Inclined Grape Trellis

Construct a sturdy wooden support to give your grapevines a leg up.

An angled trellis will keep vines off the ground, allowing for better sun exposure and easier pruning.
Photo by Geremy Chubbuck

Growing grapes is easy, fun, and rewarding. A friend of mine once said that grapes like to suffer, and I’ve found this to be true. Unlike many plants, grapes aren’t finicky, and they require little more than seasonal pruning, full sunlight, and elevation. A sturdy trellis will facilitate two of these three necessities directly (full sunlight and elevation), and aid substantially in the third (pruning). These instructions are for a simple and effective inclined grape trellis sized to accommodate six grape plants; however, you can modify them to accommodate any number of plants. Trellising your grapes will boost production, and it’s easy to assemble this design in one day. 

Trellis Considerations

My first trellis was made with maple and birch poles from my property. These were a good way to test the inclined trellis concept without investing money to purchase lumber. Fortunately, the design worked far better than I’d expected, and the grapes flourished. Unfortunately, the poles rotted by the third year, so I decided to upgrade. I’d have preferred to use cedar, but dimensional cedar was unavailable in my area at that time, so I chose pressure-treated lumber instead. You can use whatever type of wood you prefer. Grapevines can grow to be quite heavy, though, so the lumber must be substantial to avoid collapse.

Grapevines need support as they grow. I was fortunate to have a roll of salvaged stainless steel wire on hand when I built my trellis, which I fashioned into a latticework attached to the frame. If you don’t already have a roll of wire, invest in a 304 stainless steel wire that stays in place when bent. Stay away from rope, because it’s not as strong as wire, and it can degrade in the elements.

Photo by Geremy Chubbuck

This inclined trellis design consists of two primary parts: a vertical part and an angled part. To develop leader lines (the larger vines from which annual vines and grapes spawn), grapes need two vertical cordon lines, one about 20 inches high, and the other 40 inches high. The vertical portion of the trellis will retain the permanent grape vines that run horizontally. The angled incline portion of the trellis will support almost all annual vine and leaf growth, as well as some fruit.

My grape trellis is located in north-central Maine (Zone 4a), slightly above 46 degrees north latitude. My growing season is approximately mid-May through mid-September. In my location, an ideal incline angle for maximum insolation during summer growing months averages approximately 60 degrees from vertical. Because of the materials I had on hand when I built my trellis and the spacing I wanted between posts, my trellis is actually angled at 45 degrees. Fortunately, grapes don’t really care about an exact angle, as long as they receive full sunlight. A solar panel angle calculator, such as the one at Solar Electricity Handbook, can help you find the optimum angle for your trellis.



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