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I was thinking of building a trellis/vine-tunnel (not sure what it is called). Which I want to grow a variety of edibles (grapes, and maybe some northern kiwi vines) and flowers.

Every species seems to have its own recommended support spacing, but I was wondering what a good generic spacing is for Canada, Ontario (I am sure the tropics produce more dense foliage), as I do not know exactly what will be going on it. Speaking of being in Canada, do I need to worry about snow buildup? Will vines produce such a dense crosshatching that snow would build up in the winter? And what sort of weight should I expect per square foot / meter (are we talking hundreds of pounds per support or thousands of pounds)?

General dimensions might be around 15 feet wide by 14 feet high by 40 feet long.

Never gotten some of the extreme snows some places get in Ontario, but the ground can build up a few feet at times (but I have a few rickety roots with very little incline and have never gotten more than an inch or two build up).

Zone: 6b, I guess. I did not know what this was until a few minutes ago.

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    What is your building plan, and what materials will you use? What kind of supports? What flower vine species? Please flesh this out a little more with details. – J. Musser Jun 25 '14 at 1:46
  • That is the thing, I do not know what is going on it exactly, but I think I will have a bunch of different varieties overlapping and beside each other. I think the thing that makes the most sense would be cattle fencing for the climbable walls, supported by a series of arches. I have one now going up made from an old TV antenna tower, but the others will be made from welded steel pipes. And I think I will need to put support wires on the ends to properly taught the fencing. – Jonathon Jun 25 '14 at 2:07
  • Not sure what you mean by building plan other than the things I have already mentioned. Except, I think I want it in a half circle shape (meaning not a straight tunnel), maybe flaring out in the middle. – Jonathon Jun 25 '14 at 2:13
  • Do you have a blueprint? – J. Musser Jun 25 '14 at 2:14
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    You should add to your question that you appear to be in Ontario which can have considerable snow load some years. This will affect what choice and spacing of materials for the top part between the posts. Tell us how much snow you get and whether anyone will be sitting under the trellis/pergola – kevinsky Jun 25 '14 at 2:53
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I agree, you certainly don't need a formal blueprint to construct a garden trellis. What I'd do on spacing is take the recommended support spacing for hardy kiwi, and use that as your standard since it is likely to be the largest, heaviest vine you will be planting. If you do this, your structure should handle any of the other vines you plan to put on it with ease. If you were to take some sort of average spacing, and then get a bumper crop of kiwi one year, your structure might not be able to handle it. IMO, it's better to engineer on the stronger rather than weaker side, especially if you are expecting significant snow loads.

As for competition - unless you plan to just let the vines run wild over the pergola/trellis, it shouldn't be an issue. If the vines do intertwine a lot, however, it could make pruning more difficult. If you plan to let things run a bit rampant, I'd either plan to only plant every other post with a vine, or change the plan to allow for some pruning on a regular basis in the spring, summer and fall in order to keep the vines somewhat under control. As a plus, regular pruning is also your best practice for getting the best fruit from whatever you do plant. Grapes, in particular, tend to put on a lot more bunches than the vines can support, so pruning rank growth to let in sunlight and reducing the number of bunches at the same time gives larger, sweeter grapes. I suspect the kiwi may be in the same category.

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Are you thinking of a tunnel covered with foliage...with gourds hanging down, flowers? I would call this a pergola. Build a wood structure with pressure treated 6X6 posts even 8X8 posts. Horizontals should be just as massive. 2X2's lap jointed together are gorgeous. These make a lattice work for the plants to climb. Stain the wood with a dove-gray transparent stain. Colors and paint are high maintenance. 4X4's are just too thin, for aesthetic reasons. What do you imagine? Fragrance, fruits, evergreen foliage? Your zone will dictate what you can grow and what you shouldn't grow.

To give you a couple of ideas, my favorite vine is Humulus lupulus 'Aureus'...Golden Hops Vine. Zone 6. This will die back in the winter making it easy to remove all the old vines and in the spring they come back with fresh vines and leaves. Trust me, this plant will cover the dimensions you are thinking about easily. Yes, if you've got females, they can be made into beer.

An evergreen flowering vine would be Akebia quinata. Very hardy for zone 5. Very little pruning after flowering would be necessary. The flowers are beautiful observed from below in a pergola.

A plant at every other post would be enough. A good design of your structure should support snow and an evergreen plant. Otherwise, most vines will die back during the winter and snow will not be a problem.

Kiwi is an excellent idea.

Send a picture of a structure you like and I can help make suggestions. Also where you plan to build this, wind and sun orientation, path material...your zone.

UPDATE: This is going to be a major structure in your landscape. If you want kiwi and grapes, it should be quite substantial to support the weight all year. Posts, 6-8' span. I wouldn't use the field wire unless you have the dimensional lumber as the basic structure.

Do make drawings to scale for this, otherwise it will look unprofessional? I wouldn't think of building something like this without using graph paper, considering the entire backyard and done to scale. Kiwi and grapes would be all I would plant. Actually, I'd do one or the other. Pruning will be a big deal for both these plants and they are a bit different from each other. Planting one species including males and females of the species for the kiwi will look spectacular. Too many different kinds of vines will look chaotic and the maintenance will become a nightmare.

Keep the structure uniform around the arc of the semi-circle. Allow a gap at the top of the semi-circle to open out onto a gravel patio, here you can build separately, an overhead structure with its own dimensions. Curves, circles are fine but limit the curve to the path and try to make at least your wider, patio area to have 90 degree angles.

Are you good with carpentry? If not, I would highly recommend getting bids from professionals on this project. Done right, you will increase the value of your home and actually make money when you sell your home. If you've got your ideas in your head, put it on paper, take a picture and send it to me. Make it to scale. Include your home, property lines, a few elevations to show high and low points, utilities, plant beds, lawn areas, North/South, scale, wind direction, fences outbuildings, views you like, views you don't, areas where you would like more privacy...it doesn't have to cost an arm or leg. You just want whatever you spend to work for you. Go on the internet and get ideas. Send those as well.

Think about what you'd like if money were no object. Adjusting to fit your budget later one usually gets far more and a better product. You are going to have to do some homework here. I can help you make good decisions. This process is very enjoyable and will cost you less in the long run.

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  • Great suggestions, but I think you left out how far apart the posts should be? I think mostly grape and kiwi, and I think I already have a trumpet vine in the area. Should I worry much about them competing? and entangling in such a way as to make intervening a really challenge? It will have moderate wind cover, morning shade from some fully grown maple trees (about 60-80 feet to the east), generally on the east-west axis. – Jonathon Jun 25 '14 at 2:56
  • "6b"?? expertrees.ca/images/garden/zonemap.jpg – Jonathon Jun 25 '14 at 3:08

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