Create a DIY bean trellis that will be easy to move from season to season.
By Chris Gleason
Transform an ordinary backyard into a productive farm with Chris Gleason’s Building Projects for Backyard Farmers and Home Gardeners (Fox Chapel, 2012). Gleason provides inspiration and instruction for 21 gardening and animal projects to complete the transformation. The excerpt that follows, from “Vertical Integration: Gardening Vertically,” is for a DIY Moveable Bean Trellis that will conform to your yearly needs.
This book can be purchased from the GRIT store: Building Projects for Backyard Farmers and Home Gardeners.
Trellises, at least in my mind, come in two forms: those that are free-standing, and those that require some other kind of support. This particular trellis belongs to the latter group, in that I designed it to be leaned up against whatever else is around. Originally, I had placed it against a fence, but it turned out that I didn’t need it there, because the beans that I had planted in that spot were bush beans instead of pole beans. I guess I did a pretty bad job of reading the seed package! In any event, it was no problem to move the trellis to a different bed where I was getting ready to plant more beans. The second time around, I was much more careful about checking the label. And leaning trellises aren’t just useful when you need to correct a silly mistake: they are really handy because they can be moved around from year to year. Since they have no moving parts, they’re easy to set up, take down, and store during the off-season.
Since you’re already hard at work building a support structure for your bean plants, here’s a list of the different varieties you can grow when you’re finished:
|Name||Vine Size||Days to Maturity||Notes|
|Blue Lake Pole||6'-7' (1829-2134mm)||70 days||Use in soups or freeze and can|
|Genuine Cornfield||5'-6' (1524-1829mm)||70-90 days||Often grown in cornfields|
|King of the Garden Pole Lima||8' (2438mm)||90 days||Large beans with a sweet flavor|
|Old Homestead Pole Bean (Kentucky Wonder)||More than 6' (1829mm)||70 days||Variety from the 1860s|
|Romano Pole Bean||6' (1829mm)||70 days||Harvest pods often|
|Scarlet Runner Pole Bean||10' (3048mm)||70 days||Vines have bright red flowers|
|(A) Posts||2x2 (38 x 38mm)||66" (1675mm)||2|
|(B) Horizontal Supports||7/16" (11mm) dowel rods||30"||8|
|(C) Top Rail||1/4" (6mm) plywood||32" x 9" (815 x 230mm)||1|
|(D) Star Decoration||Scrap wood||Size as desire||1|
|(E) Vertical Supports||Nylon string|
|1. Cut the posts. Since this trellis is basically a large rectangle that gets most of its strength from its two vertical posts, that’s where I started. I ripped a 2x4 (38 x 89mm) in half on my table saw to produce the posts (A), and then I set them next to each other on a pair of sawhorses to lay out a series of marks where the horizontal rods would be placed. The easiest way to do this is to start in the middle and keep dividing each length about in half until you have as many marks as you want rods—an even number is easiest. I picked eight.
2. Drill holes. To ensure that the holes for the rods (B) were drilled exactly perpendicular to the surface of the posts (A), I used my drill press. You could definitely use a hand drill in a pinch, but the drill press does help to make certain that the rods will line up neatly later on. Make sure the holes you drill are the same size as the diameter of the dowels you’re using.
3. Insert the dowels into one post. Since I planned to use this trellis for beans and peas, which are pretty lightweight, I didn’t have to worry too much about making the rods (B) extra-strong: I just used a bunch of dowels from an old clothes drying rack that my neighbor was throwing away. Using a rubber mallet, I pounded the rods into one of the posts (A). It was easiest to just lay the post down for this step. I didn’t find it necessary, but if you wish, add glue to the holes.
4. Insert the dowels into the second post. Getting the second post (A) to fit onto the exposed end of the dowels (B) is a little tricky—you’ll wish you had three hands—but once the dowels have gotten started, you can used a pair of clamps to squeeze the posts and tighten up the fits.
5. Shape the top rail. The trellis is capped off by a wide horizontal rail (C) that I made from 1/4" (6mm) plywood. Its main purpose is to add rigidity to the structure and keep it from getting wobbly over time. I shaped the top of the rail with my jigsaw. Once I had cut off one corner, I saved the scrap as a pattern for the opposing one. A band saw is also a fine way to cut out the curved portions. Attach the rail (C) to the posts (A) with a few screws. I also cut a small star (D) out of scrap stock and fastened it to the top rail as a nifty decorative touch.
6. Add vertical supports. To add more places for the pole beans to climb, I tied a row of strings (E) to the top and bottom dowels and wove the nylon in and out of the other horizontal supports (B).
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Building Projects for Backyard Farmers and Home Gardeners: A Guide to 21 Handmade Structures for Homegrown Harvests by Chris Gleason and published by Fox Chapel, 2012. Purchase this book from our store: Building Projects for Backyard Farmers and Home Gardeners.