Vertical Gardening with Concrete Wire Mesh

grow and resist using concrete wire mesh in the garden trellis vertical gardening

*Not my garden this month~ this is summer lovin’!*

Do you have an item that you could not live without in your garden?  Most of us do.  The things I use the most include a hori-hori, my hand pruners, and concrete wire mesh.

Concrete wire mesh, or remesh, or reinforcing wire is found at hardware stores and generally comes in panels that are 48″ x 84″ or rolls that are 60″ tall and 150 feet long. I find both useful for trellising, vertical gardening, and keeping billowing plants contained.  I only use the rolls for cages as the wire really, really, really wants to stay rolled up and it is a battle I’m not willing to undertake.  You can use the panels for any use, including cages.  The rolls are only economical if you plan on making a lot of cages. I use them for everything that will grow up, for so us it was worth it.

The asparagus below is just starting to fern. I’ve stopped harvesting (for the most part) this year and will let the rest just grow. I know it doesn’t look like it will need support, but they will soon be over 5-feet tall and floppy. It is important to let asparagus ‘go to fern’ as this is the time it is gathering and storing nutrients and energy for next spring.

grow and resist using concrete wire mesh in the garden trellis vertical gardening

Post-season asparagus tends to flop over the pathways and get in the way of small space gardening. We placed a wire mesh panel along the path edge last summer to keep asparagus ferns in check.

My affair with wire mesh began with a Mother Earth News article from a decade ago describing how to use the wire mesh to form tomato cages. Commercial tomato cages are only useful in supporting determinate tomatoes, as this type tends to top out at 3-4 feet in height.  Indeterminate tomatoes have unbridled growth and will keep on trucking, generally to a height of 6 feet. I’ve heard rumors of 12 foot tall tomato plants, but I must say– if I saw such a thing in the Pacific Northwest I would be quite certain the-end-of-the-world was upon us after all.

grow and resist using concrete wire mesh in the garden trellis vertical gardening

Freshly pruned tomato plants contained in wire mesh- last summer.

No, up here in Seattle we have to work our asses off, pray to whatever and whoever suits us, shed a few tears, swear, beg, cross our fingers, and be willing to gamble just to get our tomatoes to ripen.

I followed the instructions in the Mother Earth News article but recently found much easier-to-follow instructions and photo sequence if you are going to make them!  It is really easy in theory. The reality is that the wire will cut your arms and legs all to hell and you’ll look a bit like you lost a fight with 27 pissed off feral cats. But no matter. Your tomatoes will thank you profusely for their new sturdy home. You hands will be somewhat extremely arthritic for a week or so afterwards from cutting wire. Again. Envision ripe tomatoes plucked from your own backyard. It helps. Plus, you will only have to do it once as they won’t wear out, rot, or fall apart. The painful memories will fade and you will only remember your sheer brilliance in undertaking the project. Trust me. I would suggest being up-to-date on your tetanus shot however.

This year I created a Pea Trellis from 2 panels.  So far it is performing wonderfully and I really like the location I chose for trellising in general.  I will also grow cucumbers and winter squash up the sides.  If I decide to place it elsewhere next year it easily pops out of the ground and can be stored against a fence until needed again.

grow and resist using concrete wire mesh in the garden trellis vertical gardening

The new trellis! The peas are growing up, up, up (despite being bullied a bit by the ever-expanding calendula). The solar bulb lights look pretty sweet at night too!

To make the trellis I stuck a panel on either side of the pathway. In our case this meant one side in a regular bed and the other in our raised bed. I secured each side with a 3-foot T-post, but I imagine any type of post about 3 feet tall would work (such as a rebar stake or the like).  I secured them at the top with regular cable ties forming an arch.

grow and resist concrete wire mesh in the garden vertical garden

Cable ties do everything and will only enhance your wire mesh experience(s).

The Ladyfriend (brilliantly) thought it would be wise to cover the tips of the mesh panels to keep bypassers from impaling themselves on rusting metal barbs.  She is clever that one.  I found a metallic grey silicone caulk outdoor use and applied small dollops to the ends, which worked perfectly!

grow and resist using concrete wire mesh in the garden trellis vertical gardening

The early pea starts from inside the raised beds.

grow and resist using concrete wire mesh in the garden trellis vertical gardening

Reaching for the sky….go peas, go!

We’ve established that the wire mesh is perfect for holding back floppy asparagus that has ferned out, critical for tomatoes, and makes a very cool pea trellis.  What else does it do? Answer: everything.  I find the panels endlessly useful.  For instance, espaliered fruit support. It was growing taller than our fence so I inserted a panel behind the existing 2-row wiring I had in place. Easy and now we have multitudes of horizontal support!

grow and resist using concrete wire mesh in the garden trellis vertical gardening

Our espaliered pear tree gets some support.

grow and resist using concrete wire mesh in the garden trellis vertical gardening

See? We are training a 3rd level of horizontal branching.

Cane berries are fantastic. And grow a lot. With thorns. Somehow your berries must be contained. The last few years I’ve had a very simple T-post with 2 strands of wires to sort of keep the berries propped up. By mid-summer though I would get attacked trying to walk down the pathway to access them.   Wire mesh panels to the rescue.  The bushes are now contained and it is easy to tuck in wandering branches before they get out of hand.  For this support I just stapled the panels to the existing horizontal supports.

grow and resist using concrete wire mesh in the garden trellis vertical gardening

Berry containment!

Another way to keep berries in line– using tomato cages.  Again, easy to tuck escaping canes back inside. Speaking of berries, is there a berry that has more thorns than a boysenberry?  Ours are lethal. Ouch.

grow and resist using concrete wire mesh in the garden trellis vertical gardening

The marionberry, tayberries, and boysenberry all have their own tomato cage.

Lastly, most members of the squash (Curcurbitaceae) family are vines and will easily grow vertically. Cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, and even many of the smaller winter squash all benefit from growing up.  Not only do they use less space, but in our damp climate growing vertically offers some protection from disease. I’ve used cages to grow cucumbers, zuchinni, and delicata squash, all with great results!

grow and resist using concrete wire mesh in the garden trellis vertical gardening

Cucumbers too!

Do you use wire mesh in the garden? If so, how?  Or, perhaps you have another favorite way to grow up?  I’d love to hear!

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37 Responses to Vertical Gardening with Concrete Wire Mesh

  1. emmycooks says:

    Interesting–I will try caging my zucs this summer! I only grow cherry tomatoes now because the big ones are too disappointing. I was in CA in mid-Dec. and my mom had a tomato that had grown way out of reach up an apple tree and was still fruiting! I can only dream of such wonders up here. :)

  2. Mama Turtle says:

    I use something similar, with smaller gaps between the wires and a green vinyl coating, I think it’s called garden fencing or something. It’s to keep animals out, but I snip it up and use it for trellises, and it’s weatherproof. It comes in large rolls at Home Depot, and it is also just as resistant to becoming flat, but I lay it out and stomp it into shape. I’ve made arches, square 9 ft trellises for pole beans, long rows of trellis for tomatoes and snap peas, little domes to keep cats from piddling in my planters, and so on. It is more expensive but it lasts longer since it doesn’t rust.

  3. kate says:

    Great ideas! I have peas growing up wire mesh panels. I planted tomatoes in front of the peas, and the plan is to train the tomatoes up the trellises when the peas are finished.

  4. Melissa says:

    Lots of great ideas there. I have been wanting to try this. What do you use to cut the wire and is it hard to clip?

    • I used small(er) bold cutters. It isn’t hard at the time in terms of the actual cutting (if you use bolt cutters)…however you will get pretty scratched up. My hands hurt for days afterwards. Totally worth it all though!

  5. Ellen says:

    I haven’t bought the panels yet but like you I bought a roll and a friend came over and we made the whole thing into tomato (and berry, etc.) cages. We split them between 3 of us as a roll made a LOT of cages! The panels look great and it has been on my mind to use them. You’ve inspired me!

  6. Inder says:

    This stuff looks AWESOME! We use tomato cages for for cucumbers, for berries, for tomatoes. I think it works pretty well for everything besides the tomatoes! The beans and peas are trellised upwards on bamboo trellises which started to break down after only a few weeks. So I’m listening!

  7. Mary Brown says:

    Wow, we loved this post!! Your yard looks fabulous and we only wish that we could be exploring it with Lucy!!! Dad might loose the top of his head going through the “pea trellis” but he will learn to duck! I really like te way you have extended up for the horizontal branching plus it gives you a little more privacy! Your yard is amazing – when I think what it looked like when you started there -well, it is nothing short of amazing!

  8. I love this stuff! A few years ago now, a bunch of gardeners in my neighborhood all chipped in and bought several rolls of the stuff. We spent the afternoon working hard (as you said) to create the cages. I have since flattened three of them out to use for peas and squash. Great post! Didn’t know they sold it in flat panels. Going to have to look into that.

  9. brianne says:

    This looks so handy! I love the rusty patina it gets over time, as well. Good job!

  10. I went in on a roll and made these cages with two friends last spring – three people unrolling, cutting and zip-tying the mesh was just about right. And I would also suggest bolt cutters – that stuff is mighty hard to cut! They are far and away the best tomato cages ever – those little funnel things would regularly collapse under my tomato plants – these are bomb-proof!

  11. ldyclements says:

    I never would have thought of this mesh, but it’s just what I’ve been looking for! Hve been wanting to go vertical for years. Now I can!

  12. Mari says:

    I love the wire panels too. I got some about 4 years ago to create hoop houses over my garden beds but have found lots of additional uses since then. I used 2 of them as my bean trellis last year, just like you are doing with your peas but I had some structural issues. Once the beans were covering the wire, the panels didn’t keep the nice arched shape especially when it was windy. I am trying again this year but will add something spanning the middle to prevent it from bowing inwards. (I didn’t have mine over a path, instead the cover a garden bed. I am going to try growing broccoli and cauliflower down the middle of the bed this year.)

  13. PepperReed says:

    These are so great! I’ve been using them for years in our garden, first a roll as cages and then panels as support between plants. I’ve 2 cages stacked and zip-tied together (with tall stakes supporting) as a colossal bean tower. I’ve begun to run the panels down the center of 2 rows of tomatoes (I stake the ends with T posts) and weave the ‘maters in and out of the mesh to hold the plants upright, no matter how heavy with fruit they get.

  14. Going to try this in our community garden plot as well as home gardens… at the CG, space is limited and trellising squash UP is a great idea!

  15. ~marie says:

    I have an excess of hardware wire – much smaller grid – that I have been using around the gardens. I made a “tunnel” and covered it with clear plastic – to create more heat for my sweet potatoes (that I planted in a raised bed made from 6 straw bales) I have used pieces to protect seedlings from the critters. And most recently I made “cages” to go around the struggling sunflowers and newly planted roses – because the house dog looses his stupid mind and MUST CHASE (fill in the blank). I have also used some excess fencing wire to make a potato tower. http://www.motherearthnews.com/the-happy-homesteader/one-potato-two-potato-three-potato-soar-saving-garden-space-with-a-potato-tower.aspx I like the archway idea – and will put that on my wishlist for next year! :)

  16. blackbearwebdesign says:

    Does the wire mesh rusting affect the plants? saw an architectural firm use this to grow vines 3 stories high

    • Not as far as I know. I haven’t seen any problems and since it is mostly the vining matter that is touching the rust, I can’t see what complications it would cause. Three stories. Wow!

  17. Lise says:

    Brilliant! Thanks so much for all the ideas. I have some sprawling volunteer berries toppling over into my neighbor’s pristine lawn. This looks like a great solution.

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  19. jacque says:

    I haunt thrift stores for cd stackers. They make great trellises. I’ll have to get some of the concrete wire for my raspberries and loganbereies, however. Thanks for the tip!

  20. Rhonda says:

    I just found you, and am so happy. Your blog makes me smile :) I need to get some of that mesh, because I cannot grow green beans, because the bunnies eat the baby shoots! Great idea!

  21. Kate says:

    Hi!
    thanks very much for the info, great read! we are looking to make a vertical garden using this mesh… i am concerned as it rusts, it will loose it’s strength and wont be able to hold the weight of the pots. Are your old pieces of mesh still structural sound??? Thanks!

    • Yep, they are as strong as they were at the start! This year I am going to add a 3rd panel at the top of the arched trellis to increase the height- as I found the trellis, while tall enough for me…was too short for fairly tall folks.

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  23. vertical garden says:

    Wow, incredible weblog format! How long have you been blogging for?
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    great, let alone the content material!

  24. Terry says:

    I bought concrete mesh for my garden, but it has somewat sharp barbs all over it. Do these barbs cut the vines? How about when the wind is blowing? I would hate to start my plant on these trellises and have them cut to bits. Your thoughts ?

  25. Doug says:

    Thanks for the info. I do already use this for amazing tomato stands. Much stronger than anything in the store. But now, I am wanting to use this concrete wire for growing my blackberries and boysenberries along my block wall. I am searching for a creative (inexpensive and minimal) way to attach this to the block wall while leaving a 2 inch or so spacer between so that I can weave the vines around easily. Any creative ideas out here? I would rather not have a lot of long 2x4s all along the way.
    Thanks in advance!

    • Hmm, I can’t think of anything other than 2×4. I attached it to our fence separated with 2x4s to espalier our fruit.

      • Doug says:

        How did you attach the 2x4s?
        Maybe I will just use small 2×4 or 2×2 blocks and then also how do you attach the wire mesh to the wood? Maybe wire staples I guess?

        Thanks

    • David W says:

      Doug, you might be able to “weave” vertical posts (I have some that are about 3/4 inch) and then use semi-circular brackets used to attach electrical conduit to wood framing. Nail/screw those into spacer blocks, and use mariners glue (or “marine glue”), which is waterproof, to attach the spacer blocks to the wall. Then you’re not nailing the whole thing into a giant 2×4.

      It might even be more elegant without the vertical posts, but I thought those might help with structure. If you use the hollow gardening posts, they might bend but maybe rebar? I have been able to thread the posts used in those green square plastic tomato trellis kits through this wire mesh. (or search for “60-in Powder-Coated Galvanized Steel Wire Triangular Tomato Cage” – I can’t tell how sturdy those are).

  26. David W says:

    It’s wonderful to see so many ways you have applied this material in the garden. I went the Home Depot-scroll route, and just to comment on the battle with the scroll… I agree, but found it became more pliant under paving stones. But, yeah, it’s a fight.

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