The "Tuscan Veranda Project" is the label that I put on all of the outside welding and masonry projects. The "Grape" phase isn't the first but it is the first one that I actually completed so here it is.

Although I like the idea of having a vineyard and growing my own grapes, those who know anything about how well wine grapes fare in the desert know that it won't work. The only grapes that do grow well aren't the ones you couldn't use to make wine. It was this thought that led me to design a place close to the house where I could plant grapes.

In 2009, I built some masonry paving brick borders around the back patio and planted a couple of Thompson Seedless grape plants. Next to each plant, I sank a 4x4 post to accommodate a trellis for the grape plants to climb.


In May 2010, I fabricated two box trellises.

                trellis fabrication

I installed the trellises, which turned out great because the grapes started climbing them right away.

                trellis installation

I turned to other projects, thinking that it would give me time before I completed the roof trellis. I didn't realize how fast grapes grew because only 12 months later, the grapes were peeking over the top of the trellis, searching for something else to climb.

My inspiration for the final phase was a hyperbolic paraboloid that my father built over our old patio when we lived in California. First, I fabricated the girders that would span the 4x4 posts. Because of the long stretches between the posts, I had to build girders that wouldn't flex under the weight of the trellis material and whatever grew over it.


In order to avoid welding the whole thing together, I fabricated each length individually and built hinges to connect them. When it is installed, the hinge pin is actually a half-inch lag bolt that screws the joint to the top of the 4x4 post.


After connecting all the pieces, I cut up some trellis material to fit the space that the girder segments form. This will be the "roof" that the grapes will climb.


Finally, the entire contraption is installed. The design should support 100 pounds of vegetation without flexing.


Update: 2021 - I dismantled the grape trellis and pulled the support posts out. Some problems led to this:
1) The weight of the vines actually did collapse the trellis. I should have installed more overhead reinforcement.
2) One of the vines died because the irrigation broke during the Summer and I didn't notice that one of the plants was dying of thirst until it was too late.
3) It turns out that grape roots are very aggressive. Once the paving stones are placed, leaving the vines may result in paving stone buckling

Before demolition

Before demolition

After demolition

After demolition

I was able to save the box trellises, which will be re-purposed in the Dome Prototype Phase 3 project (in progress).