Building and using a cattle panel trellis in your garden has a lot of advantages. These sturdy long-lasting structures will help your garden be much more productive
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Just the other day we were having a discussion about growing on trellises in our membership group, The Gardening Academy! Like always it was a great discussion, you should join us!
We have always loved trellises in our garden. They add a nice visual element to what can often be a plain-looking vegetable garden. For years we used a simple trellis for growing cucumbers and we have also used trellises for growing green beans as well.
But last year we decided we wanted to up our trellis game a bit! We have always loved arches and arbors and we have an arbor where we grow our grapes. But we have seen some beautiful vegetable garden arches made with a cattle panel trellis so we decided to give it a try!
What is a Cattle Panel Trellis?
A cattle panel trellis is a trellis made simply by bending a large section of cattle panel into an arch shape. Cattle panel is a heavy gauge wire fence made (as the name implies) for fencing in cattle. They come in various lengths but most are 50 inches tall.
Cattle panel is made of heavy gauge galvanized metal. It is very strong and will last forever!
You will find the best prices on cattle panels at farm or livestock supply stores. Every once in a while I have seen it available in smaller sections at Home Improvement stores or garden nurseries. And you can ask your garden nurseries if they could special order them for you in lengths long enough to make an arch.
But your best shot at finding these cattle panel trellis may be to take a trip out to the country! If you live in a city you may need to venture out into some of the smaller towns surrounding your city and look for a farm store. It is also possible that you could find them at an equine supply store as well. Call ahead before you make the trip!
What size should my cattle panel trellis be?
To make an arch that will look nice and have plenty of growing space I would recommend a 16-foot piece. That makes the arch tall enough for most people to comfortably walk under them to work and enjoy your garden.
A 16-foot piece of cattle panel is not a simple thing to transport. You will need a truck, or a trailer large enough to carry it. In our case we used a trailer that we pulled behind our jeep.
What else do I need to build my trellis?
Along with a 50” x 16’ cattle panel you will also need 4 t-posts to hold your trellis in place.
You can also use these smaller garden posts, that’s what I have used for our second cattle panel trellis that arches across our raised beds and they seem to be working fine.
You will need a sledgehammer or a fence post driver to get the post in the ground and some wire to attach the cattle panel to the posts.
How to Build a Cattle Panel Trellis
Putting the trellis together is actually pretty simple. One person (with a little creativity) can do this by themselves, but the whole process is much simpler with 2 people.
First choose your spot for your garden trellis. Then drive 2 posts at least 2 feet deep into the ground for each side. The posts on each side should be 3 feet apart, and each set of posts should be between 8 to 10 feet apart depending on how high you want your cattle panel trellis.
Once the posts are in place you simply bend the cattle panel into place. Cattle panels have quite a bit of flexibility to them so they should be easy to bend into the arch shape. But be aware that they also have some springiness to them and they are going to fight you. So be careful as you bend them and put them into place between the 2 sets of posts.
When your cattle panel is in place be sure to use some wire to attach it to all 4 of the posts.
And that is it! Now plant some crops at the base of the trellis and you are ready to grow!
How much does it cost to build a cattle panel trellis?
A 50 inch by 16-foot section of cattle panel should be priced right around $30. The t-posts should be roughly $5 each. So each Cattle Panel Trellis you add to your garden should cost you roughly $50.
How do trellises help your garden be more productive?
For most of us, gardening space is at a premium! Using trellises in your garden helps save valuable growing space. By growing vining plants up on trellis instead of letting them sprawl on the ground, this gives you more space to grow other crops.
Growing vining plants on a trellis also help with plant health. Getting these plants up on a trellis improves airflow around the plants. This helps cut down on diseases and even some pests.
And to top it off, they just look really cool in your garden!
What crops can I grow on my trellis?
You can grow any crop that vines! Some vegetables are just made for growing on a trellis. These plants naturally climb and prefer to grow on a trellis.
- Pole Beans
- Sugar Snap Peas
- Snow Peas
- Indeterminate Tomatoes
These plants will need very little encouragement to grow on a trellis and really won’t need much help staying put.
Other vining crops will also do well on a cattle panel trellis but may need a little help.
- Winter Squashes
- Other vining melons
These plants will do well on a trellis but lack the climbing tendrils that will help them both climb the trellis and stay put. So you may need to help them along by hand and you also may need to tie them to the trellis with some soft garden twine to help them stay put. Also most of these veggies are very heavy and as they mature they will need some support so the fruit doesn’t break free of the plant and drop to the ground. So plan on using some type of garden sling to help support the growing fruit.
We love our 2 Cattle Panel Trellises. We are moving into our second season of growing on them. The first year both trellises looked great and were very productive!
Cattle panel trellises look very nice but are very expensive. I made arches with segments I cut from 4ft high welded wire fence and secured them the same way. They are not as sturdy or as pretty as a cattle panel, but a 100ft roll of fence costs only $70. It should hold the weight of what I am growing, so we’ll see what happens.
But, a cattle panel will last forever! And they hold up really well to the wind we have in our area.
I used this welded wire fencing for my goat pen. It only broke down if the goats repeatedly tried to climb it (over a few years), so it should hold up to squash. I also already have had it around my garden for years. It doesn’t break down. Perhaps the wind will make a difference.
I’m curious, here in Idaho, one 21’ panel is $23. Four 6’ t-posts are $5 each and a bag of fifty zip ties is $7. I spent a total of $50 per trellis.
Do you take your cattle trellis down at the end of the harvest and rotate it to a different part of the garden the next year? Or is it a more permanent addition? Have you ever used the framework as a sort of greenhouse or covered it to shield from hail and freezing temps?
We have 2, one of them stays in the same spot every year, the other moves around the garden from year to year.
I have not made a winter structure out of mine because I have several other hoop houses and cold frames, but I know of several people that have done it and had good success.
Oh my gosh, I love this article! Now, I want a cattle trellis! Thanks for this great idea!!
Thanks Linda, we are on our 3rd year of using them now and we love them, best garden trellis we have ever used.
Could you plant squash on one side of Cattle Trellis and cucumbers on the other side ?
Yes that would work well
Just yesterday I wrote a grant request from a local charity to help our community garden purchase eight panels! Thanks for the encouraging article.
Sounds like a fun project! I’m glad I could help!
Is there a certain direction you recommend for installing the panel? I’m thinking that the open areas should be North/South facing?
It depends on how your garden is set up. My beds run east west so that’s the way I have to run my pannels. But everything on the northside still seems to do well.
More pics? I’d love to grow melon vertically to save space. Crenshaw is my favorite. How do you tell if a Crenshaw is ripe? Even with slings, I’m skeptical. Have you grown melon vertically with success?
Crenshaw won’t be an issue on a trellis. They have a thick enough stem connection that it won’t be an issue. I would still recommend a sling. Last year I grew Crenshaw on the trellis in the photos. I just made a sling out of old nylons and I didn’t lose any melons at all. It would be cantaloupe that I would be most worried about. I’ve never tried them on a trellis.
Excellent! Love to learn from your experience. Would you use an arching trellis or just a vertical one? Cattle panel trellis or frame with string?
Old nylons? Instructions for that? How do you tell if they are ripe? Thank you!