Making and Using Garden Tripods

Over the winter, I took a few classes on low-cost, low-impact gardening. One innovation that caught my eye was the garden tripod. Very versatile in its use, it’s easy to make from inexpensive or recycled wood, and is very portable.

So I made my own, but with a slight variation. The version I saw last winter used a length of bamboo for a cross piece, I designed my poles to be interchangeable as either legs of the tripod or cross-pieces. (Click on any photo for a larger image.)

image of splitting a length of spruce strapping on a table saw

Split lengths of inexpensive spruce strapping to create 2 stakes from each board.

Once again, I went to my standard cheap board: 12-foot lengths of spruce strapping. Priced at $1.87 each, it doesn’t get much cheaper to buy, or easier to work with. I cut all but a few of my boards at either 7-foot or 6-foot lengths, which resulted in 4 sizes: 12-foot, 7-foot, 6-foot, and 5-foot. (The 5-foot is left over when you cut the 7-foot length.)

Next, I split the boards down the middle of the 3.75″ width, producing 2 sort of square poles out of each length. In effect, each $1.87 length of 12-foot long strapping produced 4 poles, at about 45 cents each.

image of drilling holes in the strapping at 3" and 5" marks from one end

Drill 1/4″ holes at 3″ & 5″ in from one end.

Then I made 2 marks on one end of each pole, at 5″ and 3″, and drilled 1/4″ holes. On the other end of each pole, I measured 1/2″ and made a mark. I cut 45-degree angles from that mark, to produce a 2-sided point.

Image of pliers cutting wire into one foot lengths

Cut 1-foot lengths of 14-gauge wire.

From a 100-foot coil of 14 guage wire (about $7.50 at Lowe’s) I measured a bunch of 1-foot long wires. So, each foot-long bit of wire cost about 7.5 cents.

Image of 3 boards laying one on top of another, with their holes lined up. A wire is place through a hole on all 3 stakes, then twisted together to form the top of a tripod.

Put 3 stakes together, thread wire through the 5″ holes and twist it loosely together.

By lining up 3 poles and running the wire through the 5″ hole, then twisting it together, I made a tripod. My net investment per tripod is (3 x .45) + .75, or about $2.10. Add tax, it’s about $2.23.

image of making a pointed end on a stake by cutting with a table saw at a 45 degree angle.

Measure 1/2″ in from the end of the stake opposite the drilled holes. Cut a 45 degree angle from the mark to the center of the stake.

The pointed opposite ends  helped to anchor the poles in the garden soil. Across two tripods, I laid other poles. On some occasions I needed longer poles, so I laid the poles on the ground with the pointed ends out and the hole ends overlapping. I wove a piece of wire through the two sets of holes, then twisted the ends to make them secure. As a result, I could turn 2 7-foot lengths into about 13.5 feet, or a 6-foot and 5-foot length into about 10.5 feet; or any other combination. My average cost for two tripods and two lengths of cross pole was $6.20, tax included. From that investment I can support 9 tomato plants, trellising each plant for 69 cents. (72 cents if you want to count the twine.)

The wire holds the cross poles securely, but they sag in the middle. I could make them more rigid if I ran a couple bolts through the holes. For me it’s not that important, and I keep a bunch of 1-foot wire lengths in my pocket while setting up my garden, which makes it easy and cheap to do what’s needed.

To create an angled trellis for cucumbers I formed tripods from 2 5-foot poles and 1 7-foot pole. I used the long leg to span across the next vegetable row. The result was a tripod that leaned backward across a row of vegetables. I made a climbing trellis for the cucumbers across the “front” face.

To do that, I cut lengths of nylon deer netting ($19.95 for a 100′ x 7′ roll at Lowe’s) to length. By folding over the top and “sewing” it with twine, I created a tunnel through which to feed my cross pole, then laid the whole thing across the tripods.

Here are some photos of  applications in my garden:

image of two tripods in the garden with a length of strapping laid across them.

2 tripods with a stake across the top, from which twine descends to support 4 tomato plants.

image of two tripods made from uneven length stakes so they lean backward. Down the front face, deer netting creates a lattice for cucumber plants to climb.

This backward leaning frame is made from tripods with unequal length legs. The front legs of each tripod are 5-foot stakes, each back leg is a 7-foot stake. The extra length lets me lean the tripod over the 30-inch wide row of beets and turnips. I made a screen of deer netting to hang down the slanted front, which the cucumber vines will soon be climbing.

image of 3 tripods supporting various lengths of cross members.

At the front of this image are 2 7-foot high tripods. I joined 2 6-foot stakes by bending wire through the 3″ and 5″ holes and bending the ends. From the crossbar I hung deer netting between 2 double rows of peas. The netting is anchored to the ground by staples, which I made by bending 1-foot lengths of wire into staple shapes, pressed into the ground through the netting.
Behind is a double row of 6-foot high tripods with 2 7-foot stakes spanning them. They are supporting a double row of tomato plants.