From Trash to Trellis


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Earlier this spring, I was obsessed with trellises.  Or maybe asian long beans. Three years in this house, and never a big tangle of vines bedecked with long, colored beans.

The summer before we moved, I put a piece of cattle panel from the side of our deck down to the ground (it looked nicer than it sounds), and it was covered with three varieties of the foot-long asian beans, in shades of green, lavendar, and crimson.

The beans are called “yardlong beans” or “asparagus beans”.  The red ones are called “red noodle” and the lavendar ones are “mosaic”.  It’s easy to save your own seeds since, inevitably, a pod will be missed and dried out before it’s found.  They are from Asia, and seem not to mind the hot, humid summers in Florida.  (They love Kansas summers, too!)  I’ve had a few small vines in large pots which climbed bamboo here.  The beans never make it in the house.  They’re one of my snacks as I wander around the yard. Sometimes the kids will eat them, too.

This time, though, I wanted something high, and cheap, for lots of these climbers to love. (Thriftiness is one of my gifts/curses, which I come by honestly.)  An online search found some interesting and beautiful ideas, which I kept track of on pinterest.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Love the primitive look, but mine would need to be “flatter”. This takes up too much space in depth.

Any use for old pallets is cool. But not enough height for vigorous climbers.

Clean and modern looking! But would it be strong enough? And how in the world do I make this myself? (If you know, please comment!)

Oh, aren’t bean teepees magical? I’m not giving up on having one, but it’s not happening this spring.

My favorite of them all! Notice that it is made of cowfence. Love cowfence.

After looking at the ideas, the cowfence, simply bent into an arch, had won.  It took me weeks to figure out how to get that baby back to our house.  (The panels are huge.  You can see (or buy!) them at your local Tractor Supply.)  The same week as I figured out how to get it home, I also found myself at a flooring store picking out unwanted pallets (for another project, not yet begun at this writing).  And there, in their “trash” was a pile of huge, whole and partial wooden frame shapes.  Thinking there was a trellis in there somewhere, I brought some home.

And later, with the help of a saw, some leftover nails and screws, and some wood glue, I put together this trellis.

Some old pieces of wood, somehow used with wooden pallets, put together into a trellis. (Look closely to find a slightly bent part, where one of the twins stepped on and broke it during construction.  It gives it that je-ne-sais-quoi, non?)

Okay, so the front piece was basically like that when I got it.  The back was composed of pieces similar to it.  So it wasn’t too much work on my part (and it would be less if you have experience woodworking).  I don’t know if you can see them, but I ran some green yarn up in the wide open spaces, for the beans to climb.  I liked these pieces, because they also had a cedar-like color to them.  (Most were the light pine color.)

It is actually quite heavy.  My oldest son had to help me carry the pieces off the driveway back to the fence.  (Don’t underestimate a nine-year-old’s strength!)  It’s heft is why it’s mostly flat against the fence.  My fear was that one of my kids would climb or pull a free-standing structure to where it could fall on them.  As it is, it’s more likely to just break than fall on anyone.

And yes, those are beans popping up at the bottom.

Who knows how long it will last?  Maybe a couple of years, three or four, if I’m really lucky.  It’s not teak, and I didn’t waterproof it.  We did have wood protector, but I didn’t have turpentine to clean my paint-brushes.  Nor did I have dinner made, after playing all day in the wood pile.  So I skipped it.  Really, the wood isn’t super strong, so it might not last that long, even with the protector.  Is that enough rationalization for one paragraph?

So what do you do when you finish a project you love?  I tell or show whoever calls or comes over.  One of those people was my friend, Fran, who asked on the phone if I might grab something for her to use as a trellis, too.  So we went back. That night.  (It was after dinner, though!)  My kids actually roll their eyes at me sometimes, but they had fun this time because they helped me pick them out.  And again, thank-you for 9-year-old muscles!

I ended up getting a few for us, too, just like Fran’s.  Take a look.

More rescued trash from the flooring store. No assembly required.

Also quite heavy, they are perhaps balancing some of the force from the trellis on the other side. (Disregard the messy bed. This has been where I’ve been putting my smaller edibles, since the light and the soil are nice here.)

I kind of like the way they look like great big windows.  And the cup and saucer feeders are from Fran.  They don’t work, she says – squirrels just spill the food everywhere – so she gave them to me.   I love them in my “windows”!  Thank-you, Fran.

Down in the right-hand corner is a small purple hyacinth that I hope will climb it.  I’m now realizing that I need to put strings on this one, too, to help him out.  He’s not able to grab onto these wide pieces of lumber.  Whatever he wants.  I’ll be babying this little sprout.  Purple hyacinth beans are notoriously hard to germinate, and I only had two seeds to begin with.  If he blooms and produces pods, you’ll see the reason for the effort.

Purple hyacinth by the bottom right corner.

And that’s the end of my trash-to-trellis fairy tale.  Let’s hope this one ends with handfuls of magic beans ever after.