Best Grape Arbor Designs

blueberrier1March 7, 2011

Have raised table grapes in other states, but always on a 'fence' and want to build a 12 grape arbor within two weeks...for grapes and shade. I found a plan in the 1971 Encyclopedia of Org. Gard. that seems like it would work for me. Two parallel rows will be north-south. Posts are listed as 6' apart in the rows. The span between the rows is 7.' With this plan, the base for the space would be 36'X 7.'

There are details as to post height, connecting boards, wires, etc.

It suggests the grapes be planted between the posts, or 6' apart. Further, no pruning until five years of growth, and then trim at 3' height on sides.

Has anyone done this or something similar? This arbor will be south of the blueberry patch and abut a hay field. No adjacent trees or to full sun on south west slope.


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myk1(5 IL)

Arbors generally give up a lot of production to have an archway of vines.
It's a guess but sounds like they're saying to do the fan method.

Better for production and similar to an arbor would be a high T trellis. You would get the roof but not the walls. It would be a lot easier to prune whether canes or cordons. You should get production in 3 years instead of 6 years (although I don't know why they'd say to wait 5 years).

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 1:54AM
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myh1, Should have added "..for production and shade.." to the topic title. Thought I would prune the 'sides' due to turkeys and deer, but would enjoy the overhead shade as a break space. Do you have data comparing production of an overhead arbor versus row-as I was unable to find this?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 9:51AM
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myk1(5 IL)

I haven't been able to find it since but I once came across something specific to Reliance that stated production based on how many buds left after pruning. It was such a low number (60 was optimal I think) that if you tried a Kniffen design to cover the arch you'd end up with very short canes. With 2 canes it comes out to be about 8' spacing, 6' spacing isn't much less.
Wine grapes are even less for optimal buds.

Basically with an arbor you're growing a lot of extra plant to cover the arch with leaves and that takes away from fruit energy. Then I think because it doesn't have great air circulation and light hitting those leaves you end up with low quality fruit.
With yours going north/south each half is going to be shaded half the time. East/west would have the north side shaded all the time. With a flat top and no sides it's in the sun all the time.

The shorter 5'-6' portion of my T is pleasant to sit under, but it runs east/west so I could sit in the shade almost all day. I may end up putting a bench under it.

12 vines is a lot so you may not need to get great production. I know 2 is plenty for me so I'm not that worried about the other 4 vines I want to shade my house.

"Vines grown on arbors generally produce less low-quality fruit than traditional systems do."
"Providing this amount of foliage cover requires a larger and taller plant than is necessary for an ordinary trellis. In this situation there is a tendency to prune too lightly, if at all. Often the end result is a tangled mass of multiple trunks, numerous canes, weak growth and poor fruit production."

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 1:31PM
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I've got an overhead arbor made out of 8' tee posts, 1/2" black pipe, 1 1/2" black pipe on ends, and high tensile wire. The tee posts are 8' each way, with the vines trained up the posts. The drip pipe is at 6' with the rest of the arbor. The fruit hangs at eye level. It mimics a giant solar collector, which is what it really is. I use no chemicals and have better yields than on my old standard commercial trellis system.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 2:50PM
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This SW KY slope site is 100% full sun. Air circulation is more than optimal on this ridge...even with two rainy summers. The sides for this arbor would be mainly bare, with only the 'roof' sunfacing.

fruithack's eye level arrangement is what I need. What is the size of your arbor, spacing, grape varieties, and location, please? Is the "black pipe" waterline pipe, steel, other?

When I lived in central Illinois, both grandparents had over head arbors instead of grass yards. Besides canning juice, wine was made and some grapes even sold.

The grapes I have ordered (Pense Nursery in AR), are Reliance, Canadice, Steuben and Catawba.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 11:50PM
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myk1(5 IL)

Both of you sound like you're describing a trellis to me.

This is mine right after it was built and before I pruned the existing grapes to a high T. The grape vines will only form a roof.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 12:16AM
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Bluberrier, what we're talking about here is a steel trellis which means you've gotta be able to weld. Lowes, Home Depot, Amazon etc sell a cheap 110v Lincoln wire feed welder that'll git 'er done.110v is important because you can use heavy duty extension cords or a small generator to reach the site. Unpainted steel is the way to go, just let it rust and drive in new post bottoms every thirty years and weld together.

As cheap steel goes there's 1/4" pencil steel (used for concrete reinforcing); 3/8, 1/2, and 5/8" rebar; 1/2, 3/4, 1, 1 1/4, 1 1/2, 2" etc ID (inside diameter which means OD outside diameter is bigger so 1/2" ID is more like 13/16 OD) black pipe which is used for gas piping and sold at plumbing supply houses; and of course good old tee posts, 6,8,10' with 2' under the ground. Rebar and pencil steel comes in 20' lengths and is sold at ready mix plants, Lowes etc. and goes for about $6 for 1/2" around here. Black pipe comes in 21' lengths and 1/2" is about $14 around here. The key to getting a good price is to call contractor's supply houses and ask for it. Say something like " I need a price on 9 lengths of 1/2" black pipe and 4 lengths of 1" black pipe. I'm going to weld it up into a grape trellis so it can be rusty, but it has to be straight". Then be prepared to haul it off on a pickup with a lumber rack. Black pipe is easy to carry on a lumber rack because it's so stiff. Maybe buy the pipe first and then pick up any rebar you need so it stiffens when bundled with the pipe. Sometimes it works best to bundle 7 pieces of pipe together with a ton of duct tape then tie THAT down. Industrial suppliers don't like to hand hold so come prepared and act like you know what you are doing.

For the price, 1/2" black pipe and tee posts are a heck of a deal so I suggest you design around the 21' length, which is what I did. You could make a 21' square trellis with 1" pipe around the perimeter and 1/2" pipe on 7' centers in between. This would make a 3 row (14' wide) by three row arbor with 9 posts and nine grape vines trained up them. The 14' dimension leaves 7' to split in a 42" cantilever on each side. Then you run high tensile wire (available at fencing suppliers) on 21" centers which is tensioned with turnbuckles and pulls against the stiffer 1" pipe on the perimeter. Weld little one inch long tabs of pencil steel verticle on the center 1/2" pipes on the 21" centers to tie the high tensile wire to. Use some 20" or 24" lengths of 1/2" rebar to make angle braces on the four corners. This all may seem hard to visualize, but lay it out on graph paper and it's really pretty simple. Make each 1/4" equal 21".

But that's not what I did. I have about a 75' long trellis. The 1/2" pipe runs north to south with only wire running east to west. The ends are 1 1/2" pipes in the ground supporting a 1 1/2" horizontal, and a deadman anchor and wire pulling against the horizontal in 2 places at each post for the wires to tension against. Of course 3 rows 7' apart would make sense here also, but I went 4 rows at 7' for 21' w and welded half a length onto a full length for a total of 31' 6" with 66" of cantilever on each side of the 21'. 3x22= 66 so the outer 3 wires are at 22" oc. Truth to tell, I went 9' between pipes for no particular reason, but the resulting 28 grapes was not enough to experiment with new varieties, so I planted grapes half way between on free standing 4' posts for 4x13= 52 vines. I train the vines on the wires using a Geneva double curtain training system ( described in The Grape Grower by Lon Rombaugh, which anyone with more than 5 vines MUST buy).

Finally varieties. All the varieties you ordered sound fine. Steuben has been fantastic for me, with catawba mediocre in comparison. Reliance worked well in every way for me except my family didn't like the flavor as much as others. Canadice is great but is not as aggressive a grower as the others so don't plant it on a corner. Jupiter ( is by far the best grape I grow, a must have. Glenora is also a must have. Suffolk Red is a family favorite. "Price" is excellent and very early. Venus is very good. Yates is very late and keeps on the vine into Nov., with average flavor. is a top supplier, and Raintree seems to be out of Price right now. I apologize for the length of the post, but hope it helps.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 11:58PM
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Thats a nice looking trellis. Just wondering, I don't know when you first built it, but how are the crossmembers holding up? (the ones that run length wise) Mine began sagging after several years and some pretty heavy grapes!


    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 12:56AM
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myk1(5 IL)

The tall section hasn't even seen much for vines yet except where the ones off the short part grew over.

In theory (we know how that goes) they should only be there to keep the ends apart and give the wires tension. I do need to get in with an angle bit and drive some screws better though.

I have an idea how it will go from the low ones. The weight of the grapes should all be on the wires which is all 4x4 and braced 2x6 at the end.
The only thing on the 2x4s should be vines as they get thrown back up and over which was being done on the low part at this time.
I can't ignore them at prime vine growing because of the Japanese beetles.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 1:19AM
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myk1, nice trellis! Seems like it is very close to your house or bldg wall. What is the exposure?

Initially, I should have mentioned that my use of the word 'arbor' was that of the dictionary definition "a shady garden shelter or bower" vs the word trellis, "a frame supporting open lattice work..." Regional terminology can also add confusion. In any case, we all seem to love our grapes!

fruithack, I am very impressed with your steel pipe frame! I may incorporate some of the permineter steel framing on my locust posts. Thanks so much for sharing (new to me), grape varieties and characteristics. But what is your zone/region where you get these results? I have ordered some fine blueberries from Raintree but one that some raved about only did fair in a our 'hotter' zone.

Next year, I could add a third row to the over head arbor, for Jupiter and Price...or squeeze them in next to the Canadice. The Double A Vineyard is very impressive as well.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 8:42PM
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myk1(5 IL)

That is southern exposure. A couple feet lower would be easier but the reason it's that tall is to get shade on that side of the house. I don't really care if the tall ones produce fruit as long as they produce shade. The low 2 produce plenty for me.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 11:42PM
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Blueberrier, I;m in zone 7 CA, and it gets up to a 100 here, but we have a dry climate here. Humidity and diseases are probably your main issues. Glenora was developed in New York and Jupiter in Arkansas and Price in Virginia. You really should consider getting The Grape Grower just for it"s info on varieties and diseases alone. Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 9:36AM
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I'm building a pergola for shade and some grapes right now. It's 12' x 14'. How far should I space the rafters? What spacing is too far for grapes to climb across?

Thanks, not trying to hijack the thread. Thought the info would be relevant here but I could start my own thread as well.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 7:36PM
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