How I use Horquetas to Trellis my Garden Vegetables
No matter what way you do it your plants are going to need support.
From lattices, to string to big sticks you have to find or use what you have to keep your plants standing strong.
Trellises are usually tall structures for a plant to climb up.
Commonly peas, beans, squash, melons and tomatoes need to be on a trellis. But even shorter plants like kale, eggplants and peppers like a good stick for support.
Trellis and stakes keep plants and fruit off the ground meaning fewer diseases and pests.
I’ve used all sorts of things but I find what is cheapest and last the longest here in the Yucatan are horquetas.
These are tall sticks with a Y end (or V end depending on your perspective). Horquetas are often used to hang clothing but are an indispensable part of my vertical garden. I use them as support and in hot months as a way to place shade coverings.
If you can’t find or don’t want to use Horquetas my second favorite material is bamboo. It’s durable but also flexible meaning it’s easy to use and craft into the forms you specifically need. If you are lucky you can even grow your own creating shade, privacy and cutting costs on your yearly garden maintenance.
Some Style Options
One tried and true method of trellising is to take 3 sticks of the same size and space them in a triangle about 1 foot apart to each corner. Then you bring the tops of the sticks together and tie them creating a tent over a plant. This method works well with beans that will wrap around the whole structure for support.
Another method is to create an arch and lean poles. This is great for multiple squash or melon vines as each lean pole will support a plant with extra plant material falling back towards the ground to naturally find another spot to wrap itself up.
With young bamboo you can weave the shoots into lattice formations and square patterns. Trellis with lattice that is diamond or square can be beautiful for flowers and vine plants and provide style in the garden when plants are small or when out of use. I don’t love to use store bought lattice in the tropics because they get rotten quickly during the rainy season and cost too much money to continuously replace.
My most used method is to create a simple arch (similar to the 4th example in the image above) and use string to support each individual plant. I like this method because it helps me control the plant and guide them more gently to where I would like them to grow. It also takes up much less space (and materials) and can be left up most of the year without blocking my garden’s view. Also if I need to quickly take down structures because of hurricanes it usually easier to lay them or dismantle them because there are fewer parts and ties
I like big and tall but simple trellises like this for tomatoes because they stretch out so much and have such a long growth time here in the tropics. Simple structures allow a lot of room for air flow and access to the plants.
I pack the base of the trellises with rocks to allow the water to filter out while holding the structure in place. The first few years in my space I put up the horquetas in dirt and found they rot faster this way and can fall down. If the trellis gets heavy you can add another block or big stones to the outside of your bed where the trellis is standing to help support it more.
I can’t get a ladder into this space so I raise my middle bar with an extra Y stick. If you don’t live in Mexico where these sticks are common you can lash the tops of your structures together with good quality rope, do this flat on the ground and with two people raise it and place it.
I use the same method at different heights to create tall, medium or even short structures. For example my vine spinach is on a medium structure.
If, however, I am going to stake an individual plant I am more likely to use bamboo and I would usually do this at the time of transplant to get the bamboo stake deep into the ground.
(I took videos of this process, you can see them on Instagram when I have a stronger internet connection I will add them here too. When I tried to do so today they wouldn’t load.)