DIY Cattle Panel Trellis
How to Make Your Own Garden Arch
Reading Time: 5 minutes
By Romie Holl – As I get older, the desire to get on my knees to work in the garden becomes less, so I needed to figure out an inexpensive way to avoid all of the bending and crawling on the ground. A cattle panel trellis is just what I was thinking. All of my grape vines were within three and a half feet from the ground, so picking the grapes and trimming the vines took a long time, not to mention my back and knees were talking to me when finished.
Grapes need a heavy, strong trellis, so I decided I would use cattle panels and build my own cattle panel trellis. If you don’t know what cattle panels are, they are made from very heavy-gauge wire (roughly 1/8- inch in diameter), and are 16 feet long. The cattle panels are 50 inches tall and have roughly eight- inch squares between rows and columns. (There are other panels to choose from: for example, hog panels are 36 inches tall and have smaller holes.)
I like the cattle panels for three reasons:
• The extra height means I need to buy fewer of them (they are roughly $25-$27 where I live).
• They are plenty strong to hold the grapes.
• They are galvanized and will outlast my lifetime.
By placing one panel vertically, that gave me three to four feet before the start of the arch on the trellis, depending on how much overlap was used. This much vertical structure will allow me to walk under the grapes, pick the fruit, or trim the vines. And if the panels are overlapped by two inches (giving 48 inches), four panels will be needed for the arch. So, for a 16-foot trellis, I will need six panels ($120 worth).
Now, how wide can I make it? For the arch, I wanted at least a one-foot overlap to provide strength. After laying it out, the trellis could be 12 feet wide without cutting any of the panels.
After measuring the existing grape vines, I calculated that the new trellis will need to be 32 feet long, and I will need two of them. This means 24 panels total. I bought 28 panels as I would rather have too many than not enough.
I built the cattle panel trellis in early spring before the grapes started to grow. I removed the vines from the old trellis with care and I gently laid them on the ground. I drove pipes into the ground every four to five feet to support the vertical panels.
When I placed the vertical panels, I made sure to put them on the inside and the pipes on the outside. This will give the most strength to the trellis. I used plastic zip ties to hold the vertical panels in place, and after all the vertical panels were done, I went back through and used heavy 12-gauge wire to tie them permanently in place.
Removing the old trellis, pounding the new poles in the ground, and installing the vertical panels took three hours. I was done for the day and the animals were ready to be fed.
The next day, it was time to start the arch section of the panels. I carried a panel to the far end and put a corner on the ground against the vertical panel to hold it in place. I then went to the other end and it made an arch with very little effort. Once both end pieces of the panels were on the ground, they were placed at the end of the vertical panels. This was done six more times for a total of seven per row. I purposely left one panel out of each row at this time.
The next steps can be done by yourself but having a partner will help. Starting on one end, I lifted a panel and used plastic zip ties to hold it in place. Then on the same panel, I went to the other side, lifted it, and wired it in place. Going on to the next panel, I overlapped it to the first panel as I lifted the first side (trying to keep a two- inch overlap). I did this two more times on that end of the row. Then I walked down to the other end of the row and started on that side. Once all arches were done that were placed in the row, there was a big gap. Both ends of the arches matched perfectly with the ends of the vertical supports. The final arch bridged the gap left behind. My rows were nowhere near perfect, so there was more of an overlap than the two inches. But once the grapes start growing, I won’t see it.
To permanently tie the arches to each other as well as the vertical panels, hog clips and pliers were used. These are heavy- duty C-shaped clips. The pliers have a groove in them to hold the clips until they are squeezed into place. The hog clips were installed roughly 18 inches apart.
Today’s project work was done and the animals wanted to get fed again.
The next step is to take scissors and cut off all of the plastic zip ties. I ended up with a grocery bag full.
Since the cattle panel trellis was built before the grape vines were growing and were still stiff, the project was done for now.
A month later, the grape vines were leafing out and the vines were flexible again. It was now time to finish this project. Being careful to not break off the brittle young shoots, I tied them to the trellis. I used baling twine for this. Not only is it cheap and strong, it also biodegrades in time. When
tying the vines, I left plenty of room for future growth. I left about an inch bigger than the vine.
In the summer, it’s nice seeing all of the grapes growing and noticing how easy they’ll be to pick when they’re ripe. With this arch trellis, it is much easier to trim the vines as needed. The trellis lifts the vines away from the ground, making it easier to weed-wack the grass away.
Will you be building a cattle panel trellis of your own? Please share your experience in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!
Originally published in Countryside and Small Stock Journal November/December 2020, and regularly vetted for accuracy.