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Trellis FAIL

We’ve had some wicked winds here in the DE area for the past couple of days. Yesterday while I was out mowing the yard, I looked up and watched as the cross bar for my Zeus hops separated on one end, fell limp, and the hop bines plummeted to the ground. Later while I was sitting on the couch, I looked out the window and noticed my Nugget trellis had suffered a similar fate. The structural failure could easily have been avoided had I cemented the top pieces together, but I lacked foresight on this one… I always forget heavy winds when putting up trellises and they always fail at least once a year. Now that I’ve cemented, I’m hoping I’ve got a solid design I can reuse year after year.

My wife gratiously took some time away from enjoying her Mother’s day to help me plant the trellises in their concrete footer sheathes. At 15 feet tall and 4 feet wide, they are rather impossible to maneuver alone, but once upright they are quite stable (provided they’re not pulling apart). Restringing the trellises wasn’t quite as bad as I expected. I used a loop of new coir yarn and a square knot around the original coir yarn, threw the new yarn up and over the crossbar, and pulled it up carefully until the yarn with bines were taunt again.

Regretably not all the bines survived the failure and restringing. It is so easy to snap the tips when something like this happens, and I’m not sure if some of my Nugget bines will recover from the trauma. Perhaps they’ll send out new side shoots and keep climbing, or perhaps they’ll end up being stunted at only 7 feet tall – I’ll just have to wait and see.

For those folks who are thinking about biling these PVC trellises for their hops, I’m going to offer up a list of components that I used for these (now much stronger) trellises and a few tips for their construction.

Components:

  • 10 foot sections of 1″ PVC – I used about 6.5 per trellis.
  • (6) 1″ Tees
  • (4) 1″ 90 degree elbows
  • 4-5 feet of 1 1/4″ PVC (the smaller PVC should fit inside this stuff)
  • Bag of quickcrete (the kind you dig a hole, put in the post, pour in the dry mix, and add water)
  • PVC cement
  • green spray paint (if you are putting it someplace that neighbors might bitch)

I think the general construction is pretty obvious from the pictures, however here are a few more details:

  • Dig footer holes about 1 to 1.5 feet deep. Cut the 1 1/4″ PVC tubing into two equal lengths of 2 to 2.5 feet and center them in your holes so about one foot sticks up out of them. Pour in the quickcrete, make sure your tubing sheathes are level, and hit them with water. Since the quickcrete must cure for several hours before its set, you’ll want to do this step first before anything else. I only used one per side and it seems to work just fine so long as you have additional structures to lash the trellis to. If you’ve got nothing, you might want to pour two per side.
  • Measure the distance between your two footer tubes and cut this length as the crossbar length. You might want to pop on a Tee on one end and mark the tube directly with a sharpie – that’s what I did. Once you’ve cut, pop the tees on both sides and make sure the distance is roughly correct (a half inch off won’t kill you).
  • Cut two of the 10 foot PVC sections in half. These will be the lower sections you slide into the sheathes. You’ll likely have to cut down two of these some additional amount to accomodate the length that slides down in the sheathes before it bottoms out.
  • Assemble the top crossbar piece. Use the PVC cement on all three sockets for the tees, and the one that butts up against the Tee on the elbow. You’ll have to cut some tiny (like 1″ to 2″) pieces to join the tees and elbows – use whatever was left over from cutting the crossbar. I would not recommend cementing the long 10 foot sections into the elbows – not if you ever want to take them down and store them (like for the winter, as I do).
  • Cut some small sections for the middle support span – this distance should be apparent after building the top crossbar. You’ll want to cement the Tees to just the small part, not the long sections.

Here are a few more pics to help out:

 Good luck! Hopefully my failures can lead to your success… as well as mine next season.

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Categories: Hop growing
  1. May 10, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    I think this looks like a superior design and you’ll finally have trellis success 🙂

  2. June 8, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Looks the part, much better than my two posts and a load of string!
    🙂

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