A grapevine trellis was a must-have when we moved onto this mountain valley acreage.
You might be surprised to find out that you can grow grapes in cooler climates, not just in Europe or California. We live in Canada, zone 5, and you can grow both table and wine grapes. You just need to select the right grape varieties for your grapevine trellis.
Even here in Canada, we have a wine valley in the Okanagan that produces outstanding wines.
What Are Grape Trellises?
A trellis is a vertical lattice (criss-cross pattern), made usually of wood, but also wire. It is used to support plants.
They actually were originally made to support vines so they are ideally suited to support growing grape vines.
The grape trellis itself can be supported by wooden posts, or attached against a wall or on the sides of an arbor.
Why Use a Grape Trellis?
Vines are climbing plants and need something to grow along to support them. A grape trellis helps support the grapevines as well as controlling the direction the vines grow.
Do They Use Grape Trellises In Vineyards?
Grapes in vineyards are trellised using wire and support posts.
In a vineyard, grape growing is a commercial operation so the grapevines are grown in long rows and the branches and grapes are supported by a wire stretched horizontally between vertical wooden posts.
End posts take the strain while posts spaced evenly along the row support the wire.
Each end post is usually placed in the ground in post holes at an angle to help support the weight.
There are usually two wires or more at different levels.
The horizontal wire together with the various posts creates the criss-cross pattern to trellis grapes.
But it’s not necessarily what you might think of as a grape trellis. It is more a specialist vineyard trellis.
They are grown in this way so the growing vines and shoots, with careful pruning, can be trained along the wire in the desired directions and exposed to exactly the right amount of sun that the grapes require.
This will maximize the growth of grapes.
There are various methods used to achieve this.
For example, they can be grown to expose the vines and grapes to as much sun as possible or they can be grown so that the branches on an upper wire shade the branches on the lowest wire to protect the bunches of grapes from the harsh midday sun.
In a vineyard, the vines are meticulously pruned to keep them a manageable size to produce more fruit.
So they don’t grow so large and don’t require strong structures to support them. Even mature vines are kept to a compact size.
They are in long rows for easy harvests.
In a vineyard they also trellis grapes this way, in lines, to allow access to the bunches of grapes at harvest time.
The straight lines allow easier access by farm machinery or on foot.
And the wires are less likely to foul machinery or tools than complicated wooden structures like a trellis.
Backyard Grapevine Trellis Designs
The backyard gardener has to make good use of space for grapevines. For example, edges work well for this.
The backyard home gardener rarely has space for the sort of design used in vineyards.
So trellising vines in your yard or home garden is very different from a vineyard.
While you may be thinking of growing grapes you probably won’t have enough room to be thinking of it on a commercial scale.
You are more likely to want to plant vines in your home garden for another reason.
Most people think of planting and growing a vine for its lovely appearance with its large grape leaves and often as a pleasant privacy screen along a border or to separate parts of the garden.
Or to create an area of shade to rest in and read a good book away from the hot sun. With a chilled glass of white. Now we’re talking!
Whatever use you have, you probably won’t be restricting its growth too much and won’t be pruning it as much as in a vineyard.
You want as much greenery as possible and will probably let it grow much more, so you will need a stronger structure to give it proper support. You will also want to use the trellis to control where it grows.
This is why you need a grape trellis.
Even if you are planting young plants the new shoots will need something to climb on and grow up.
A backyard grape vine trellis needs to be strong and withstand the weight
Most grapevines can become huge and take over large areas, the grapevine trellis you should make should at least support the growth, especially if you also have large bunches of grapes weighing it down.
Our friend’s grapevines took over a pergola, and even an entire house because they were never pruned.
Over time, new vines grow into large grapevines and they can become too large if not pruned back. The trellis needs to be strong, fencing works great for that, or any climbing feature like a pergola.
You’ll need to learn how to prune your grapevines after a few years. Wine Folly shows you different vining training methods.
KSU Viticulture has this very in-depth post on how to build and train grapevines the same way you would on a vineyard
Grapevine Trellis Ideas
DIY Grapevine Trellis
It’s pretty easy to build a grapevine trellis yourself.
If you do feel like building a grapevine trellis yourself the most simple grape trellis is constructed using posts in the ground or lengths of wood attached to an existing structure for the vertical parts.
And wire or more lengths of wood for the horizontal parts. These can be nailed or screwed together, or the wire can be wrapped around and twisted.
If you prefer not to have a homemade grape trellis there are plenty of ready-made ones available in various sizes and budgets.
An Arbor Grape Trellis
An arbor is a garden archway. It is similar to a pergola, but a pergola tends to have open sides where an arbor normally has trellis on the sides for growing plants to climb up. So a trellis is actually part of what makes something an arbor.
If you already have a pergola, perhaps in your garden or on your patio, you can attach some trellis to the sides and transform it into an arbor.
And plant your new grapevines at the base of the trellis on either side.
If you don’t already have a pergola and you’re starting from scratch, you can dig four or more posts into the ground spaced apart to match the size of your trellis and the width you would like.
Then attach the trellis to the posts.
You can also use trellis across the top to create the arch, or just wire if you prefer.
Then maybe place a chair or construct a bench underneath to create a welcoming space to sit and relax in your garden.
And before long you may be able to stretch out and grab a grape or two directly from the plant.
Then all you need is some occasional pruning to keep the arch shape.
And if you do live in Ann Arbor then you will of course have an Ann Arbor arbor. If you also own an Inn there you would inevitably have an arbor in an Ann Arbor Inn.
But I think we’ll leave that there!
Grape Trellis Wall
An existing wall is a good place for a grape trellis.
It gives your plant something to cling to without potentially damaging the wall itself.
Because vines are climbing plants they do attach themselves to walls and can cause damage over time. A trellis helps prevent this.
It can be a good way to hide an ugly wall or to enhance a building.
The classic greenery of a tall climbing plant growing up the side of a building is a beautiful thing to see.
Your very own ‘A Year in Provence’.
A trellis also makes a great wall on its own. Maybe you want to separate parts of your garden.
Maybe you’d like to put a border along the side of a vegetable patch.
What better way than to trellis grapes to create a natural-looking barrier as well as provide more fruit.
Again it’s a simple case of digging some posts into the ground, this time in a line where you want the wall.
Then attach the trellis or use wires to create the trellis pattern. Your wall can be as tall as you want or as tall as the posts you have.
But just remember you will want to get to the top for pruning occasionally as well as picking any grapes you may want.
So maybe only as high as you can reach for a grape is sufficient.
Or maybe you have a water feature and need to make it safer but at the same time don’t want to ruin its appearance with an ugly fence.
Vino Grape Trellis
Maybe you do have more space and want to try your hand at producing some of your own wine for yourself, or maybe grape juice for the kids.
If that is the case then you will want to use wire to trellis grapes.
The wire is best to support the branches and grapes while spreading the growth out to allow as much sun onto the fruit as possible.
Just make sure the wire you use is strong enough.
As mentioned before, using wire also makes it easier to harvest the fruit of your labor.
To build a simple grape trellis, once again it is a case of starting off by digging some post holes in the ground, deep enough to hold the posts steady.
Then run the wire between the posts.
Perhaps the most important thing and greatest benefit of using this type of grape trellis are that it gives you the perfect excuse to visit as many vineyards as you like.
All in the interest of research. And we all know you can’t do too much ‘research’.
We’re using our 8 foot elk fence line to trellis for our grapevines.
Because our open acreage is lacking privacy, we chose to plant 4 grapevines against our elk fence line for support.
I chose 4 different varieties, for table grapes, wine, and jelly.
Three of them are on the north side of our permaculture food forest, the other to block off the view from the road into our backyard garden.
A large fence line is great for trellising grapes, so long as you prune and maintain.
I also planted lavender around the base because it acts as natural rodent repellent.
We have so many meadow voles and apparently, the scent of lavender deters the rodents from chewing them in the winter. Time will tell if that works!
I look forward to seeing our grapevine trellis over time!