How to Build a Trellis for Gourds
Since gourds can grow to be fairly large and heavy, trellises are going to be used during the growing period. Here, see how to build two trellises.
Lay out all of the materials on the ground. For each trellis section, lay five pieces of pipe side by side, leaving about a foot of space between them. Then position a piece of pipe along the ends, perpendicular to the five pipes. Set a corner angle at each corner and then place three Ts along each side where the middle pipes touch the end pipes. Repeat these steps for the other trellis sections.
Right now your work area looks like a jumble of parts, but you can see where all the PVC pipes and fittings need to be joined. To do this, you have to cut the end pieces into 1' sections so that you can attach the Ts to the inside pipes (Image 1). The pipe along the bottom will sit on the ground when the trellis is complete, then each PVC pipe or bar will run horizontally across, with about a foot in between each one. Finally a pipe will go across the top.
Work on a flat surface to measure and mark each piece (Image 2). Use a hacksaw to make straight and even cuts. This project calls for 32 pieces cut to this size. You will have a few pieces of PVC left over after making the cuts; save them in case you ever need to make a repair.
Use PVC primer to clean and prep the joints before applying the glue. Both the primer and the glue containers have brushes built into the lids (Image 1); this makes them easy to use. Make sure that you're ready to go when you apply the glue, as you have only a few seconds before it dries and hardens. To start gluing the trellis pieces together, attach two L-shaped corner brackets to the long PVC pipe that will be the bottom of the trellis (Image 2).
Once the corners are installed on the bottom support, begin working your way up the trellis. Clean and glue a 1' section and put it into the other end of the corner L. Then attach a T with the opening facing in toward the center of the trellis (Image 1). Repeat this step on the other side of the trellis.
Once you have your first set of Ts in place, you need to add a horizontal support to run between them. The best way is to do one side at a time. You have to push the side pieces open a bit to get the support snugly in between them. Be sure you press them into place all the way when you glue them so that the trellis will be square. Otherwise the side may bow out and look uneven. Now repeat these same steps until you get to the top support.
Continue building the trellis by adding a set of side supports with T fittings and then connecting another horizontal support. Keep repeating these steps until you have all three in place. Then attach the last two L fittings to the top support and glue them to the rest of the frame.
After you've finished the first trellis section, you have three more to go. This will make two A-frame trellises (Image 2). The first panel always takes the longest. If you're working at home, get someone to assemble these with you. These can all be built in an afternoon.
The final trellis section has five horizontal support bars, including the top and bottom pipes (Image 1). Once all of the trellis sections are complete, carry them to the garden bed. Since the trellises are 6' long, you can fit two side-by-side in a 12' bed (Image 2), then use long zip ties to secure the tops together so the trellises won't pull apart. Set them up so that two sections are leaning together to make the A-frame design. If you don't have zip ties, you could use pieces of string to tie the trellises together. The important thing is that they don't come apart and damage the plants that are growing on them.
Attach the trellises to the ground with stakes, sandbags or other heavy objects to keep them from blowing down in a storm (Image 1). At the end of the season you can just take them out, cut the zip ties on the top and move these trellis panels to another bed or even store them flat in the garage.
Add some vertical string supports to give plants some extra room to attach (Image 2). You can put several plants under each side, so four strings on each side should do. You can start by tying it off on the top support and wrapping it around each one below; then a quick knot around the bottom pip, and you're done.
Malabar spinach (Image 3), a vining plant whose tender stems and leaves are used in Asian and tropical cooking, especially stir-fries and salads, is an example of a plant that can be grown here. Like other leafy, dark-green vegetables, Malabar spinach contains many vitamins and nutrients that make it a great choice for health-conscious eaters.
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