What Fruit Will Grow Best On A Trellis? (Plus Growing Tips)


Using a trellis to grow fruit will provide plants with extra support so that they can grow taller and carry more fruit.  A trellis also allows you to conserve space, which is helpful in a small garden.  If you’re already sold on the benefits of a trellis, it’s time to decide what to grow.

So, what fruit will grow best on a trellis?  Grapes, melons, and berries are the best fruits to grow on a trellis.  Cane berries, such as raspberries, blackberries, and gooseberries, can be tied to a trellis at intervals to prevent them from falling over.  Vining fruit, such as grapes and melons, need no tying and can grow up and around a trellis, wrapping themselves around the gaps in the trellis.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these “trellis fruit” to see where they grow best and how to care for them.

Growing Cane Berries On A Trellis

Cane berries will not attach themselves to a trellis as easily as vining fruits.  To secure them, you will need to use twine to tie them to the trellis at intervals.

Let’s look at some of the basics for getting started with growing cane berries on a trellis.

Growing Raspberries On A Trellis

Raspberries are a delightful cane berry, providing fruit in June or July.  You can also get a second crop in the fall with ever-bearing varieties.

Raspberries can grow very tall – easily 6 feet or higher, so they may require a tall trellis. For more information, check out my article on how tall a trellis should be.

raspberries
These raspberries are red, ripe, and ready to eat!

Plant Hardiness Zones (Climate)

Raspberries do best in USDA Plant Hardiness zones 4 through 8.  You may be able to find varieties that tolerate heat and can survive in zones 9 or above.

You can check out the USDA Zone Hardiness Map here, on the USDA website.

Soil Conditions

Raspberry canes prefer a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5, which is slightly more acidic than what most plants prefer.  If your soil is not acidic enough, you can lower the pH by adding sulfur.  For more information, check out my article on lowering soil pH.

Raspberries prefer soil that drains well, so soil that is loamy or loam and sand is best.  If you have clay soil, you may need to add compost to supplement organic material and improve drainage.

clay soil
Clay soil drains poorly – adding compost can remedy the problem.

For more information, check out my article on how to make compost and my article on how to improve soil drainage.

Spacing

Raspberry canes should be spaced 2 to 3 feet apart, in rows.  The rows themselves should be 6 to 8 feet apart, to allow space for walking between rows to water, weed, fertilize, prune, and harvest.

raspberry canes
Raspberry canes should be spaced 2 to 3 feet apart in a row.

Watering

Water raspberry canes deeply once a week, depending on weather conditions (they don’t like to be too wet or too dry).  One good way to test whether you need to water is to dig into the soil and feel it with your hand.  If it is dry, then you can add water.

Pruning

With summer-bearing raspberry varieties, the primocanes (first-year canes) do not produce fruit, but the floricanes (second-year canes) do.  Any older canes should be pruned away to make room for new growth.

If raspberry vines are allowed to crawl along the ground, they may send out runners by rooting.  You can transplant this runner to produce a new cane somewhere else, or let it grow where it is.

Tying

You can tie raspberry canes to a trellis using twine or thin rope, twist ties, or anything else you have that is convenient.  Make sure that whatever you use is biodegradable, since dead canes will need to be removed after a couple of years.

Lifespan

As mentioned earlier, raspberry canes only produce fruit for the first two years.  However, a raspberry plant can live 15 to 20 years, or even longer, producing new primocanes every year.

As raspberry canes get older, they will stop producing fruit, and will need to be replaced.  For more information, check out my article on raspberries.

Growing Blackberries On A Trellis

Blackberries are another wonderful cane berry, providing fruit in June, July, or August.  As with raspberries, you can get a second crop of blackberries in the fall with ever-bearing varieties.

ripe blackberries
Blackberries are a bit more tart than raspberries, but they are still delicious.

Plant Hardiness Zones (Climate)

Blackberries do best in USDA Plant Hardiness zones 5 through 10.  You may be able to find varieties that tolerate cold and can survive in zone 4.

Soil Conditions

Ideal soil conditions for blackberries are similar to those for raspberries.  Blackberry canes prefer a soil pH that is slightly more acidic than other plants – as low as 5.5.  They also prefer loam or sandy loam soil that drains well.

Spacing

Spacing for blackberry canes will depend on the variety.  There are three varieties to choose from:

  • Semi-erect blackberry canes – plant 5 to 6 feet apart in a row
  • Erect blackberry canes – plant 3 feet apart in a row
  • Trailing blackberry canes – plant 5 to 8 feet apart in a row

In all cases, the rows should be spaced 8 feet apart.  For more information, check out this article on blackberries from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Watering

As with raspberries, blackberry canes should be watered deeply once a week, or enough to keep the top few inches of soil moist.  They will require more watering in the first few weeks after planting.

Pruning

Blackberries are similar to raspberries in that there are both summer-bearing and ever-bearing varieties.  Remember to prune any canes older than two years to make room for new growth.

Tying

Similar to raspberries, you can use twine or thin rope to tie blackberries to a trellis.

Lifespan

Blackberry plants can live up to 15 years before they need to be replaced.

Growing Gooseberries On A Trellis

Gooseberries are another cane berry, with a short production window, providing fruit in late June to mid-July.

gooseberries
This cane has lots of gooseberries growing on it.

Plant Hardiness Zones (Climate)

Gooseberries do best in USDA Plant Hardiness zones 3 through 8.  They will tolerate partial shade, and you might want to provide some, since they can die quickly when temperatures exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Soil Conditions

Gooseberries prefer a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0, which is about what most other plants prefer.  Gooseberries also prefer soil that is moist, so make sure to add plenty of compost to your soil to supplement organic material.

Spacing

Gooseberry canes should be planted 4 to 5 feet apart, with 6 feet or more between rows.

Watering

Gooseberries require less water than raspberries or blackberries.  In fact, over watering while the canes are fruiting can cause the berries to split.

Pruning

Gooseberries bear fruit on branches that are 2 to 3 years old.  Remove dead wood (anything older than 3 years) from gooseberries in the winter.

Tying

Similar to raspberries, you can use twine or thin rope to tie gooseberries to a trellis.

Lifespan

The lifespan for gooseberries is similar to that of blackberries: they can live for up to 15 years.

Growing Vining Fruit On A Trellis

Vining fruits will attach themselves to a trellis as they grow.  You shouldn’t need to tie them with twine, but you can “train” the plant and move the vines to grow the way you want.  This can provide you with a more visually pleasing growth pattern, for decorative purposes.

Let’s look at some of the basics for getting started with growing vining fruits on a trellis.

Growing Grapes On A Trellis

Grapes are a vining fruit used to produce raisins and wine, in addition to providing delicious fruit in August, September, or October in the Northern Hemisphere.

grapes
You can get large bunches of beautiful grapes when you grow on a trellis.

Plant Hardiness Zones (Climate)

Grapes do best in USDA Plant Hardiness zones 6 to 10b.  However, some grape varieties are able to survive in zones 3, 4, or 5.

Soil Conditions

Grape vines prefer a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5 (slightly to somewhat acidic), and soil that has a sandy loam texture.

Spacing

Grape vines should be planted 6 to 8 feet apart, with 8 feet or more between rows.

Watering

Grape vines generally need less water than berry canes, and they can adapt to drought conditions.  In fact, some vineyard owners swear that vines are strengthened and grape flavor is improved by putting water stress on the plant.  When you do water grape vines, give them a deep, thorough watering.

Pruning

Grape vines should be pruned when they lose their leaves.  Don’t be shy about it – according to Oregon State University, 90% of the wood from the prior year should be cut off.  Only 1-year old fruiting canes should be left behind.

For more information, check out this article on pruning grapes from Oregon State University.

Tying

You should not need to tie grapes to a trellis, but you can do so for extra support in windy areas, or to encourage them to grow a certain way for aesthetic or decorative purposes.

Lifespan

Grape vines can live up to 100 years – longer than many humans ever get to be!

Growing Melons On A Trellis

Melons are a vining fruit with very heavy fruit that may need to be supported as it grows, so that it does not fall off prematurely due to its weight.

melons
Melons don’t take up as much ground space if you grow them vertically on a trellis.

Plant Hardiness Zones (Climate)

Melons do best in USDA Plant Hardiness zones 3 through 11.

Soil Conditions

Melons prefer a soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0 (slightly acidic to neutral), just as most other plants do.  They also prefer soil with plenty of organic matter, so make sure to add compost to your garden if necessary.

Spacing

Melons should be planted 3 to 4 feet apart, with 6 feet between rows.

Watering

Melons need more water than grapes or berry canes, especially in the early stages of growth.  You can reduce water once the vines are fruiting.  Be sure to avoid getting leaves wet, since this can lead to mold or diseases on the plant.

Pruning

You can prune “side” or lateral vines on melons to force the plant to direct its energy into fewer fruits, hopefully leading to bigger, better melons.

Tying

Since melons can get very heavy, it might make sense to create some type of support to cradle the melons as they grow.  Otherwise, the fruit might fall off the vine prematurely, or cause the vine to break.

Lifespan

Melons only last one year, since they are an annual.

What Are Some Alternatives To A Trellis?

In addition to a trellis, you can use many other structures to support cane berries and vining fruit.  These structures include:

  • Fences (chain link works well, since you can tie berry canes or wrap vining fruits through rectangular holes)
  • Stakes (these are better for berry canes, but you might be able to coax vining fruits to climb a pole)
  • A-frame (this allows you to grow vines on two sides of the frame!)

You can even mix and match these ideas to invent your own structure to support your berry canes and fruiting vines – be creative!

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article should give you some good ideas for which fruits to start with on your trellis.

I hope you found the article helpful.  If you have any questions or advice of your own about trellises, please leave a comment below.

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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