Thanks to generous friends, free seed opportunities and wonderful seed catalogs, we have many, many squash varieties to choose from this year. We also want to grow vertically where we can to save space so my daughter and I are creating trellises. No builder, I, but we’re hoping these will last for years to come.
This area of the upper trail isn’t lovely when not covered by vines. It is also quite warm when people are touring and it could use some shade and interesting focal point. Miranda had cut down a large curly willow tree a few months back (it was taking too much water from an avocado). We used a couple pieces of the trunk to inoculate with mushroom spores, and the rest was fair game for a trellis.
Curly willow (Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’) has wonderfully shaped branches that twist and curl naturally. You’ll see it often in bouquets, where it usually roots while in water. This willow enjoys more sun and a little less water than native willows do. Willows all produce salicin, the pain-killing ingredient that has now been synthetized as aspirin. Willows also produce a rooting hormone which can be used to encourage sprouting and rooting of other plants. Cut up a willow branch, soak it in water for a couple of days (if water is chlorinated, leave it sit for a day before adding willow) and use to water seedlings.
Wanting to avoid cutting wood and nailing things together, we sunk four T-posts into the corners. The trellis is six feet across and eight feet wide; any wider and we would have put a center post on each side as well.
We wired on the side posts and cross posts, cutting long branches from the willow. This willow was long dead; fresh willow could be sunk into the ground and it would root to make a living trellis, like the Withy Hide. We didn’t want that here, though.
We stood smaller branches upright along the sides and wired them on, keeping in mind spaces where the squash vines will want to find something on which to grab. Over the top we laid long slim branches from a Brazilian pepper that is growing wild in the streambed and really needs to come out. By pruning it and using the branches, we’re making use of the problem. In permaculture, the problem is the solution! I wanted to make an arched top and tried to nail the slim branches in a bended form, but this was difficult and didn’t work for me. I didn’t want to spend days finishing this… too much else to do! So we laid the branches over the top, wiring some on, and then wove curly willow branches long-wise through them. This weaving helps hold the branches in place, will give the vines support, and brings together the look.
And it was done. It should stand up to wind. We may need to add some vertical support depending upon the weight of the squash vines. We planted four varieties of squash that have small (2-3 lb.) veg. We planted four seeds of each, two on either side. We also planted some herbs, flowers and alliums, and some perennial beans, the Golden Runner Bean.
If nothing else, it is lovely and interesting to look at; better in person than in the photos. We can’t wait for the squash to start vining! Now, onto the next trellis.