3 Design Ideas for a Cattle Panel Trellis (2024)

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In this blog post, I’ll walk you through the steps of building a simple and eye-catching cattle panel trellis to add height and a little bit of wow-factor to your garden. These trellises are the most commented-upon features in my home garden.

During harvest season in my garden the plants are big and lush, bursting with growth and tumbling every which way.

My garden feels a bit like a living, breathing beast that’s going to take over my entire yard. It’s a jungle out there, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. There’s a special kind of magic that can be found in the chaos.

One of my favorite quotes from Growing Beautiful Food: A Gardener’s Guide to Cultivating Extraordinary Vegetables and Fruit explores a topic close to my heart – growing food not only to feed your body but to feed your soul as well.

“If you begin to imagine growing food as an art form, where you move beyond the supply and demand of feeding yourself and others and into the realm of aesthetics, then you begin to cultivate beauty as well. And beauty is a fundamental human need, as essential as breath.”

When the summer garden hits its peak I focus on soaking in the aesthetic beauty of my garden and embrace the extra joy it brings to my life. Every year I’m re-convinced that having a gorgeous vegetable garden is just as important as having a productive one.

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Which brings me to the subject of vegetable trellises! Each season I try to pay close attention to which parts of my garden I feel drawn to visually, so I can make mental notes about especially striking flower combinations, stand outvegetable varieties, and anything else that elicits a feeling of happiness in my heart.

One element of my garden that’s consistently been a favorite are the “temporary” DIY vegetable trellis I created on the fly one season to add more visual interest to the garden. I wanted something quick, easy, and inexpensive to start with while I worked out my plans for future structures.

After some scheming and dreaming, I decided to try a cattle panel trellis. I love the height and artistry they’ve added to my garden so much that they become more permanent than temporary!

First, we’ll walk through the various options for garden arch trellises, then I’ll show you step by step how you can create one for your own garden, and then we’ll end by exploring the specific flowers and vegetables that thrive on trellises.

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Design Ideas for a Cattle Panel Trellis

THREE DIFFERENT OPTIONS

Here are three different styles of vegetable trellises that are simple and inexpensive to build. I use all three in my garden for different purposes.

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Style #1: Garden Arch Trellis

With this trellis design you can keep the cattle panel in one piece, there’s no need to cut it. You’ll simply bend it over into an arched position.

You can see in the above photo that each side of the trellis is situated in a different garden bed. The arch is over the aisle between the beds forming an arbor you can walk under.

Here are some photos of my arched trellises from different years and some of the vegetables I’ve grown on them.

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Delicata squash on the left-hand side of the vegetable trellis and two tomatillo plants on the right side (purple and green).

You can also see the pink flower of a Mandevilla Vine and the green leaves of a Sweet Autumn Clematis. I have a tendency to overplant my trellises!

The clematis didn’t make it in this hot and dry location though.

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Another year with Purple Hyacinth Bean (you can see its flowers reaching for the sky) and Sun Gold cherry tomatoes. It looks like there might be a Diva cucumber in there as well.

A few years after building the above garden arch trellis in my side garden, I decided to create one for the entrance to my front yard garden. Before that, I was simply stepping over the foot tall fence to get into the garden.

My husband and I also laid a multi-media garden path that incorporates stone, bricks, pavers and other found objects. I now have a much more beautiful entrance to my front yard garden!

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Can you find the other arched trellis in this photo? I call the back left corner of my garden the “back door” because it’s the most easily accessible part of the garden from my kitchen, which is also at the back of my house. I added another arched trellis for vegetables and flowers to this part of the garden, bringing the grand total to three!

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On this cattle panel trellis I planted a Tromboncino squash on the right side and it climbed all the way over to the other side. I then trained it along the fence. It just kept growing and producing squash! It’s an amazing plant. Even though it’s vining, it’s more like a zucchini than a winter squash.

I actually like it better because it’s a bit more dry and doesn’t get as mushy when cooking. The shapes of fruit it produces are super fun, too! (See below photo.)

I also have a clematis planted on the right side for a bit of early summer color. On the left side are two Sun Gold tomatoes.

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Here’s the back door trellis I mentioned above. On the left side is Phoenix climbing nasturtium and on the right Sun Gold tomatoes. I had a Red Kuri winter squash planted as well, but it got taken down by the squash vine borer.

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Style #2: Triangular DIY Vegetable Trellis

This is a great option if you need to cut the panel in half for transport. Again, I have one “foot” of each cattle panel in a garden bed so I can walk underneath it.

There’s less dead space under the trellis with this design because it has a slightly more compact footprint than the arch.

Some things I’ve grown on my triangular garden trellis over the years:

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Two tomatillo plants on the left side (purple and green) and two Diva cucumber plants on the right side. Both vegetables do well on this style trellis and I grow them often.

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Sun Gold cherry tomatoes and Black-eyed Susan vine on are both enjoying their time on this trellis. I’ve tried growing Black-eyed Susan Vine twice and it’s not vigorous enough for me, so I’ve quit planting it.

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Style #3: Flat Cattle Panel Trellis

A flat trellis is another wonderful option if you’re not able to transport a full-sized livestock panel. The one in the above photo is installed in an 8′ long bed. I was able to cut a 16′ long livestock panel into two flat trellises.

Make sure to confirm the full length of the panel you find locally and then measure your garden beds to figure out how many flat vegetable trellises you’ll be able to get out of one panel.

Notice in the photo that I’m using heavy duty t-posts to support this trellis. We’ll talk more about that in the next section on how to make a cattle panel trellis.

My favorite vegetables and flowers to grow on a flat trellis are:

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Peas! Did you know there are other options besides boring old green peas? My favorite variety is Golden Sweet Peas.

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I experimented with Cucamelon vines one season and the young girls who live next door absolutely loved them. The plants produce a lot, so you should have a plan for them!

Those are my top three favorite vegetable trellis designs for home gardens.

Your first step is to decide on which version you want and where you’re going to put it.

Next, I’m going to show you how incredibly simple it is to build one.

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Where to Buy Cattle Panel for a Trellis

Purchase cattle panels at a farm supply store like Fleet Farm or Farm and Fleet.

Important note: They’re very long, so if you don’t have a truck you might want to bring bolt cutters and cut them in half for transport or borrow a large vehicle from a friend or neighbor. Trellis styles #2 (Triangular Trellis) and #3 (Flat Cattle Panel Trellis) are best for cut panels.

I borrowed a small trailer from a neighbor and was able to bend them into an arch to fit into the trailer for transport.

The cattle panels look like this at the store. You might want to take a scouting trip to see what your options are and confirm the full measurements of the panels.

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Other Supplies You’ll Need

You need a few more supplies in addition to the cattle panel: metal posts, zip ties, and an optional post pounder.

Posts
For trellis styles #1 (Garden Arch Trellis) and #2 (Triangular Trellis) you’ll need four 3′ light dutyu-posts for each trellis. They should cost around $2 each. You could also use long pieces of rebar.

For trellis style #3 (Flat Cattle Panel Trellis), the u-posts won’t be strong or tall enough to hold it upright. You’ll need two heavy duty t-posts for each flat trellis.

T-posts come in different heights, so make sure you get a height that is taller than your panel because you’ll be pounding the bottom of the post into the ground.

Mallet or Post Pounder
For the smaller u-posts I simply used a rubber mallet we had in the garage to pound them into the ground. For the taller t-posts the easiest way to install them is with a post pounder.

Zip Ties or Metal Wire
When I built my first trellises I used zip ties to secure the posts to the panel. I like the green ones! But, they didn’t hold up over time. So, I replaced them with metal wire instead.

Note: I consider t-posts and a post pounder essential tools in my garden. I’ve had both in my garage for 18 years and use them all season long for all kinds of different projects. But, if you don’t want to buy either of these supplies choose style #1 or #2.

How to Make a Cattle Panel Trellis

Now it’s time to delve into how to “build” your trellis. But, don’t worry, it’s more like assembling, no building skills necessary.

DIRECTIONS:

Step 1: Cut your cattle panel, if necessary.

You’ll need to cut the panel if you’re building the triangular or flat trellis. Bolt cutters are the best way to do this.

Step 2: Grab a helper and position your trellis.

Play around with positioning the trellis until you get it right where you want it. This is definitely a two-person job.

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The light-duty u-post with trellis attached.

Step 3: Install the posts and attached the trellis.

Use a hammer, mallet, or post pounder to drive the posts into the ground. Once you get them all in, attach the cattle panels to the posts using zip ties or metal wire. I find it easiest to do one side at a time.

If you’re building the garden arch style (#1) you’ll simply bend the panel over to make an arch and secure the other end with two more posts and ties.

If you’re assembling the triangular vegetable trellis (#2) you’ll need to use zip ties or wire to bring the top of the triangle together.

The flat trellis can also be secured using zip ties. I use one in each of the four corners. Make sure they’re tight so the trellis doesn’t slip down the post.

That’s it! You’ve just added some eye-catching trellises to your garden. You’ll be the talk of the neighborhood.

Now you’re ready to plant.

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Diva Cucumber

What to Plant on Your DIY Vegetable Trellis

The best vegetables and flowers to grow on your garden trellises are naturally vining or very tall plants.

Most vines will come equipped with twining stems or tendrils that will assist them in climbing and holding on to the trellis. They’ll require very little assistance from you. The tall plants that aren’t vines will need some support and guidance to climb the trellis.

Vining Vegetables

Cucamelon

Cucumbers: Diva, Lemon, Silver Slicer

Peas: Golden Sweet, Sugar Ann

Pole Beans: Fortex

Summer Squash: Tromboncino

Winter squash: Delicata, Butternut, Honey Nut, Black Futsu, Long Island Cheese, or any other variety

Annual Vining Flowers:

The flowers on this list will need to be replanted every year if you live in a colder climate.

Black-eyed Susan vine

Cardinal Flower

Climbing Nasturtium

Love Vine

Mandevilla Vine

Purple Hyacinth Bean

The flowers on this list will need to be replanted every year if you live in a colder climate.

Perennial Vining Flowers:

I’ve planted several spring and early summer blooming clematis vines on my arched trellises to provide some early season greenery and color.

You can shop for interesting vining flowers at your local farmers markets and garden nurseries.

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The striking flowers of Purple Hyacinth Bean

Vegetable plants that grow tall, but aren’t vines, will need some support from you to hold on to and climb the cattle panel trellises.

Usually, this means tying some of the branches gently to the trellis to encourage them in certain directions, mostly up! These vegetables are still a great fit for garden trellises.

Tall Vegetable Plants

Tomatoes: Sun Gold

Tomatillos: Purple and Green

You can find all of the seed varieties in this list in one spot in my Amazon store here.

If you like the idea of creating a garden that feeds your body with abundant harvests and your soul with beauty and joy, then this DIY cattle panel trellis project is for you!

With a few dollars and an afternoon of work, you’ll instantly add height, visual interest, and an exciting new feature to your vegetable garden.

Want to read more about creating beauty in your garden?

  • Adding Beauty to Your Garden with Flowers
  • How to Grow a Colorful Vegetable Garden
  • A Tour of My July Garden

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3 Design Ideas for a Cattle Panel Trellis (2024)
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