The most common architectural structures in private orchards to larger commercial agricultural farms are trellises. The trellis, originally referred to as treillage, was popularized in France by gardeners looking for a solution to hold up their vining plants. Trellises became more common in public and residential settings when King Louis XIV had them placed in the French Garden of Versailles.
Trellis design varies widely and there really are no limits to how creative the structure can be. Going by definition, a trellis is simply a structure with open framework and intersecting pieces of wood, bamboo, and other materials to provide horizontal, as well as vertical, support. Trellises can be quite ornate and beautiful in private or public gardens or rather bare-boned and utilitarian for agricultural purposes.
For the most part, naturally vining plants were grown on trellises, but the orchard trellis designed for fruit trees is now used nationwide.
History of the Orchard Trellis
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of trellises is how they have changed the agricultural industry. By taking advantage of orchard trellis designs and the flexibility of many fruit-bearing trees, it is quite common for these species to be grown on trellises.
Apples are the perfect example of a fruit that has evolved through the use of trellises. Apples are the most common fruit in the United States, with US producers alone averaging about 240 million bushels annually. There are over 7,500 growers in the United States and a common practice of many of the most successful producers is the switch to espalier and trellis-training of apple trees.
The traditional method of growing apples, by simply planting and growing trees without much interference, consumes a lot of land, as well as time, caring for the orchard. While this method can certainly work well for smaller, local orchards, it isn't efficient for commercial producers. By training the apple, and any other fruit or nut tree, to grow along a trellis, farms are able to produce more apples more quickly.
The reason for the success of orchard trellises include:
- Trees focus on fruit production rather than trunk growth
Uniform tree size reduces labor and consolidates space
Simplifies training and makes orchard maintenance more efficient
Higher quality fruit and more even ripening due to increased light
Potential for earlier yields (Year 2 or 3 vs Year 5 to 7)
Although the above benefits focus on apple trees, you'll find the same success in production with other fruit and nut trees as well.
Advantages of Wood Post Supports
Although other materials for orchard trellis posts can be used, wood remains a favored material for many reasons.
Wood is lightweight and easy to work with, allowing for more efficient construction of trellises without sacrificing durability. Wood posts can often be purchased and delivered more quickly than manmade materials with longer manufacturing processes. Another great advantage of wood posts is the ability to have custom orders as well as personally cut posts to the exact length required. Wood also has a natural pliancy to it, which is actually helpful for trellises under strain. This very subtle give when wind blows allows the post to move slightly rather than remain stationary and potentially snap or break.
Pine River Group Agri-Max posts are specifically designed for commercial growers looking to build sturdy trellises to expand their production. Agri-Max posts are high-quality CCA-treated posts and poles that are ground contact rated with a .40 minimum retention. A higher retention is possible, but must be specially ordered. Agri-Max posts are all kiln-dried and you can select either Red Pine or Southern Yellow Pine as your species.
Red Pine posts can be found in 4", 5" and 6" diameter in lengths of 8' to 22', depending on diameter. Southern Yellow Pine posts come in either 5" or 6" diameter with a length of 22' or 25'. Additionally, Agri-Max offers complimentary cable and wire products, for both trellising and orchard fencing, as well as the Gripple fastening system to securely join and tension your trellis wire.
Developing an Orchard Trellis Design
There is no exact blueprint for the perfect orchard trellis design, simply because there are many factors in play. A neighboring farm may be having great success with a specific trellis layout and certain wood post lengths, but that doesn't mean your land will. Property that has wet soil, sandy soil, hilly landscaping, and is prone to high winds or snow needs a much stronger trellis system than a property with clay soil, flat land, and low wind. That being said, you will want to err on the side of caution and make a trellis strong enough to withstand more than your region may actually experience.
On average, 10' trees should be planted in 11' rows and 9' trees be planted in 10' rows for maximum sunlight exposure. Rows may be up to 500' long; any longer tends to put too much strain on end posts. Smaller orchards growing smaller varieties may use 8' to 12' posts, if they are located in a region where snow and wind are minimal. The typical orchard should lean more towards 14' to 16' posts, while special designs may warrant 20' to 25' posts.
A great way of finding the right design is to see what other local farms are finding success with and go from there. High-quality Agri-Max posts are the perfect choice for sturdy, durable posts to support your trellis for years to come.