This is the year that my backyard vineyard will be in need of a trellis. There are many systems to choose from based on climate, variety, and region. Deciding on the Four-Arm Kniffen Training system wasn’t too difficult. This two-wire system is very appropriate for a wide variety of grapes grown east of the Rockies. It also provides good shade for the fruit in high-temperature areas (i.e. Texas).
The problem however was finding a good method to build it. Every design I came across was intended to support rows of 200′ or more. Each plan called for elaborate materials that would be overkill for my requirement of 18′ for three vines. I expected that I would certainly need a sturdy trellis to support the weight of the fruit, but I had no intention to bury 8′ – 5″ endposts in my backyard. I created a few sketches over the past year and decided on the following plan.
- 2 – 7′ T-Posts
- 50′ of 12.5 gauge high-tensile-strength wire
- 4 – T-Post Gate Handle Anchors
- 16 or 24 – Crimping Sleeves
- 2 – Spiral Stakes
I found the wire at Home Depot. I was quite surprised that 12.5 gauge was difficult to find elsewhere. While all references suggested earth augers to anchor the endposts, I decided that spiral stakes – normally used to tie dogs – would suit the job. You can find then at any pet store. All other hardware I found at Tractor Supply Co.
- Post driver
- Wire cutters
- Drive the T-Posts at each end of the row 2′ into the earth. Have the flat of the T facing you. The $20 post driver was worth the purchase.
- At about 3′ out from each T-Post, drive a spiral stake at a 135° angle into the ground – so that your working it towards the bottom of the sunken T-Post.
- Place 2 gate handle anchors on each T-Post and tighten them down. I set them at 40″ and 52″ from the ground.
- Run a strand of wire from the spiral stake to the outermost eye of the bottom gate handle anchor. Pull the wire taught and secure it with 2-3 crimping sleeves at each end. My original plan was to the loop the wire through the spiral stake and tie it to the upper gate handle anchor, but the mrs. expressed concerns about the kiddos possibly getting stuck between the wires near the stake.
- Run a strand of wire at each height the full length of the row and tie it down on either end to the inner eye of the gate handle anchors with the remaining crimping sleeves. This wire is quite heavy to pull taught by hand, even with the stake’s assistance pulling in the opposite direction. I left the wires somewhat loose for the time being as there is no weight on them. I may explore using 13 gauge wire instead if it later presents a problem.
- Secure your vines to the wires with plastic twist-ties and watch them grow!
There are two advantages to using the gate handle anchors: 1) it prevents the wire from slipping down the T-Post should the weight become too heavy and 2) it allows you to later easily expand your row in either direction.