Hi, everybody! With the snow on the ground, I'm in planning mode for the coming year, which will be my first year of gardening on a scale larger than an apartment deck.
I love pumpkin and winter squash, and would like to try out a few different varieties so I can start figuring out which grow best in my area, which are tastiest, and which keep longest. To conserve space, I'd like to grow my squash vertically. But I've never done this before, and I'm not sure what materials would be best for trellising squash vines with potentially heavy fruit. I love the look of the arched cattle panel trellises, but I would have to travel some distance to get cattle panels, as there are no suppliers near me. PVC is readily available, but is it strong enough to hold heavy fruits? And how does one go about anchoring it in place? (We've got some windy days here...)
Unless I can find a lot of long/tall scrap wood, it would be pricey to build the trellises out of wood, but I'm willing to hunt around for scraps to do it.
Any other suggestions?
Sorry if this question has been asked before--I tried searching for it but didn't find the answers to my questions.
If you go the PVC route make sure you buy the UV stable version. The cheaper stuff degrades in sunlight until it becomes brittle and shatters into sharp shards. They make UV stable PVC products where this isn't a problem. PVC has a lot going for it as a building material if you're comfortable using that much plastic. Anchoring it to the ground is as simple as pounding a length of rebar into the soil and slipping the PVC over the top.
I can't go the PVC route here because the heat in summer can become intense enough to soften the plastics. What my family uses a lot are electrical conduits. They're easy to shape and are relatively strong and don't warp in the heat. I don't know if it gets that hot in WA.
Cattle panels are also as good as you'd hope. They're very popular for all sorts of purposes here, where they're readily available. I've seen similar constructions using cement mesh. I don't know how much support was hidden under the plants for this.
Also, don't underestimate the value of a few rods of rebar pounded into the ground. They can easily support nets and twine for the squash to grow on.
I have a weakness for using odd items as trellising. I've found nice instant trellises by wandering the neighborhood. The eight individual decorative panels that made the legs of a wind torn canopy now make good trellises. I've got shelving displays from stores that were remodeling that break apart into flat black wire sections, also great trellises. I just pound a couple of pieces of rebar where I need a trellis and tie my flat metal piece to it. Usually these actually wind up looking very tasteful, despite costing only the price of a couple pieces of rebar. They're also easy to move around and reconfigure for the needs of different gardening seasons.
I do have some more tacky items, like a canopy bed frame and an old brass headboard that I picked up cheap at Goodwill. Those only get used in the back yard, but they work very well. It's not like the plants care and I don't mind some kitsch in the garden.
Edit: In looking for things to repurpose as trellises, anything metal can be hit with a coat of Rustoleum to greatly extend it's life. I wouldn't bother with rebar (particularly because pounding it into the ground increases the chances of it flaking into the soil) but anything kept above ground is fair game, for me. Oh, and did I mention rebar enough.
I would try just a few, on various types of support, for the first season to be sure the concept works. I think that pumpkins, especially, as well as the larger winter squashes, will be too heavy as they grow for the vines to hold them on the trellice. The trellice might be strong enough but it is the vines and their tendrils that the squash, etc. are attached to. These plants obviously had smaller fruit in the wild, because they will readily climb anything...their tendrils wrapping around any support available, but the weight of the fruit ends up dragging and breaking the vines down. In a very small garden you might be able to rig a "hammock" from some fabric to hold each fruit so it is supported directly from the trellice but that seems like way too much work to do at scale. Grown by themselves, sprawling on the ground, they are kind of a space-hog....the traditional answer to this is to combine them with other space-hogs like corn....and then you are almost to Three Sisters!
I do have a small garden and I'm fortunate that my job only requires me to work about 25 hours a week, so I don't mind putting more time into garden chores...but I could see it becoming very annoying, very fast to rig up hammocks for a ton of pumpkins.
I tried to get acorn squash to climb a tomato cage once and they did everything they could to avoid it.
This year I had sugar pumpkins take over my compost area and with minor guidance they climbed a bean trellis and hung out on top of a pergola. They also climbed along a heavy plastic mesh deerfence on their own. In both cases, the pumpkins held on just fine, I was more worried about the weight pulling down my fence.
I also grew buttercup squash and one ran into the same deer fence and started to climb it and hang fruit off of it just fine.
So I think their climbing/tendriling/vining tendencies depends on the variety you grow. Unless the squash is getting up to volley ball size, I wouldn't worry about supporting it.
"Hundreds of years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in or the type of car I drove... But the world may be different because I did something so bafflingly crazy that it becomes a tourist destination"
I've let pumpkins grow over wire fence and that handled the weight. A down side, though: pumpkins growing up trellises cannot root at the leaf nodes as pumpkins on the ground do. My pumpkins growing up therefore bear less fruit and also succumb more often to vine borers since they don't have backup clusters of roots.