Pea Trellises: Form and Function

Trellis and TendrilsYour friendly Planet Natural Blogger was at his local community farm yesterday working as a volunteer and, among all the activity, noticed the major push was putting up pea trellis. These were heavy duty pea-vine supports, made with metal snow fence poles and cattle fence. The stakes were driven into the soft, tilled soil and the volunteers putting them up kept to the paths between rows so as not to disturb the soft, fine, seed-ready soil.

Anyway, the sight of it as I chased the tumbleweeds lifted from my wheel barrow by the spring breeze, brought back memories, as many things do for your nostalgic, old-fashioned PN Blogger. Peas have always been part of our gardens and putting up pea trellis is one of the gardening season’s first tasks.

I’ve never had to string trellis down several 60 foot rows as these people were doing, but I’ve made about do with many types of trellises in gardens big and small over the years. For a big pea patch in my quarter-acre vegetable garden, I strung three-foot-high chicken wire along cedar stakes cut from scraps gathered at the local mill. Still the peas climbed up and over the fence, making for a tangle that always seemed to hide another pod — or several — come picking time. In one tiny, short-term plot, I braced an old rose trellis in the ground for the peas to climb up either side. Needles to say, they never reached the top.

Often, necessity has been the mother of invention. We’ve braided hemp garden twine across large bamboo wickets, like the kind used in croquet only super-sized, to support our peas. One year, we used an old metal bed frame, its wire mesh not very good at comfortably supporting a mattress, but ideal for peas once buried several inches in the ground and tied out at the end with tent stakes. We’ve constructed teepees out of old bean poles and strung garden twine at intervals around them. We’ve allowed peas, planted in squares, to tangle together and support themselves… this wasn’t too effective as the peas tended to trail. And we’ve let second plantings curl up corn stalks which seemed to challenge the corn to race ahead.

Some of what we’ve done has been very attractive (see garden twine and wickets above), beautiful in both form and function. Pea trellises are something of an American folk art form. There are great ideas for “staking” peas here and here. Notice how neat and orderly most are. We especially like the container teepee made out of green sticks in the first link (yes, peas can be grown in containers; hanging baskets allow them to trail beautifully and climb the hanging chains). And notice how the portability of the collapsible trellises that fit inside raised beds. Great idea! What kind of trellises, tents, or assorted supports have you created for your pea vines? Now’s the time to start planning, except for those of us who live in zones where it’s time for planting.

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