to use them in some kind of slopping trellis, that moves away from the garden box, that will expose the garden to more sunlight and create shade for Ziggy.

Drilled three holes for covered wire loops  at the top of the conduit pipe.

Drilled three holes for covered wire loops at the top of the conduit pipe.

We pounded in the 2-foot re-bar into the spaces by the rocks and then slipped the 3 feet conduit pipe over top. It's not CHILD proof or large goofy dog proof but it's fine for us. Take a drill and put three sets of holes into the pipes at the top end. I took some plastic-covered wire and threaded it through the holes making loops to thread the heavy jute through.

Fun design for pea trellis

Screws are screwed into the inside of the garden box.
Leave some of the head of the screw sticking out so it can loop the jute string.

Screw 13 screws, leaving some of the head sticking out, and screw them evenly along the inside of the garden box. Take the heavy jute and tie one end with a couple of knots to secure it, around the first screw in the row. Start to string up the jute (will have to cut yardage of it so it can get through the wire loops),  thread the jute through one of the wire loops then bring the jute string back down to the garden box, catching the sequence of screws which are partially screwed into the wood on the INSIDE edge of the garden box. Run the jute each time into a different wire loop to help keep some separation of each jute string.  I run out of jute, tie another length together and keep going till all the screws have been looped with jute, and then knot off. Watch your gauge of tightness when stringing up each strand, it takes some finesse but it's worth the time.

little clay pot and put it on top of the conduit pipe for decoration

I had a little clay pot and put it on top of the conduit pipe for decoration.

TO FINISH: I cut off a separate piece of jute and did a wrap or gathering knot around the wire and loops of jute to make for a tighter finished look. I happened to have some little clay pots and put them on top for decoration.

Pea trellis design

Everything will grow UP to the sun so I have to daily tease the stems to wrap along the slanted trellis... it's working out fine!

Bean & pea trellis in four square foot garden plots

The Bean/Pea trellis will make for shady spots for Ziggy to nap under while this slopped trellis will give more light to the rest of my garden.

PLARN  (plastic yarn) is made from plastic shopping bags and it was my original intention to knit and crochet something useful for the house. I confessed to hating the feel of plastic in my hands to knit and rather handle wool. It turns out that my PLARN rolls are super handy for wrapping and tying stuff outside in the garden. I found PLARN works great and is soft on the plants' thin skin.

There are various ways to make PLARN and unlimited uses for plastic yarn. I liked this video featured by Fayme Harper and used her method for making PLARN.

DIY pastic yarn PLARN for stem repair in garden

The tomato plant was bent over in the wind so to save it, I used PLARN to wrap snug around the bent area and then secured it to a stake acting also as a splint. Sometimes the tomato would repair itself completely and a few had to keep the wrap on permanently.

Use PLARN to wrap wind-bent stems, like a tension bandage, it works great. My plants continue to grow even though they were bent. Most people would throw out the plant but I find a little attention, tightly wrapping the injured stem with a PLARN wrap, aided the plant's ability to keep thriving. I also used some kind of splint or stake to keep it from bending again.

Wind and sometimes pounding rain takes a toll on plants so I am happy to discover this trick works great for other plants too. I used it on a pumpkin plant and a bushy daisy plant where one main branch near broken off in a downpour of rain.

Growing a garden does make one even more sensitive to Mother Nature and her whims. I had no idea how to grow from seed and can say it's very exciting and disappointing at the same time...timing is everything and the weather is king. Next year I will have my own inside growing light set up to start the seedlings sooner than April!

In my next entry, 'Trash makes Treasures for Rock-n-Zen Gardens', I will share and show some of the FREE things I use to make a decorative and interesting garden...till then swat some flies, catch some sun, and drink lots of water!.. Minaz

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