Trellises are architectural features designed for supporting climbing plants. In the vegetable garden, trellises support a wide variety of climbing vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes, pole beans and peas, and squash.
When it comes to small space gardening, trellises minimize the growing “footprint” of a vining plant by forcing a plant to grow upward instead of sprawling. Trellises provide strength to a plant and improves light and air circulation for healthier growth. Trellises can also prevent vegetable leaves and fruit from touching the ground which minimizes rot and pest damage.
We use trellises throughout our yard to support munching varieties of cucumbers. But instead of buying costly trellises at a garden store, our family recycles found items from the trash which can be used to support those cucumber plants. Here’s some of the junk we’ve used in the past; one of these ideas might work for you:
Twin sized headboard or footboard. Wrought iron head boards and foot boards are the quintessential recyclable for use in the vegetable garden. If your recycled headboards have specks of residual paint, be sure to knock off the loose stuff with wet steel wool first. We container garden our cucumber plants to keep them out of reach of our pet rabbit; you can choose to either contain your cucumbers or plant them directly in the ground.
Old wooden step ladders. Rickety old step ladders might not be safe for stepping on anymore, but they do make excellent frames for cucumbers. To use, center the ladder directly over the plant, and carefully drape the growing vines up the rungs.
Wooden chairs. Abandoned wooden chairs are easy to find on trash day and easier yet to turn into a rustic trellis, despite missing legs or slats. What we do is to flip the chair over so that the chair back faces up, and the front edge of the seat is on the ground. The sloping of the seat and slats is ideal for climbing vegetable vines of all types.
Old sawhorses. Grandpa’s old sawhorses and sawbucks (if you still have them) also can be used for a trellis.
Discarded book case or set of shelves. Old metal or wooden (not press board) bookcases can also be turned into a sort of “topsy turvy” trellis for cucumbers and other squash plants. To make a bookcase work for trellising, knock off the back and plant the cucumbers in containers to place on the top shelf. The cucumbers will grow downward for super easy harvesting.