Useful Garden Structures You Can Build

Garden Structures are very useful for certain types of vegetables and flowers.  These structures we’re talking about today are added to raised beds or EarthBOXes or anything you grow in – or installed just because you want to highlight something in your landscape.

I’ve been thinking about adding some more structures to our garden, and my research led me to writing this blog article.  Fall gardening will be starting next month, so it’s a good time to add any structures to your garden that fit into your garden planning for this upcoming growing season.

Usually you see vining plants climbing these types of structures.  In fact, that’s what they’re mainly for – keeping vines off the ground.  But garden structures have become so much more than functional.

We’re Talking Easy Structures

I’ll go through a few types of structures that are easy to put together out of what you might have laying around….or if you’re not the up-cycling or handy type, then of course they’re available to purchase from vendors locally and on the internet.  Or, even better, a local carpenter that might want some small project work would be ideal – and you’ll support a local family when you pay them!

We’ll also talk about some things you might grow on the structures, just to get your mind turning on the topic.  I’d love to hear your ideas and see your sketches/photos of structures you have – or want to have – in your garden!

Side note: I’m not a carpenter, so there are no step-by-step building instructions here. This is just for preliminary ideas and inspiration!

Garden Structures: Trellises

I’m going to start with the obvious – trellises.  A trellis is usually a vertical lattice that a vine can climb to keep it up off the ground.  It can be made from many different materials, such as wood, twine, iron or other metal, pvc, and wire.

Here’s a few examples of some trellises:

Left to right: Cucumbers on the vine growing up a netting trellis; Clematis growing on a wood trellis; Trellis trying to wrangle a small tree; Flowers on a thin bamboo trellis

Trellises can be used to grow many types of vines, from flowers to edibles. They are very common and come in all shapes and sizes!

Raised bed in Mr. Shell’s garden for Sweet Potatoes. The hog panel trellis is at the far end of the bed. There’s a shorter trellis on the close end made of metal – just trying to contain the sweet potatoes’ enthusiasm for the hot Florida weather!

My favorite trellis is one that Mr. Shell built out of a hog panel (a piece of fencing) and some 2″ x 2″ Cypress stakes (above). Right now there are sweet potatoes growing on it.

Garden Structures: Teepees

A Teepee acts like a trellis, but it’s more three-dimensional and provides more space for growing.  It also takes up a little more space than a trellis.  But it can be a whole lot more decorative, so you get that bonus!

A garden teepee can grow delicious food and be a great place to play for the kids! Bringing your kids into your gardening adventures teaches them where their food comes from! (image from Pinterest)

Many people use Teepees to create a living play-space for their children – you can grow vegetable and flower vines up the teepee stakes and the inside of the teepee will be shady and inviting to play on a hot summer day.  

Additionally, you can grow a lot more plants on a single teepee than you can on just a trellis.  Look at these diagrams to see what I mean:

Some might say that you can plant pole beans on both sides of the trellis…but I think that defeats the purpose – if the vines are too thick, you lose the airflow that helps keep the leaves fungus free and it decreases easy access to the sun for the leaves, and for the pollinators (who often use visual cues from the flowers to find them).

A teepee is a great way to include your children in your gardening!

Garden Structures: Obelisk

An obelisk is a sort of cross between a trellis and a teepee. It doesn’t have room to sit underneath or inside, but it is 3 dimensional.

The Empress of Dirt

Again I’m featuring a post from the Empress of Dirt (empressofdirt.net) about obelisks, because I love all these DIY ideas. Image from Pinterest.

Many ornamental gardeners use these to highlight a particular climbing species in the middle of a flower bed, and it doubles as an architectural piece during the Winter months when a perennial plant might be dormant under the ground, or you may not be growing anything (which would be a shame, here in Florida we can garden all year long!

Rotary Botanical Gardens

Obelisks are architecture, art, and practical growing aids. They can be as utilitarian, or as beautiful, as you want them! Check out the Rotary Botanical Gardens! If you click the first picture in this blog (with the blue obelisks) you’ll get a whole photo album of AWESOME obelisks!

Garden Structures: Hoop Trellis

I confess, I’ve always wanted one of these.  Usually these are made with PVC that is rigid but flexible enough to be curved over a garden bed.  Then you attach wire or netting stretched over the PVC structure to cover the garden bed.  Also, a popular choice is cattle panels, which are wire fencing that can bend relatively easily while still being sturdy and strong.  Some people make a PVC frame and lash the cattle panels to it, giving the wire panel extra support when they grow heavier crops.

This is an easy hoop trellis made from cattle panels

Vining plants like cucumbers, beans, peas, some squashes, melons, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, etc., can grow over the trellis.  

The fruits hang down underneath the “hoop” making them easy to pick (and secure to the frame as they grow if they’re heavy, like cantaloupe, using pantyhose or some other breathable bag tied to the frame).

Squash growing inside the arch, with the leaves above pointed at the sun. The strong wire holds the weight of these hefty squash. Image from gardeningknowhow.com

Additionally, the rest of the garden bed underneath gets dappled shade, which can extend your growing of more fragile crops like herbs and lettuces as it’s getting warmer (like during a Spring planting).  The shade extends the time to bolting, but still gives you enough light to grow those crops.  Win win!

This is an example of a trellis used for this purpose, same concept, different structure

Trellis with cabbage growing under

from Journey with Jill – a beginner gardener blog

ProNote: You don’t want the bed underneath to be too long/deep.  You’ll need to be able to reach everything planted underneath from the open ends (and it may not be easy to crawl under the hoop unless you make it that way). If you are doing long rows or beds with hoops, make sure you make a “walkway” through the middle at the highest point so you can weed, harvest, and prune.

Garden Structures: Arbor

Arbors are often found covering something with shade, such as gates, patios, and walkways.

Arbor on a pathway

Arbors come in all shapes and sizes. This one comes from Pinterest, ProdigalPieces.com (DIY plans)

Normally people plant flowering vines on these arbors like wisteria, passionflower vines, clematis, bougainvillea, roses, jasmine, honeysuckle, and the like.

One of the most popular uses of arbors are for Wisteria vines. Whole weddings are planned around such structures and blooming times. To me, it shows the importance of form and function in the garden!

You can use arbors to define an outdoor living space, make a patio partially shaded (people use a pergola structure for this often, which is a large version of an arbor), or just to add architectural interest to your gateway into your fenced area.

Garden Structures: Towers/Dutch Bucket (Bato Bucket) Systems

Growing towers and Bato Bucket systems are nearly always used for growing edibles such as tomatoes and pole beans, and also multi-ported towers are for lettuces and herbs. 

Bato Buckets at Bearss Groves

Our friends at Bearss Groves have a Bato Bucket system for their awesome tomatoes. If you happen to see them during growing season(s) they’re really awesome!

These structures combine the place for the growing medium (soil, hydroponic, aquaponic, etc) with the structure to support the plant (see those pulleys hanging from the top wire? They are connected to a wire that goes down to each bucket to support the tomato plants as they grow. 

The goal is to grow the most plants in the smallest square footage by taking your growth vertical.

Grow Towers at the OCCC outside Orlando.

I recently got a look at these Urban Smart Farms while attending Global Pet Expo in Orlando at the OCCC. They were quite impressive and are part of Orange County, Florida’s sustainability initiative. See the video here.

I mention them here because as many of us urban farmers move to growing more on their own land, we will need to make best use of our edible garden spaces, and that usually means growing vertically.

Wrapping it up

I hope that this article has given you some things to think about when deciding on structures for your garden!

Until next time, Keep Growing!

Sincerely,

 

Marissa

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