Building Cost Effective Garden Arches

Lately I have been spending more time at home, as most of us are (#covid19). I’m thankful to have a job, and able to work from home, but being inside all day working means I count down the hours and minutes until I can breathe some fresh air outside.

I’ve rekindled my enjoyment of gardening, and thankful also that this situation arose in spring, and NOT summer. 

Unfinished planter beds that I started last summer have now been assembled, placed, leveled into the ground (a difficult and tedious task) and filled with soil (delivered to my home from https://www.bigyellowbag.com/ which I found out about from my friend over at http://mygardeningstyle.com/ )

Another thing I have been doing is watching gardening youtubers, reading my library of gardening books, and sorting through my box of seed packets (thanks mom for some of these over time).  I have since re-organized my seeds in a 4″ notebook with clear zipper organizers and a label maker, which I’ll do another post about later possibly.

I’ve always wanted arches with climbing flowers/plants on them, but the ones at the stores are usually fairly expensive, and not a custom size. Thanks to YouTube sending me similar videos of things I like, I found a few on cost effective garden arches using T-posts and cattle panels or other similar type materials. I have since made 6 between my front and back yard in different sizes and wanted to share my leanings with the types of materials I used.

Materials Used (approx rounded costs):

MaterialsNotesPicture
4 six foot T-Posts per arch4 foot aka 72 inch for less than $5 a piece – the shorter and longer ones cost more
4 foot Steel Welded Wire (fencing material)I got the 100 foot roll for ~$77 because I knew I wanted to make about 5 archesThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_1678.jpg
1 Fence Post Driver~$37 well worth the cost! I almost didn’t get it but my husband said they really make the jobThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_1679.jpg
Zip TiesI started with a 100 pack, but recommend the 1000 for ~$20This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_1680.jpg
Wire CuttersI already had these, but a heavy duty one seems to be between $10 and $20

I didn’t know how much spacing and how long to cut the fencing material, and originally tried one t-post per side, and found two per side was more sturdy. If I had known a few of this information ahead of time, I could have probably gotten 7 to 8 arches out of the 100 foot fencing material. Even so, each arch costs around or less than $40 give or take, and not considering sales tax. Do a search on garden arbors or arches, and the flimsy ones are $181+, sturdier ones are $300+!

I won’t go into the trial and error of how I measured out the lengths, but I will say that when cutting your fencing (roll it out in the yard, with a heavy board or something on one end). I have found that 15 feet length makes a great about 4 foot wide arch, with between 6.5 to 7 feet high with plenty of walking space underneath. I could have possibly saved a foot or two if you don’t install the fencing right at the bottom of the post in the ground, and a foot or two higher off the ground, since plants that climb won’t be able to reach it until they have grown a bit – but I feel like the fencing on the ground means it’s a bit sturdier resting on the ground instead of floating on the weight of the zip ties. I did make one 6′ wide arch in the entrance way to the garden, but that width doesn’t seem as sturdy being wider apart and I wouldn’t recommend going any wider than that or the middle might bend and cave in.

6 to 7 inch spacing inside the flower bed

The T- posts I have installed in my flower beds on one side, with about 6 inches on the inside of the bed frame, primarily to plant the vining plants and keep them away from the other plants, and also giving the possibility of having a climbing plant on either side depending on if it likes shade or not. I have decided to make smaller bed for the other sides, so that I’m not dealing with grass growing on the side not in a flower bed. I’ll write another post on how I made the smaller beds for the other side of the arch.

In order to space between posts, I measure between the Vertical lines I want my posts to line up with. Two rectangle sections on each side seems to be about right for me. The first one I didn’t measure and I had to adjust the second post. Otherwise the fencing doesn’t have anything to be attached to. Another tip. Don’t drive the posts all the way in before measuring twice 😉.

Depth wise depends on the soil, if it’s in a bed, and aesthetic, but I like to use painters tape to mark the depth I’m thinking of going to from the anchor counting up the notches. Once it’s in the ground I don’t know if it’s gone in 1 notch or 5, so it’s a good marker.

I’m a big fan of mood lighting and twinkly lights, so I got some solar wire lights and added them to the tops of my arches. It took a bit of waiting to see which way they should face for the most effective sun exposure, but they light up and actually last until about 1 or 2 A.M.

This is the first year I will be growing vines on these, so I will have to post an update on the sturdiness once more plants are on these. Things like peas and beans I don’t foresee any issues, but heavier things like melons at the top may create a bend if they managed to get to the very top, but I don’t think there will be an issue on the sides …. especially with two posts on either side. If for some reason these don’t hold up over time, the t-posts will, and I would replace the arches with heavier duty cattle panels (at 4 foot by 16 foot). A little more expensive, around $20 per panel, and harder to transport home. Plus in the current conditions, delivery was not an option or not available at my local hardware store.

One thing I’d like to do is spray paint the t-posts. None of the pick up stores had the option to pick up spray paint and I wanted to get my arches installed, but I might paint them later. It’s easy enough to cut the zip ties to take the fencing down or i could paint the arch too. It will be covered in vegetation at some point 😉

Anyway, if I think of any other tips I’ll add them, but hopefully this helps if you want to build some arches for your climbing plants in your garden!

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