Building A Grape Vine Trellis Requires Planning & Supplies

My new Somerset Seedless Grape plants are growing nicely, so now I have to figure out an appropriate trellis design to support and guide grapes as they grow.

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by J. Keeler JohnsonJuly 19, 2022
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

Last winter, I decided to purchase a trio of Somerset Seedless Grape plants, in hopes of growing cold-hardy yet tasty seedless grapes on my northern Wisconsin farm. So far, I’m delighted with the results. The plants arrived in good order, they’ve leafed out with vigor, and the vines are growing nicely. Now I just have to figure out an appropriate DIY grape trellis design to support and guide the grapes.


Read more: Try growing these 5 plants in 2022!


Trellis Time

I probably should have started with the trellises. But you know how it goes. Farm life is busy, so when the bare-root grapes arrived, I dutifully took the time to plant them but skipped the more time-consuming step of building a trellis.

It would be a little while before they needed it, right?

Yes, but now that the grapes are growing (quickly), it’s time to figure out the grape vine trellis. And I’m diving into the construction process.

The hectic busyness of spring has given way to the steady beat of summer. The garden is planted, the grass isn’t growing quite so fast, and hay season is only now getting underway. So there’s more time to spend on improvement projects like building grape trellises.

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Best-Laid Plans

At first, I planned to use some old fence posts I had on hand and string a few lines of rope or wire between them to support the grapes. But after doing some research, I reconsidered.

My posts measured 6 feet long. Burying them to a depth of 2 feet would have left only 4 feet above the ground. According to specifications from the nursery, my Somerset grapes will grow 4 to six 6 tall. My fence posts ideally need to be longer—perhaps 8 or 9 feet long, so I can bury the bottom 2 or 3 feet and leave 6 feet above ground.

Then there’s the wire question. To properly support the vines, I intend to buy 9-gauge galvanized wire, which is sturdy and durable. As far as stringing it goes, the simplest approach would be to wrap the wire around the end posts in the fence line and secure it to the line posts using fencing staples.

My farm has some old grape vines left over from a previous owner. The original trellises were constructed in this manner.


Read more: Trellis plants to grow more in less space.


Upgrade!

But simply wrapping either end of a wire around end posts doesn’t make tightening the wire very easy. And since wires inevitably need to be tightened, I’m tempted to take a little fancier approach.

Adding turnbuckles to the mix would allow me to tighten wires without removing them from the posts. This is bound to be beneficial once the trellis wire supports the weight of thriving grape vines. And eyehooks screwed into the posts might give better performance (and a better appearance) than wrapping wires around posts.

In short … I’m going to have to purchase some supplies before I can finish my grape trellis. But I’ve determined the dimensions, dug the fence post holes, and given each of my grape plants a little stake to climb while they wait for the full trellis to be completed. They need to grow up a bit anyway before I start pruning and training them to grow vines horizontally along the trellis wires, which will set the stage for tidy growth and an easy-to-manage grape harvest.

What fun that will be?!

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