A simpler trellis

Yesterday I posted the first half of an involved trellis project. I love vines, so I'm always looking for spaces for them to grow in my garden. I've got a couple of pergolas that are becoming vine-covered finally (I got a late start planting the vine seedlings this year), I use the deck railing and supports as trellises, I have a couple of copper pipe trellises that I made, and even have a couple of simple tripod structures for vines to climb.

But now I'm going to add another to solve a little problem: this malabar spinach volunteer growing up my air conditioner.


Here's a wider shot to show you what I'm dealing with here:

Flagstone pavers, tons of little pots (this is my plant "hospital" area), and not much space for any trellis. The vines are growing in the tiny crack between the air conditioner's concrete pad and the concrete driveway. I honestly can't see any soil but the clay soil under my driveway must be such nice stuff, because plants really love growing in the driveway cracks!

I love malabar spinach vines so much, and hate killing plants, so pulling these out was never an option. Letting them smother the AC unit is not an option either, as temps are supposed to be over 100ºF all week long and we need this machine working at peak efficiency!

It looks like there's a bit of soil exposed next to the slab:

Perfect! I'll add my favorite type of trellis here: a single pole.

First, take a small section of electrical conduit and pound it into the ground to make a starter hole for the pole. The ground was too hard here to just press the pole in:

Once I hit softer soil I stopped pounding and put the 10' pole in -- again, just electrical conduit. I like electrical conduit because it's light, quite sturdy, and cheap: about $2 per pole. Plus I can easily cut it into shorter lengths if needed.

So I pushed it into the ground as far as I could, then carefully unwrapped the two vines from the AC screen and wrapped them around the new pole:

Some vines will have trouble climbing the slick metal, but malabar spinach has lots of grip -- it's got a rubbery surface, if that makes any sense.

There's really no reason to have two vines climbing this pole, as one vine will be plenty. In fact it will probably be more than this pole can handle, and I'll need to prune some of the growth every once in a while. (Single-pole trellises aren't the strongest around.)

But I'll keep two of them going for a while in case something happens to one of them. I haven't seen evidence of rabbits eating these, but I'd rather have a crowded pole for a while than an empty one.

What is especially nice about having this trellis here is there is another malabar spinach vine growing just a few feet away, so you'll be surrounded by this beautiful vine as you walk through here -- and I walk through here many times a day.

I've got one other spot nearby in which I've put another one of these single-pole trellises, so it's a little more advanced, and shows what I can expect out of the new trellis soon:

I can't wait to see all of these in a month or so!

One thing I didn't mention: it's important to get these poles as perfectly upright as possible. Any lean will result in a bent or toppled pole once the vine gets heavy enough. Fortunately it's quite easy to do this even without a level or other tools: just stick the end of the pole on the ground and balance it upright as best you can, then push it into the ground. In my experience this does the job!


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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (July 22, 2012 at 10:15 AM)  

Wow, I'm surprised to managed to extricate the vine without damaging it.

I've got to add some vines to our garden. I love the lush effect they produce.

Poet Whale Studio  – (July 22, 2012 at 11:11 AM)  

Fantastic solution

My concern is if the metal pipe will heat up the vine if the sun shines on it?

Lisa  – (July 22, 2012 at 12:39 PM)  

Not only is it pretty, it's also delicious!

Patrick's Garden  – (July 22, 2012 at 1:12 PM)  

Very creative and budget conscious project. The single pole is a first for me and look forward to seeing yours later in the season. Best.

Alan  – (July 22, 2012 at 2:04 PM)  

Poet Whale: If the poles heat up, it doesn't seem to have any effect on the plants. I'll keep an eye on it though.

Gardener on Sherlock Street  – (July 22, 2012 at 4:00 PM)  

That purple stem is great. What a pretty vine.

Rock rose  – (July 22, 2012 at 10:13 PM)  

I've been meaning to try malabar spinach for years and now you have convinced me I really must. The red stems and green leaves make for a beautiful plant. Glad you got it away from the AC before it did damage.

Christine  – (July 24, 2012 at 4:20 PM)  

I need to grow some vines this year. You've inspired me.

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