GRAPE VINE WIRE TRELLIS – DIY
Introducing The Planet Whizbang T-post Grape Trellis
The picture above shows Concord grapes growing on my T-post grape trellis. The grapes are green when they are growing, then turn dark purple later in the season…
Mature grapes (above) are so lovely, and sweet. Notice the T-post in the background.
If you have always wanted to grow grapes, but were put off by the thought of building a heavy-duty trellis for them, you’re going to love this new idea from Planet Whizbang. Lengths of sturdy, freestanding grape trellis can be erected with much less time and trouble than the traditional grape trellis structure. And these spans of easy-to-erect grape trellis will dependably support your vines for decades. The key “ingredient” for making these excellent T-post trellis spans is the simpleWhizbang Grape Trellis T-connector Fitting I invented.
Here’s the story of the fittings and what makes them so special….
There are numerous ways to trellis-train grape vines, but the most common and easiest way is on a trellis with two horizontal supports like shown in this illustration (from the book, Great Grapes: Grow the Best Ever, by Annie Proulx)…
Two horizontal wires, one at around 5’ above the ground, and around 30” below the top wire, are all you need for a grape trellis structure. But the traditional way of making such a trellis involves heavy wood posts, buried deep in the ground, and angled guy wires at the end of the rows. The next two pictures (from the University of Virginia extension service) show the typical heavy-duty configuration for bracing the end posts.
Wow, that’s a lot of hassle and expense! But I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to do all that to have a strong and productive grape trellis. All you need are some inexpensive T-posts, some inexpensive EMT conduit, and some inexpensive Whizbang grape trellis fittings…
Specifications for making your own grape trellis fittings can be found in The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners (page 32). You can also purchase the fittings already-made from Planet Whizbang. In the next few pictures I’ll show you how to easily make a solid, freestanding grape trellis, the Planet Whizbang way…
In the picture above, you can see that I have used a hose clamp to secure the grape trellis fitting to the top of a T-post. I recommend that you use 7’ T-posts and drive them into the ground 18.” That will give you a 5’6” high trellis, which is ideal. Space your T-posts 8’ apart from each other in a straight row (and with the tops of the posts even with each other). Attach a grape trellis fitting to the top of every post.
Measure, cut, and fit a length of 1” diameter electrical conduit into the fittings between the posts, as shown in the picture (make sure the T-posts are plumb when you measure the length of the conduit).
When the conduit is seated in the fitting, use a 1/8” drill bit to drill a hole into the conduit, as the picture above shows.
After the 1/8” hole is drilled, drive the stainless steel pan-head screw into the fitting, as shown above. This locks the top bar into the fitting. The trellis will be solid and freestanding. The top bar serves as the top horizontal “wire” to train your upper grape vines along.
The picture above shows the inside of the fitting and the length of conduit to the next T-post.
And there (above) you see the grape trellis fitting with two conduit pipes coming into it. Once the T-post and top-bar framework is in place, you can string a length of #9 wire, 30” down from the top. For small quantities of #9 wire, I recommend galvanized clothesline wire, which is available in most hardware stores….
The clothesline wire can be pulled tight and tied with smaller wire to each T-post. Another option is to make a rigid lower horizontal out of electrical conduit. Attach the lengths with wire to each post.
Espalier Fruit Tree Frame
The exact same structure for making a T-post grape trellis can be utilized to grow espalier fruit trees, as the pictures above and below show. Check out the photo-links under the pictures for information about growing an espalier (andThis Link too). Keep in mind that T-posts can be purchase in lengths up to 8′ if you want a trellis taller than 5’6”
The end-of-season picture above shows my first attempt at growing espaliered tomatoes on a T-post trellis made with Whizbang grape trellis fittings. With a solid top bar, I was able to install tensioned horizontal wires from post to post without the posts being pulled in towards each other. That’s the beauty of having a solid top bar. I used a thin wire for the horizontals and slid some plastic tubing over the wires. It was all experimental.
I’ve never seen or read of anyone growing an espaliered tomato, except for one short excerpt I came across in an old farm journal from the 1800s. It mentioned that many gardeners in Europe espalier their tomatoes. I figured I’d give it a try.
Though the frost-killed tomato in the picture above doesn’t look so great, it serves to show the structure of the trellis and plant. That single Tommy Toe tomato was a lush, healthy plant for the growing season, and the idea was a moderate success. The main problem was thet the vigorous plant got ahead of me and the trellis span was much too short at only 5’. The next time I try this, the span will be 10’ to 12’ long and made using three T-posts, with the tomato planted near the center post.