Monday, April 29, 2013

How to build your own vine arbors

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. – William Shakespeare 

Click on the image for full size printable version. There's a materials
list on the right hand side.

This post is "news you can use," so to speak. It's a get your hands dirty "how to", not only for your garden, but also a "how to" keep money in your pocket.

A few years ago we erected two supports for grapes, two Pinot Noir. They're meant to be a sort of summertime privacy "fencing", and also look very nice when the leaves are gone. 

Marechal Foch grapes. Photo: Wiki CC
Since moving to the country the plans for these have gained added importance. Not only will they add to our privacy so we can more fully enjoy our side yard, but they’ll help me grow food.

I plan on building at least two more of this size as well as perhaps a couple lower ones for climbing vegetables like peas and beans. Maybe even cucumbers and squash. I understand you can train them that way.

I also did a plant run yesterday where I picked up, among other plants, a Marechal Foch wine grape. I guess viticulture has really taken hold in Nova Scotia when you can buy grapes like that at garden centres. Besides the Pinot Noir I also bought Chardonnay two years ago and plan on picking up a red seedless called Canadese.

Deal of the day yesterday?  A good sized haskap berry at the Village Nursery in Pleasantville outside Bridgewater. $19.99. Twice the size of the ones at Canadian Tire for the same price.

Arbors are good for 12 months a year. They add to the "bones" which keep your garden looking nice in the non-growing months. There’s nothing worse through the winter months than looking out over a barren garden with nothing of interest there at all...

These also are easy on the wallet. Purchasing structures like these – if you could get them –  would cost in excess of $200. Materials, way less that $100. Sweat equity: priceless.

The design of these echoes elements of an arbor entrance we also built, and the top of a summer porch but you can customize them to blend with whatever decor you have. The porch will have wisteria flowers hanging down through it — eventually... maybe. 

Use the plan above "as is", or as an inspiration for designing and making your own. They're not rocket science. They just take a little time. You can probably make one, from start to standing in the ground, in about 3 hours. That includes all fabrication, digging holes, mixing cement, and standing up.

The 2x2 pieces which make up the centre of the structure are not cut from their purchased 8' length. That speeds fabrication up greatly. All you have to do is make sure that the inside space between your 4x4 uprights is also 8", or they won't fit.

If there is ONE secret, it's to assemble with either brass or coated screws as opposed to nails. If you use screws, any breakage or rot can be replaced far more easily. Nails are far harder to deal with down the road.

The above image shows them "in situ". They still have their side supports because the cement was just poured. The trees in front have been removed. 

Grapes are funny creatures. They can struggle for years and then take of like a house afire. We’re still waiting for the “afire” bit. 

We had grapes at the city house that took forever to reach their support, but once they did... I’m hoping the same is true here. The pinot noir grapes will be a bonus. We don't expect to make wine...probably. I wonder what they will taste like?

Remember, treated wood will last longer so buy it if you can. Or paint it with a preservative, but then be wary if you're growing anything on them that you want to eat.. These arbors are now at least three years old and look like the day I made them. 

Plans and materials list is for one support.

One final word: we used 8' uprights, which meant that 1-1/2 feet went into the ground. Our frostline is 3 feet in Nova Scotia, so you may want to purchase 10' 4x4, just to be safe. We like to live on the edge.



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