Updated: Sep 20, 2020
This year, we created our favorite vegetable garden yet with cattle panel. By using the panel as a trellis, we added 133 square feet of growing space to our 10‘ x 12’ vegetable garden bed.
Using panel allows vines to grow onto the structure instead of across the ground, making vegetables easier to find and harvest.
The leaves grow up and out, towards the sun.
The fruits hang down inside the trellis, or rest gently on the panel.
Pollinators also have an easier time finding flowers.
As vines make their way up the trellis or produce secondary vines, I use zip ties to help guide them (upwards on the trellis or spaced out from other vines to create air flow). Their own tendrils eventually take hold, supporting the vine on its own.
This method provides dappled shade for our tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, and zucchini growing inside the arch. Harvesting them was easy within this structure as well.
In the early phases when the vines had not yet grown up on the trellis (providing shade to the plants inside the trellis), or if I removed any vines, I used row cover to help filter the light - softening the summer sun. I bought a piece of row cover bigger than the trellis and moved it around as needed to accommodate new vines, securing with clothespins. (In the winter time, you can use row cover over the panel to create a green house and protect plants from frost!)
The row cover on the bottom is to keep my dog out. She loves exploring in the garden!
Want to create your own?
- measuring tape
- pencil, paper, ruler
- drill & long wood screws
- wooden cedar posts (we used 4" x 4" because it's what we had on hand)
* We actually used utility panel (Tractor Supply called it horse panel) because it was the PERFECT width for our existing garden bed. However I'm recommending cattle panel here because it's the same thing, just a slightly different size and 1/3 of the price. If you're starting from scratch, definitely build a garden bed with dimensions that fit cattle panel.
** While you're gathering supplies at the store, this is a great time to pick up some gardening supplies. We won't go through the step-by-step for setting up the entire garden in this article, however here is a good shopping list for a starter garden:
- landscape cloth to minimize weeds
- zip ties
- compost: check with your local nursery to see what they carry; good compost should look like earth, will not have a smell, and leaves a good layer of humus on your fingers after you touch it
- mulch: we get ours locally for free from Tree Loving Care
- seeds/starter plants you'll grow (some of our favorites include acorn squash, zucchini, tomatoes of all kinds, and banana peppers)
- row cover: you can opt to get a smaller one to just go on the top of your trellis if you'd like
- clothes pins: the Dollar Store has the best deal on these, you get quite a few for just $1
Now, let’s get to work!
Map out your space. Decide where the garden will go (full or morning sun is ideal for most gardens), how much space you'll have, how many plants you'll grow and what size they'll reach at maturity. We measured with a measuring tape in our yard, and then created a mock up with paper and pencil using centimeters as feet on the paper. From there, decide how many cattle panels and cedar boards you'll need. We created an arch over our garden bed, however some folks create an arch between garden beds. There are many ways to set it up! Think through what you want to grow and what works best in your space.
Grab a buddy and gather supplies. Be sure to think through the best vehicle to take to pick up the panel and make sure you have plenty of space (we needed to take our rack off the truck bed to fit them in). Cattle panel does not roll up and can be pretty clunky to maneuver. You'll be thankful that it's not very pliable once it's in use as a trellis.
Pre-drill holes in the cedar posts, then drill wood screws into the wooden posts to hold them together. This creates the outline of your garden bed. Once complete, review your garden bed frame and consider its sturdiness. Is there anything else you need to do to secure it? It needs to be strong to hold the panel.
Set the panel in place. With one person stabilizing the panel, the other can hammer it into the wooden posts with the fencing staples. We secured the panel on the inside of our garden bed for added stability, as it aims to stay straight instead of arched.
Review your work. Wiggle the panel trellis gently with your hands and make sure it won't fall out of place with wind or wear.
THAT'S IT! Getting the panel home and in place in the garden is the hardest part. Setup is quick and easy.
What materials have you used to create a vertical garden? What plants do you grow with it?
I'd love to hear how this works for you to create one of these yourself!