A pint-size plot, no bigger than a child's sandbox, can fill bushel baskets with summer produce. The secret: Add vertical growing space. Starting with two old iron gates found at a flea market, we created a 6-foot-tall A-frame trellis that doubles as a dramatic focal point for our 5-foot-sqaure raised bed.
At the top, a bonus 3-foot-long planting loft formed with chicken wire, plywood, salvaged ceiling tile, and a coconut-fiber liner overflows with nasturtiums and sweet potato vine. The planter has a generous depth of 10 inches so roots have plenty of room to grow.
Here's how to create your own trellis:
Step 1: Clean The Gates
Remove any rust that's accumulated on the iron by spraying the gates down with a power washer or scraping it off with a little steel wool.
Step 2: Create the Frame
Put your trellis together by leaning the two gates together. Push the tops apart slightly to leave space between them for a planter.
Once you determine the space for your planter, take two 12-inch-square pieces of plywood and place them against the open ends at the top of the gates. Mark the edges of the gates, and cut off the excess plywood. Attach the plywood on top of the gates by drilling holes through the boards and gates, fastening them together with 2-inch bolts.
Step 3: Make the Planter
Add a planter to the top of your trellis by taking salvaged ceiling tiles and folding them over the plywood to hide it. Attach the tin tiles to the plywood with small nails.
Then take chicken wire and mold a section of it to become your planter. (Don't let the chicken wire hang below the bottom of the plywood.) Tie the chicken wire to the gates with sturdy wire.
Line the chicken wire with sphagnum peat moss or coconut fiber. Fill with a high-quality potting mix.
Step 4: Reinforce Your Trellis
Keep your trellis from tipping over in strong winds by wiring a 1x4 piece of wood along the bottom of each gate. Drill a 1-inch hole at the ends of the boards and drive a 12-inch-long rebar stake though each hole into the ground. Hide the boards with a layer of soil or mulch.
For the plantings, we chose colorful edible crops, including basil, thyme, sage, spicy peppers, and marigolds. Malabar spinach and pole beans twine up the iron scrollwork. All of these heat-loving summer varieties respect their boundaries, or at least climb out of their neighbors' way.
All of our crops can be grown from seed or purchased as nursery transplants. We started seeds of marigold 'Lemon Gem,' basil 'Cardinal,' and nasturtium 'Tip Top Mix' indoors in early April. We waited until reliably warm weather to move plants outside. The deep, compost-enriched soil allows for closer planting than usual because roots grow down instead of laterally, where they could tangle with others. We watered the planting loft every day with a long-handle watering wand. Ground-level plantings needed a drink just one or twice a week.