There’s no need to buy a pricey garden structure when it’s quick and easy to DIY a pea trellis like a garden arch or bamboo support. Peas, as well as sweet peas, can be bush or vining plants with both benefiting from being trellised. It keeps the plants upright and off the ground which promotes healthy growth and reduces the risk of insect and disease issues. Trellising pea plants also makes it easier to harvest the pods, or in the case of sweet peas, the fragrant blooms. Below you’ll find seven easy and effective ideas for DIY pea trellises.
How do peas grow?
Garden peas are easy to grow with the seeds direct sown in early spring as soon as the soil has thawed and is workable. They do best in a site with full sun and fertile soil. When ordering seeds, it’s important to read the seed catalog or seed packet carefully as pea plants can have bush or vining growth. Bush peas, like Wando, grow between 18 inches to 3 feet tall. Vining peas, like Sugar Snap, grow 3 to 6 feet tall. The type of trellis you choose should be based on the mature size of the plants.
Types of peas
Not only do peas have different types of growth, there are also different categories depending on the type of harvest. For edible peas there are shell, snow, and snap. Sweet peas, on the other hand, are toxic to consume and grown for their ruffly, often fragrant flowers. More on the types of peas below:
- Shell peas – Also called garden peas, shell peas are grown for the round tender peas which form inside bright green pods. While edible, the fibrous pods aren’t typically eaten. When the pods are plump, the peas are shelled and enjoyed fresh or cooked.
- Snow peas – Snow peas, or sugar peas, are prized for their slender sweet pods that are harvested while still flat. These are delicious in stir-fries and salads as well as straight off the vine.
- Snap peas – Vigorous snap pea plants bear a heavy crop of crisp edible pods filled with juicy peas. This is my favorite type of pea to grow and when the pea harvest begins most of my family makes daily visits to the garden. There are compact varieties of snap peas as well as those that grow 6 feet or more. Perfect for any sized space!
- Sweet peas – Sweet peas, which have inedible plants and pods, are a popular cut flower grown for their fragrant blooms. As with garden peas, sweet pea seeds can be direct sown outdoors, but my best crop of flowers comes from seeds I start inside in mid-winter.
Why you need to trellis peas
Now that we know a bit more about the types of peas you can grow, let’s consider why you need to stake the plants. The main reason is that trellising peas promotes healthier and more productive plants. It reduces the occurrence of diseases like powdery mildew by maximizing light exposure and increasing airflow through and around the foliage. Vertical gardening also reduces damage from critters, insects, and pests like slugs. This is because growing pea plants up makes it harder for pests to reach the tender vines.
Growing peas on a trellis also makes it easier to pick the pods of garden peas or the flowers of sweet peas. Peas are planted densely and if the plants aren’t supported they’ll flop over making it hard to see the pods. If overmature peas are left on the plants new flower and pod production slows reducing the harvest.
How to select the best type of pea trellis: 4 considerations
There are a few points to keep in mind when deciding what type of pea trellis to build.
1) Garden space
The first consideration is your garden space. How much room do you have for a pea trellis? If you’re growing a row of peas you’ll want a trellis with a narrow width like one made from upright stakes and hung with nylon netting or plastic netting. Or a DIY pea trellis made with a sheet of cattle panel or wire panel.
Or maybe you have a raised bed garden or space for a larger sized trellis like one made from lengths of bamboo or small saplings. These are tripod-type trellises that are made from three, or more, supports that are secured at the top. These are also handy for other types of vertical vegetables like pole beans and cucumbers. And because these types of DIY pea trellises have open space in the middle you can maximize the space by planting shade-tolerant crops like lettuce.
2) The mature size of the pea plants
If you’re growing dwarf varieties of peas or sweet peas you can use a compact trellis like a tomato cage or a simple DIY structure made with 4 foot bamboo posts and jute twine. For tall growing peas, like Sugar Snap, opt for a heavy-duty trellis that can accommodate the weight of the vining plants. It should be tall enough that the plants don’t grow far above the top of the trellis. If that happens the shoots fall over and damage the plants.
Also think about the exposure of the site. For example, a garden that is regularly buffeted by high winds requires extra sturdy support, especially if you’re growing tall types of peas or sweet peas. In exposed locations stick to compact types of peas, supporting them on well made wire panel trellises.
4) How handy are you?
The last consideration when deciding what type of pea support to DIY is your abilities. Do you have the skills and tools to build a heavy-duty trellis or are you looking for something that’s quicker and easier to put together. The most basic pea trellis, which works for dwarf peas, is to insert twigged branches into the ground. As the plants grow the pea tendrils climb up the branches.
Types of materials for a DIY pea trellis
There’s a wide variety of materials you can use to DIY a trellis for peas. For supports and stakes, common options include lengths of bamboo, cedar, willow, or other types of wood, as well as twigs, pvc pipes, and metal or plastic garden stakes. If you’re building a tunnel or arch type pea trellis you can use fencing wire panels, cattle panels, or other types of wire panels. For a vertical upright trellis, use stakes to hold up materials like twine, fencing wire panels, jute, plastic netting, or nylon garden netting.
Source supplies from hardware stores, building supply stores, and garden centres. However, before heading out to buy items, I suggest first looking around your garden shed and yard to see what old materials you can use to make a trellis.
7 DIY pea trellis ideas
There are many options for DIY pea trellises and below you’ll find 7 of the best supports to build.
DIY pea trellis idea 1: Bamboo posts and twine
A pea trellis made from bamboo posts and twine is one of the easiest types of structures to make. It requires just two materials: 6 to 8 foot tall bamboo pieces or other tall posts and twine. The posts are lashed together at the top and then spread into a conical shape.
To make this trellis lay the bamboo or posts on the ground. You’ll need 3 to 6 lengths of bamboo. I usually use 5 or 6 posts as it makes a stronger trellis. Using a piece of jute or twine, tie the posts together a couple of inches down from the tops. Lift the posts into place and spread them into a 3 to 4 foot diameter circle, pushing each end several inches down into the earth. To ensure the tendrils have plenty of supports to grab, weave twine between the posts. To plant this rustic trellis sow a circle of pea seeds all around the circumference of the structure.
DIY pea trellis idea 2: Posts and netting
Another easy DIY pea trellis is to insert posts into the garden and hang netting between the supports. I recommend spacing the vertical posts 4 feet apart. Why? If the posts are too far apart, the trellis will slump as the weight of the growing plants pulls it down. You can use nylon, plastic netting, or another type of netting material. I like garden netting as the grid pattern makes it easy for pea plants to climb the supports. Use zip ties or cable ties to secure the netting to the stakes.
DIY pea trellis idea 3: Posts and wire mesh panels
I’ve built six of these easy peasy trellises along the backs of my wooden raised beds. It’s a quick DIY and makes a super sturdy support for vigorous peas and sweet peas. I use untreated lengths of 1 by 3 boards cut in six foot lengths and secure them to my beds with decking screws. For a 4 foot by 8 foot bed I use three vertical supports.
I then mount a piece of cattle panel, fencing wire, wire panels, or chicken wire to the wood planks with zip ties. When the trellis is in place it’s time to plant! Grab your seed packet and sow a row of pea seeds at the bottom of the trellis. If I’m transplanting sweet pea seedlings I tuck them in place as soon as the growing conditions are right. Learn when to plant sweet peas.
DIY pea trellis idea 4: Garden arch or tunnel
I love my garden arches and use them to grow vining vegetables like pole beans and cucamelons, as well as sweet peas and climbing nasturtiums. They’re also ideal for climbing peas. I DIY garden tunnels between my wooden raised beds using two pieces of 4 by 8 foot cattle panels. I attach the bottoms of the panels to the beds with wooden strapping and then connect them at the top with zip ties.
You can also use 16 foot lengths of hog panels or cattle panels to make a rounded arch. To learn more about this type of DIY trellis, read our article step-by-step guide to building a cattle panel trellis.
DIY pea trellis idea 5: Twig or branch trellis
Another option is to support bush peas on branches or twigs inserted into the earth. This technique is ideal for row gardens as well as raised beds. First look at the mature height of your peas and choose branches, ideally with lots of twiggy growth, that are a foot longer than the mature plant height. Insert them 4 to 6 inches into the soil so that they are firmly upright and sow the pea seeds at the base of the branches. Good varieties for pea twigs are Wando and Sugar Ann.
DIY pea trellis idea 6: A-frame trellis
A-frame trellises are extremely strong structures that work well in exposed and windy gardens. I usually make a rectangular wooden frame from lengths of untreated lumber, much like a picture frame. Then build a second frame for the opposite side and connect them at the top with hinges or zip ties. The final step is to mount two short wood planks to the bottom of each side. These act as stakes and are inserted several inches into the soil.
To give the plants something to climb you need to add netting, lengths of twine, chicken wire, or wire panels to each side of the trellis. You can also make an A-frame trellis from PVC pipes.
DIY pea trellis idea 7: Recycled trellis
Using old materials to make a pea trellis is a great way to recycle items you may have on hand. You can use a tomato cage (or a bunch of them in a row), a ladder, or even the center supports of an old patio or beach umbrella. As you can see there are plenty of options, so don’t be afraid to get creative.
For more information on trellising and growing vertical crops, be sure to check out these articles:
- The best vegetables to grow on a trellis
- Easy trellis ideas for raised garden beds
- Learn how to trellis cucumbers
- How to grow snap peas: A step-by-step guide
Which type of DIY pea trellis do you wish to build?