cantelope trellis?

TallFlowerinMI(z5 MI)August 31, 2005

My cantelopes all died because I did not support the vines properly. I am not terribly handy, but if someone could send me a picture or describe a sample of a low/no cost method - other than leaving them on the ground - I would be most grateful. It would have to also be space conscious. I know that melons really like to spread out, but I have to find something that will allow the vines to go back and forth to save space. I trained cucumbers to go along the roof of my garage - that was cool. But melons, alas, are too heavy for this method.

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Tyrell(Zone 9, CA)


There are two simple things you can do to grow cantaloupes in much less space. One is traing them on strings. If your garden is next to a wooden-sided house or garage, you could put eye hooks about a foot apart 8 t0 10 feet up the side of the structure, maybe four for each plant you want to grow. (They won't do any damage to the sideing, and if you get brass ones, they won't leave any rust streaks.)Then you need to put something on the ground end to attach the strings to, either individual stakes or a 1" by 2" attached to two stakes. The vines are not completely natural climbers, so you might have to wrap them around the strings every few days.
If your garden isn't near your house or garage- and a fence is too low- you (or your handy DH) could build a free-standing structure to form the trellis. You would need two 8-foot posts on one end to attach a horizontal crosspiece to, for attaching the strings up on top. And the same things near the ground to anchor the srtings there as I described above.
Not only would the melons take up far less space, you could grow things "under" the strings, as long as they faced east or south, so sunlight would reach under them. In fact, a few years ago it occured to me that this could be "A Two Story Gardening" concept. On "the ground floor" you could grow peppers, eggplnats, carrots, onions, even bush squash- but not vining ones. And on "the upper floor" you could grow your cantaloupes, greenbeans, cukes, and other vining things. An online friend, who also happens to live in Michigan and is artistically talented is going to draw a picture of this concept for me, when he "Gets a Round Tuit."
The other option is to grow your melons "on the shelf." This is really only necessary for larger watermelons, cause the cantaloupes will do fine on strings. I do have a drawing of that, but I don't know how to post things on the boards, so you'd have to send me an e-mail request it if you would like to see it?
I have a question for you: Do you practice mulching?
The guy in your state started to this year, on his sandy soil. And he just can't believe how much more he's getting out of his garden than he ever did before! It's a shame so few people seem to know about this wonderful practice.


    Bookmark   August 31, 2005 at 12:35PM
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I have been looking into this and don't have any personal experience but I'll share what I have read.

As long as your trellis itself is strong enough, then you can support the cantalopes with old pantyhose by creating a sort of sling and attaching it to the trellis. I think there is some info on this on the square foot gardening site.

I'm currently in the process of making a trellis for peas, I'm making it out of PVC piping (though people have issues with PVC, I'm not sure why but I figure it's just a trellis so it should be fine).

Anyway, I learned how to do PVC recently to fix a sprinkler line I broke. It's real easy, you can do it. And it was the cheepest thing I could think of and I think it's gonna work. Trellises are expensive and so is pre cut wood.

For my trellis, I plan to use 3 PVC pipes (about $1 each-one is free cause it's the broken sprinkler line) 3/4 " and 2 PVC couplers (they look like rt angles) I'll attach it all together to make a big U shape have my hubby drill holes through the PVC and shove the ends in the ground. (I find hammers easier and I'm sure you could hammer holes through pvc pipe-If I could bust it with a pitchfork a hammer and nails should work) I thought of pouring concrete (also inexpensive) inside the pipe to make it heavy duty but I don't need that, but you might. I'm gonna string it with some aluminum wire I found in the dog house section of lowes for about $4 for 250 feet (I might use string but I'm not sure yet). Things I have are that you would need are 1.) A PVC cutter $5 for a cheep wire one, 2.) Purple Primer ($4) 3.) Blue Glue ($4). A combo pack of purple primer and clear glue (which dries faster was like $7 I think). I'll paint it all if it's too ugly, but I'll decide when I get there.

Hope this makes sense, here is a link for how to attach PVC piping (I'ts what I used to fix the sprinkler lines). Draw out a sketch (real ugly is fine) and explain to the people at lowes or HD in the sprinkler section what you wanna do and they will get you the right parts.

You could always make a full PVC square too, and use like rebar or some stick thing stuck into the PVC to make it like a latter, that would be really heavy duty.

'How to Connect PVC piping'

    Bookmark   August 31, 2005 at 6:06PM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

I make trellis from electrical conduits. They are very sturdy, simple and cheap. And they last for many years.

Here is a link that might be useful: Trellis from electrical conduit

    Bookmark   August 31, 2005 at 10:26PM
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TallFlowerinMI(z5 MI)

Thanks for the great ideas. I think I might actually be able to do some of these. I like Tyrells "2 Tier" gardening plan. It would add a dappled light effect to a very needy space. I am not, however, able to anchor to the adjoining fence, as it is Vinyl, and cost $$$, hence the need to be frugal - we are still paying for our fence! lol. As for electrical conduit, I have lots of that as DH is an electrician. Can pitimpinai give me a quick description as to how he/she did it. Kris, do you really think I should use a hammer to "beat" my PVC pipe into submission? It sounds like a great stress reliever, but not exactly the right tool for the job. I found myself chuckling at the image of myself using a hammer for this task. Give my neighbors yet another reason to shake their heads at me right?

    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 3:01AM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

Your DH is an electrician? You've got a wonderful helper right there! He must have a pipe/conduit bender.
Ask him to bend two conduits at 90 degree angle at the spot where you want. Then use a straight connector to join the two together. I ask my DH to help me erect the joined conduits. We just sank the two legs in the ground about 1 foot deep, deeper if you have no place to anchor the legs. I anchored mine to the fence or garage to keep them steady.

You can tie the legs to your fence using a length of stiff electrical wire. The plastic coating on the wire will protect your fence from getting gouged.

I use the 1/2" x 8' unthreaded conduit - the cheapest kind. It goes for about $2.25 a piece at HD. The connector costs about that much. I made mine nearly 17 years ago and they are still standing. (The conduit cost about $1.16 a piece then.)

I am planning to erect the same type of trellis for my new vegetable beds that I built with 2'x10'x12'. I will anchor the legs to the lumber - just like the picture I posted above. I will grow tomatoes, cucumber and cantaloupe up these trellis. This year, I didn't have time to put them up, so everything went sprawling. :-)

Have fun and enjoy the frugal trellis. :-D

    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 8:47AM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

TallFlower, electrical conduits are cheaper than PCV pipe. You'll need a larger PVC pipe than electrical conduit so it won't bend at the weight of your canteloupes....and the larger the pipe, the costlier it is.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 8:56AM
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suzieh(z9 Altadena CA)

I grew "hearts of gold" cantaloupe which are smaller.

Put in poles (old garden fence stakes) and hung chicken wire with twist ties/twine to poles. I had free materials for this.

As cantaloupe formed, tucked empty 4-inch plastic pots to keep off the ground. And had fruit hanging "over" the chicken wire as well.

I grew tomatoes, basil and bush beans in the same 3 x 8 foot bed. You can pack in a lot by going vertical.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2005 at 2:13AM
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johngreenhand(8 Hill country texas)

First time to grow cantalopes on trellis this fall. As far as supporting the fruit I tried panty hose, cheese cloth, regular cloth and knotted sisal(more commonly called baler twin in this area). None of these met my goal well. Although did support them some not enough to keep me from worrying. The cheese cloth clung to them and hard to arrange. The panty hose hard to come by as i do not know of any one in this locale that use them now. New ones too expensive. I tried knotting the twine but found it slow and tedious. I know have found what fits me best. I use small lengths of 1/4 tubing (stainless that i had) cut in 1/4 to 1/2 in lengths and line doubled thru then tied to cross line in (3 cross lines) and close with crimp tool. Easy to get fairly equal spaces on cross line and then hang from netting with "cradle" underneath fruit. The largest are as large as a "personal" watermelon. I support the trellis by bracing with anchors to keep them from blowing over. I am going to change this procedure next year to posts and chain link fence top rails but still use 6 inch nylon netting stretched from end to end. I had the plants about 1 foot apart this year and will keep them at that spacing. Am wondering about "topping" them when they reach the top of my trellis. Due to the lateness of planting I pulled all that were to young to ripen before frost and pruned a lot of the vines back.
Comments and questions welcomed. Remember I said this is my first gardening experience with trellised plants and only my 3 garden. Also have late crop of cucumbers doing extremely well trellised. 15 plants on 20 foot (seems to work well and keeps ground well shaded.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2010 at 4:22PM
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johngreenhand(8 Hill country texas)

up date
I ended up using an old volley ball net my son gave to me. It is easier than any thing else i tried. I cut it into pieces 3 cells long and 2 cells wide then used sisal to make attachment strings. On one side I bent wire and made hooks to hook on to netting and then folded up and over fruit and secured to netting. I found using a conduit bender and 1l2 inch conduit made best, cheapest and sturdiest frame for my Hortonova netting/

    Bookmark   January 17, 2011 at 9:49AM
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johngreenhand(8 Hill country texas)

up date on trellis I tried panty hose,netting and volley ball net now i have simplified the hangar by driving two nails in a work table about 18 inches apart cutting off the heads then wrapping baler twin making 3 circuits (six strands) then removing from nail and knotting each end next i took a piece of wire and made a double hook to hang with works best of all

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 11:44AM
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