Tuscan Veranda Project: Grapes
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.

baby grapes

In May 2010, I fabricated two box trellises.

box trellis fabrication

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

box 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.

girders fab

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.

girder hinges

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.

trellis material

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

installation