A grape trellis is a structure that provides support for grapevines, as the vines are not strong enough to support themselves. Trellises can be constructed in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from decorative garden-enhancing pieces to simple fence-like structures that are strictly functional. Unless you're handy with woodworking or wrought iron, a decorative trellis should be purchased. However, it is very straightforward to build a grapevine trellis that is are more functional than decorative.
Grape vines themselves become very large plants, so make sure you have enough outdoor space to grow them before you invest your time and money. Each grape vine will need an 8' x 8' space, so they must be planted about 8'-10' apart. If you just want to plant one or two grape vines, you can construct a simple arbor to trellis the vines along. To build this basic structure, place two sturdy posts about 2' into the ground and standing about 8' tall, with at least 8' of space between them. Run two lengths of galvanized steel wire from one end of the post to the other. For larger trellises, follow the directions below to secure the wires, create catch wires, and set your grape vines up to grow along the arbor.
How to Build Grape Vine Trellises for Larger Crops
For each grape vine you grow, you'll need about eight feet of trellis. The trellis must be strong enough to support the vines as well as a full crop of grapes, and sturdy enough to withstand high winds and other weather conditions. Make sure that sunlight can reach the entire grapevine, including the leaves, stems, buds, and fruit.
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- A basic trellis is set up much like a fence. The height and shape of your trellis will depend on your climate and type of grape. Very generally, taller trellises are used in warmer climates, while shorter trellises make it easier to prepare the grapevines for winter.
- If possible, build your trellis before the grapevines are planted. Use pre-treated wood, PVC pipe, stainless steel, or aluminum, as these materials will stand up to weather, heat, sunshine, and animals or pests.
- For shorter trellises, use posts that are about 3' tall; for taller trellises, use 8' posts. Place the posts in the ground at intervals of about 20', setting them 2' into the ground.
- Run two lengths of 12.5 gauge galvanized steel wire along the posts, with the bottom wire about 3" above ground level and the second wire running along the top of the posts. Staple in place with a staple gun. Use wire strainers (or guy wires) at both ends to increase and maintain the tension in your main wires.
- Along both rows of trellis wires, hammer in large nails on both sides of the posts. Then, cut several lengths of a lighter gauge wire the same length as your entire trellis. Attach chain links to each end of this wire and hook the ends to either end of your trellis. Let the wires rest on the nails on the middle posts. These lighter gauge wires are called "catch wires," and can be used to keep your grapevines in place.
Your grapevines will grow along the two main trellis wires with just a little coaxing on your part. Simply run a branch from the main stem of your grapevines along the main wires, using the catch wires to hold them in place. As the vines grow, adjust your catch wires to keep them growing upward and exposing them to sunlight.