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Super Sturdy Squash Trellis

Squash Seedlings

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

East Side of Garden
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.

Squash Trellis in August

Super sturdy squash trellis
For complete step-by-step instructions and more photos head over to OrganicGardening.com and watch the slide show that details how to build this trellis.

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27 Responses to “Super Sturdy Squash Trellis”

  1. 1
    littlem Says:

    Cool, this is a great idea. I must try it. It kinda of looks like a christmas tree… ;-)

  2. 2
    Suzanne Says:

    Nice idea! I agree-that it would be amazing to see those huge wonderful squashes grow before your eyes.

  3. 3
    Suzanne Says:

    I just realized I wrote “squashes” sorry, but you know what I mean:)

  4. 4
    Carol Says:

    I think the crooked rungs make the trellis look artsy. Very nice and sounds simple to do. I want to try to make one. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. 5
    Melanthia Says:

    I’d planned a wide trellis to put squash and peas on. But this looks so much nicer. This slideshow wasn’t working but I get the idea. Your garden looks fantastic. Do you do tours? teehee

  6. 6
    Alan Says:

    Hey Willi,

    Very neat idea…effective and inexpensive!!

  7. 7
    jade Says:

    It seems like not only does it look cool, but it would also make it easier to harvest the squash? Did you get any squash that grew near the top? Great use of space! Plus, I would imagine the the denser foliage probably helps reduce the amount of watering you would have to do too (compared with letting the squash vine sprawl out, away from the roots).

  8. 8
    Patti Says:

    That’s gorgeous all covered with the squash plant! Is yours as big as the one in the Organic Gardening slide show?

  9. 9
    Nicole Says:

    Thanks! When I googled squash ladder I found a lot of information on sports that require racquets. This was much more helpful! I am off to the hardware store to get my materials right now.

  10. 10
    la marquise des anges Says:

    great, great, great :) :) just had a one-hour digginfood -traslation session with my mother :) :)

  11. 11
    Willi Says:

    Patti–Mine was a little bit shorter because I am apparently not very good at following directions!

    Jade–I got squash growing about four feet off the ground. I began removing flowers near the top so that the plant would focus on ripening up the fruit. It made it very easy to harvest the squash and I think that when you grow them up on the trellis it makes it easier for pollinators to find the flowers, because we had very good fruit set.

  12. 12
    MJ Says:

    How far apart do you space the plants when you grow them on a trellis?

  13. 13
    Willi Says:

    My–I plant three plants under each “ladder” and space theme equidistant apart–about 1.5 feet.

  14. 14
    casey ellison Says:

    Hey willi,
    i was wondering….do the squash plants have to be a certain variety (ie i noticed you said your summer squashes didnt work because they were bush variety…and how do you tell? thanks! casey

  15. 15
    Willi Says:

    Hi, Casey. Most winter squash, including pumpkins, delicata, acorn, and butternut have a vine habit (unless the variety description specifically says it is a bush variety). You can tell that it will vine if as the plant grows it gets a stem a long stem with leaves along it, rather than producing new leaves from the base of the plant. Trombetta (also sometimes called Trombocino) is a vining summer squash.

  16. 16
    bob Says:

    how did you support the squash when they developed?

  17. 17
    Joan Lambert Bailey Says:

    I like the idea of this trellis, but I’m wondering if it will support Chirimen and Shishigatani squash. They’re a bit larger, I believe. Any thoughts?

  18. 18
    Willi Says:

    Joan–This trellis can support heavy squash. My advice would be to pound 2 foot rebar stakes into the ground at each leg and tie the legs to the stakes for added stability and to zip tie the top of the ladders together. As the squashes grow you may need to make a little sling (people often use panty hose because that material stretches) to support the squash. Though my butternuts reached about 5 pound and I didn’t need to do that. Also, sometimes the squash will rub against the wood and bruise, I’ve found that putting a little piece of cardboard between the squash and the wood makes a nice cushion. Good luck!

  19. 19
    Vegetable Trellis Round Up | DigginFood Says:

    [...] love this squash trellis! You can grow 6 to 8 squash plants up it, which saves an enormous amount of space. Plus it looks [...]

  20. 20
    suzanne Says:

    can you use this trellis for tomatoes?

  21. 21
    Elizabeth Says:

    Hi, Willi, I’m building my trellis right now, from scavenged wood. Because I’m in a p-patch and have to transport things, I’m attaching the cross-pieces with hex bolts and thumb screws instead of screwing them down as the original plans suggest, so I can loosen things up and collapse the trellis into a long (unwieldy) bundle that can be strapped on my car. (I’m surprised the piece at organic gardening doesn’t include a simple supply list.) I’m also going to make it triangular, to have trellises facing the West and South sun, with a bare-bones third support leg. Assuming this all works, I’ll send a picture. Thanks for your continuing great advice.

  22. 22
    Willi Says:

    Elizabeth–Please do send photos! I’d love to see your adapted design :)

  23. 23
    John Says:

    Wow, looks great! Going to give it a try. I’m going to try indeterminate tomatoes for the first time this summer, do you think this trellis would be good?

  24. 24
    trish Says:

    AWESOME!!!!!!!! so doing this next year.

  25. 25
    Elizabeth Says:

    Not sure how to share a photo of my trellis so far…. any ideas? I’ll try emailing it to you, share it if you want.

  26. 26
    eliz Says:

    I know Trombocino would work on this trellis, do you think Costata Romanesca would work on a trellis? I think the Costata plants can get up to 8 feet long.

  27. 27
    eliz Says:

    Oh and would this trellis work fine for melon?

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