August 15, 2022

Prairie City trail reveals abandoned cucumber trellis

The pipe frame that Norm Havel converted to a cucumber trellis can now be seen right along the new trail that replaced the railway on the west side of [Prairie City]. Only a few neighbors could see Norm’s trellis before the trail was made. My aunt was Norm’s neighbor, and so I could see Norm’s trellis and talk with him about it while he was still using it.

The pipe frame was originally made to reinforce a cement pipe and it’s still close to the factory where it was made. It’s located on the south side of the trail, just west of the Masonic Lodge and at the bottom of the railway’s ridge.

Norm converted the frame to a trellis by cutting it along its length and standing it on its end. He did this to make an opening so that he could get inside it. This cut caused the frame to open right up and become floppy. Consequently, he supported the frame with a post on each side of the opening.

Norm’s cucumber trellis worked very well. In the fall, Norm filled the frame with leaves from his lawn, and in the spring, he planted cucumbers along the side of the frame. The frame provided a trellis for his cucumber plants and a place to contain the leaves from his lawn. The pile of leaves kept moisture in the soil so that he didn’t have to water his plants much.

A Japanese tomato ring is a common garden device that is similar to Norm’s trellis. However, a Japanese tomato ring does not have an opening like Norm’s trellis does, so you can’t get inside it. A Japanese tomato ring is usually used to grow tomatoes, but it can be used to grow any plant that needs a trellis and a lot of water.

Although Norm’s cucumber trellis is now abandoned, it’s still well worth a visit. His trellis is unique because it is tall, heavy and it has an opening. I made a trellis like Norm’s by curling up a segment of cattle panel.

For more information, you can view https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhSGuGla6tI or https://canningcrafts.com/blogs/news/growing-tomatoes-using-japanese-rings-staking-method or read The Best of Organic Gardening (chapter 11) by Mike Mcgrath.

John Van Pilsum

Columbia Heights, Minn.