The fact that a little butternut squash seedling can grow into a 15-foot long vine and produce loads of fruit in just a few months always astonishes me. I love their big, heart-like leaves and the fact that the fruit lasts so long (I’ve still got half of a homegrown butternut squash in the crisper drawer of my fridge). The only problem with squash is they are total space hogs. Leave them to their own devices and they will quickly take over your entire garden and smother every vegetable in their path.
I get around this issue by growing squash up the super sturdy trellis my Organic Gardening colleague, Pam, designed a few years ago. This pyramid-shaped trellis is really easy and inexpensive to build. I grew three butternut squash up one side of it last year. I had planned to also grow three summer squash up the other side, but they turned out to be a bush variety (whoops!).
Squash Trellis in May
The trellis is very simple: it is just two triangular ladders propped against each other. To build each ladder, hook two 8-foot long 2×2 cedar boards together with a carriage bolt, spread the legs out into a triangle shape, and then screw 1×3 cedar rungs at regular intervals onto the legs. When we installed the trellis in our garden we made the base about 4-feet wide. I added an extra layer of stability by pounding wooden stakes next to each leg and then tying the legs to the stakes with twine. Also, I want to add at least one more set of rungs to the ladder this summer, and I’m going to make sure they aren’t quite so crooked!
Since growing space is at a premium in our garden, I grew spinach underneath the trellis and lettuce and arugula around the sides during the beginning of the season. By mid-summer the squash had completely covered the trellis—and shaded out the greens—and it looked like a big, leafy pyramid in the garden. I think the trellis would make a super fun hideout in the garden for kids, especially if you built one more ladder and made the trellis three sided.