Wednesday, June 22, 2016

How to (And How NOT to) Make a Trellis: Part I

Bad Idea

Over the past while, I have constructed quite a number of trellises to support big viny plants, such as peas, pole beans, squash, cucumbers and gourds. With advice, trial and error, error, and more error, I now have a system that, although not quite bulletproof, may actually withstand the next earthquake.

First lesson: do not use bamboo stakes if you want the trellis to last longer than part of one season. Not one entire season, just part of one season. No matter how well, deep or meaningfully those stakes are anchored, and regardless of the rebar reinforcement, they will fail. You see, when that first big wolfish wind comes along, (think Three Little Pigs), your growing plants act like a giant sail, and take down the entire ship.

The solution - 1/2" electrical metal conduit (EMT). It is inexpensive, readily available, sturdy and not completely ugly. And a 2' piece of rebar inserted up one leg at each side means additional security.

Second lesson: use three support posts at each end. Now you may remember from eighth grade geometry class that three points define a plane. You may not. But it sure makes for a much more solid and grounded base. And since you are paying less $3 per 10 ft. length of EMT, it's a small splurge.

Hose clamps
The support posts are linked together with a metal hose clamp. The cross piece is then tied in with a separate smaller hose clamp. The only issue I have encountered with hose clamps is that someone has been cheating on their length. So buy the next larger size if you have any doubts about the diameter of the pipes to be tied together.

Third lesson: work with a friend. It's more fun to argue with someone else than just yourself. And once you're done, it's definitely a lot more fun to sit down, have a beer and admire your handiwork with someone else.

Fourth lesson: Tie up your own netting. I start at the top, anchoring the string at the bottom with a a bamboo pole (finally, it has a use!), about 6"- 8" apart. The horizontal rows are also spaced at approximately 6"- 8" wide.

It takes less than an hour to string up an 8' x 10' mesh, lasts for one year (a winter season of peas and a summer season of cukes and pole beans), and if using cotton string, can be tossed in the compost bin along with the green waste.

The Completed Trellis w/o the Netting

Epilogue: After the first summer of Fortex pole beans, two more posts were added to the middle of the 10' expanse for additional support. I would never have guessed that the bean vines could be so heavy as to cause that much sag...

Total cost for the trellis: under $40.00

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Kinetic Heroics

Atomic Funguys
In Oakland over Memorial Day, a whole lot of people were not really thinking about barbecues and sunshine. Nah, they were much more wrapped up in whether the Warriors were going to make it into the finals.

But at the Kinetic Grand Championship 2016 in Eureka/Arcata, many others had their fingers crossed to see how well the Kinetic Kootie, along with all the other entries, could make it into the water.

Regardless, I recommend that you: Go with friends. Enjoy the sunshine. Applaud loudly.

Kinetic Kootie

I would like to note that, as an Oakland resident and occasional crankypants, since 1971, the Golden State Warriors have been playing in O-a-k-l-a-n-d.