How To Trellis Melons And Other Climbing Plants
Copyright 2019-20
How To Grow Melons On A Trellis
Full-sized melon plants can take up to 150 square feet of garden space. Growing lots of vining plants like Watermelons(the small fruited icebox varieties), Cantaloupes, honeydew melons, and even squash and small pumpkins on a trellis improves air circulation, prevents ground rot, can reduce foliar diseases, provides easier access to flowers for better pollination, vines aren't trampled during harvest, plus it's great for saving space!

Before you begin building your melon trellis, here are some things to consider.

  • Choose small-fruited varieties and reduce plant spacing. Very large watermelons probably should not be trellised at all, since the weight of the fruit, even if supported, can damage the vine.

  • Growing on a trellis allows closer spacing (rows three feet apart), but each trellised melon must be supported by a sling made of a material which dries quickly to prevent rot. Old nylon stockings, cheesecloth, and other net-like materials make good fruit slings.

  • You can face your trellis south, where it won't block the sun from your other crops. Run it from east to west along the northern end of your garden.  Tailor its length to fit the number of plants you'll be trellising, and to fit your garden.

  • In northern zones, vines get more sunlight when on a trellis that’s positioned at a slant toward the sun.

  • The shaded strip beneath the trellis is an excellent spot for leaf lettuce, carrots or other shade loving plants! 

  • Placing a trellis against a bright reflective surface, increases the amount of light reaching leaves and confuses melon aphids, who like to hide on the shadowy undersides of leaves.

  • Firmly anchor your trellis to the ground or support it by placing its legs into large buckets of concrete. If using buckets of concrete, make sure to use enough to provide a broad, stable base. Strong winds can easily topple a trellis loaded with vines! Assume the static load on the wire or nylon will be about 10 to 12 pounds per linear foot.

  • A trellis may be constructed by anchoring stout wires right into the garden wall. You can design something that is purely functional or something that becomes an attractive architectural element in the landscape, perhaps even forming an arched trellis under which you sit.

  • We don't recommend using string or other flimsy material for your trellis because it will be subject to sway in strong winds(or break), but if you do it's a good idea to leave some slack in your plant vine between the ground and the trellis.

How To Build A Simple Melon Trellis
A Nylon Net Trellis -
Ideally, wooden (or metal posts) should be 7 to 8 feet long and sunk roughly 2 feet into the ground, leaving a post height of 6 feet above ground, with 4 to 6 feet of space in between multiple posts.

Use plastic netting with 6" x 7" openings that is about 72" high. The trellis netting is then stretched between the fence posts to form the melon trellis.

Fasten high tensile wire to the top of the first end post, then weave it through the top edge of the nylon fencing, attaching it to the fence post at the other end. This reinforces it and helps to prevent it from drooping from the weight of the plants.

Livestock Panel Trellis -
Metal livestock fence panels can be use to create a melon trellis. Set wooden posts in the ground the same way as those for the nylon fencing. When using livestock panels, set the posts to correspond with the width of each panel. You can attach the fencing or panels to the posts with wire or heavy-duty zip ties. 

How To Space Melon Plants When Using A Trellis
To save space, plant melons 12 to 24 inches apart at the base of a trellis.

Train Your Melons To Climb A Trellis
Training watermelons and other climbing plants to grow vertically is referred to as trellising. When trellising melons, tie vines to the trellis as needed using soft plant ties that won’t crush the stems.

If the vine grows taller than the height of the trellis, it can be trained from the top back down, then back up again and so on.

How To Support Melons On A Trellis
When the melons are about the size of golf balls, cradle them in a sling made from an onion sack, a pantyhose leg, or cheesecloth, tying both ends of the improvised sling securely to the trellis. The material used should allow as much air flow as possible, and dry quickly.

How To Prune Melon Vines On A Trellis
Pruning helps maintain balance between vine growth and fruit set, and increases the average fruit weight while reducing the number of cull fruit. Plus, uncrowding plants allows them to access more light and heat, which improves your harvest.

This method of pruning permits the vine to be easily trellised:

Each melon vine produces a primary stem or leader with many secondary branches or laterals growing off of it. Prune to retain the primary stem and one of the first laterals. Prune all additional laterals up to and including the first leaf node. All secondary branches after the eighth node can be left unpruned on the plant.

Prune off any misshapen fruit or fruit that was not pollinated.

Credit For Content:
New Mexico State University College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Cornell University -
University of Missouri Extension
Storey's Basic Country Skills: A Practical Guide To Self Reliance
Arizona Cooperative Extension, College of Agriculture, The University of Arizona
A Watermelon Grows In A Pantyhose Sling On A Trellis
Melons Growing Up A Nylon Trellis
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