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Ideas needed for setting 8ft support posts, please.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

My goal this summer is to add trellises to grow pole beans, English peas, and melons. I've already purchased thirty five 8ft T-Posts and the trellis netting, which will be enough for five 25ft beds.

My dilemma is how to make the holes for the posts. I don't have a post hole digger, and really don't need a big hole to set these posts. Rather, I need a "slit" into which to place the posts. I could hammer them into the ground, but there is a rock ledge just under parts of the clay top soil throughout the garden, so I don't want to bend the posts. We have built raised beds on top of the clay soil layer, so I need to get the posts deep enough to go through the 12" layer that I have created, plus another 12" or so into the clay layer to prevent the posts from tilting in the wind.

Anyone had experience setting such posts? If so, what tool did you find worked best? I don't have anything mechanical, and don't have a lot of money to spend.

This is what I purchased:

Thanks in advance for any advice ^^_^^

Charleston, SC(Zone 8b)

you need what I call a post pounder- can't think of the right name but it is basicly a heavy metal tube with one end closed and it has handles. Ask where you bought the t-posts- it is worth every penny you spend. Check a feed store- they may have them for rent.On our last property we fenced and cross fenced with t-posts and red brand wire- almost 8 acres. Only posts set in cement was the corners and gates. You put the pounder over the post, lift it a bit and slam it down- you only need to sink them to just over the flange. Hope this helps

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

We have one of those post pounders, too. The only trick is to get up high enough so you can exert a little pressure as you release it to hammer the post into the ground. We usually start off with a sturdy ladder at each post. We use that all the time, whenever a metal-stake fence is needed.

Brady, TX(Zone 8a)

That pounder is exactly what you need. My friend, a welder, made me one for less than the retail $$.

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Here's a photo of one version:

It's also called a stake driver. If you can find it locally you can avoid the shipping fees, which are high because it's on the heavy side.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

They look rather heavy. I'm not sure I could lift one of these above my head, and slip it over the 8ft post.

Anyone know how much they weigh?

Thanks for the info, y'all ^^_^^

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

I can lift ours; usually DH gets up on the ladder and I hand it up to him. But then I'm also used to 50-lb. feed bags.

Charleston, SC(Zone 8b)

lay your posts out where you are putting them, slid the pounder over the top and then stand the post up. make sure it is exactly where you want the post cause once it's in, it's h### to move,and also make sure it is straight with the bumps going the same way. lift the pounder a little and let it drop. Do this a few times till it sets in the ground a bit- then lift it almost off then let it drop- you only need to do this till the flanges are buried. Granted, if you are not used to heavy work your arms will hurt but think how toned your arms will look- just like lifting weights. I was in my 50's when we fenced our property,and I did 90% of the work alone.

What are you using for the trellis part? If you are using wire fencing you can buy clips- they look like a bent U with loops on either end. Put your trellis wire on the smooth side of the post, put a clip in place holding with one hand, pull the wire a bit to hook over one loop, then straighten the clip and pull the other side of the wire and hook. If you are using wire fencing such as red brand (rolled fencing) you will need help pulling it tight or it will sag. We made a come along out of a heavy board with hooks running it's length and a hook and chain on the other side which we attached to our lawn tractor. Do short sections at a time, pulling the wire tight but not stretching it out of shape, put a clip in the top and bottom then move on till finished. We then went back and clipped in more clips in the middle.

Hope this helps, if you are still confused find a feed store or tractor supply- they will be happy to explain visually. Where did you buy your posts? They also should be able to help you. Good luck, Susan

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

I use one. Try the way Cornish2175 said. Slip it on the post, then stand it all up together. It does use different muscle but because it is heavy, it will drive the posts firmly.

When I first started refencing, I stood on a carpenters bench to drive them. I can now do it without that aerial assist.

You will notice more vibration from the rock base but you shouldn't need to place these posts all that deeply.

You might ask around to see if you can borrow one or perhaps even rent one cheaply. Unless one farms, you will have limited use for this driver.

Charleston, SC(Zone 8b)

Sorry, went back and read your original post and saw you are planning on using netting. A trick I have used is to facen top, middle and bottom to the first post, then put a dowel or old broom handle at the edge of the net where it unrolls, then holding net on pole together pull it tight, wire top, middle and bottom and so on. You will still need help doing this in order to keep the net tight- otherwise the weight of the crop will pull the net down. I learned this the hard way- also-
Not to bust your balloon but is the netting plastic? You can never get the dead vines off, so it looks ugly or you end up tossing the whole mess. Another trick is to run wire at the top and bottom of the post, either clipping or looping around a few times, then run hemp twine top to bottom in sort of a zig zag. then when your crop is done just cut off the twine and throw everything in your compost pile. the hemp will decompose in a short time and save the landfill. I did this for many years with great success after I realized how much money I was wasting using plastic net.

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

We use hemp twine, too, for our beans. Our uprights are bamboo poles with metal stakes alternating for stability (two bamboo to one metal, depending on the length of the row), and then we run bamboo poles across the top and bottom of the setup so we can string our hemp from those.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Great ideas - thanks to you all.

cornish2175 I'm using nylon netting, which I think is what you are calling plastic netting. I've used hemp and nylon in the past and prefer the nylon. I agree that it is difficult to remove the dead vines from the nylon netting, but I do it a few at a time during the fall/winter months when I let the dogs out. I like your idea of using a broom handle, and will give it a try.

GG getting hubby (he's 80) or myself (I'm 68) on a ladder is not possible, especially as our garden is on a slope. My darling hubby has neurological problems and frequently falls over even on level ground. I once had a hard time getting him up because he had fallen and become wedged between the fence and a tree. As to myself - my family will attest that me and ladders are not good friends ^^_^^


Unless one farms, you will have limited use for this driver.

I was thinking the same thing.

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

What about getting a handyman to put these up for you? A lot of people erect permanent lattice/fence structures and rotate which crops they grow on each one. I have also seen some neat structures made of cattle fence, formed into a hoop; these can be semi-permanent as well. You don't want something you have to put up and take down every year if you're doing this mostly by yourself.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

GG -

A lot of people erect permanent lattice/fence structures and rotate which crops they grow on each one

You and I think much alike on gardening matters.

I plan to keep the posts in place to grow pole beans, peas, and melons. I might even try tomatoes tied to the posts - but I think the posts will be too far apart to do this, unless I planted tomatoes every four feet with something else in between. I'm going to set the posts 4ft apart.

Charleston, SC(Zone 8b)

Do you have teen-agers in your neighborhood? I have found they are always looking to make a few bucks, especialy the younger ones- cheaper than a handyman. Then you would just have to supervise.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

cornish2175 - I live on a short,dead-end street with no teenagers or young children. It's so quiet and peaceful without the them LOL

I might be able to get my daughter to help. One way or another, the posts will get into the ground - it just might take awhile ^^_^^

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

You can put up temporary poles between the four foot spans for tomatoes, or else grow them on wire strung between them; that's not a bad way to support them if you have two strands of wire a couple of feet apart.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

GG - I had thought of the wire idea, but handling wire, or wire fencing doesn't seem like something I would be happy doing. But temporary poles would work! We have lots of bamboo poles. I have pea fences, but they are not tall enough, the tomatoes grow up and over the top and make it both hard to pick them, and almost impossible to walk between the raised beds.

Hmmm... I just had a "light bulb moment" I could grow indeterminates up the 8ft posts and determinates in between - they only grow a little higher than my pea fences!

I can't wait until the first row of posts have been set and I can show y'all photos!

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Could ya'll post pictures of these various structures? I'm challenged with trying to picture what you're describing. Those three blind guys would come up with the elephant LONG before I would....


Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Honeybee, I think your last idea, the light bulb moment, would work great for you. And lots less work that running wire, adding fencing and such, eh?

I, too, use T-posts for bean trellises. And yep, I also only take them down on occasion...first part of season I grow peas up them. Peas don't produce long so I can easily follow them with pole beans...and no, I don't worry about following peas with beans at all, not until or unless I see any common disease/virus that peas and beans would share.. The following year you can start with peas again and when they are gone you can grow cukes or vining squash up your trellis. Or yes, tomatoes, too.

At some point you might want to invest in a cattle panel. Those can be easily lashed to your row of posts and are sturdy enough to grow anything on. Even tomatoes don't need tying up because you can just weave them through the holes in the panel as they grow.

As for getting the posts in the ground, our local high school has volunteer students who are involved in Ag classes and such and they are always looking for someone to help...they get credit for it, the community gets a helping hand, and you get your posts in the ground.


Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Was typing while GG posted. I'll see if I have some pics on the computer, or go out and quickly take some for ya. Back later.


Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Here is one of a bean trellis with t-posts, wires running at the top and bottom, then twine/hemp woven between the two wires. In this row I used shorter posts so you can see I extended their height using galvanized pipe.

This trellis works great for beans, peas, cukes, etc. Goes up fairly fast and I normally just replace the hemp/twine each year.

Shoe (out to the garden before i lose my daylight. )

Thumbnail by Horseshoe
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Maybe use a pick to loosen the soil down to the rock level, push the post through the loosened soil, then stomp the soil down to pack it?

If you have a lot of bamboo poles, but they aren't sturdy enough to support as much weight as you need, you can turn them into tripods that will support at least three times the weight. (And tripods don't need to be driven into the ground for stability.) Just twirl some stromg waxed twine 3-4 times around the three upper ends, pull tight (and maybe make a half-hitch to hold it tight), then weave 1-2 loops very tight BETWEEN the poles to pull the main loop tight. Square knot.

And you can lash two bamboo poles together to make them stiffer and stronger, or longer. I lash the thin parts of two flimsy poles together to get one pole that is both longer and stronger.

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

Honeybee, I have a spade similar to this:

I stomp the spade into the ground as deep as it will go and rock it back and forth, stomping it deeper if I can, thus creating a slit into the ground. I then insert post into the slit and plum the post and use the post driver until desired height for post. Then stomp the earth back in around the post. I'm not very tall and have devised this method over the years. The least amount of wear and wear on my back while still being able to do it by myself.

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Rick, all of my tomato plants are grown on bamboo tripods, but I always sink them into the ground about a foot. Otherwise a strong wind would blow them over, plants and all. My indeterminates get large and unwieldy and need all the support I can give them.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> I always sink them into the ground about a foot. Otherwise a strong wind would blow them over, plants and all.

Wow, that is some wind! I only have a few really windy days per year, but I don;t think it ever got that windy.

But then, my bamboo poles have not been long, and I spread them pretty wide at the base.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

I'd definitely have to anchor them in my windy yard.

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Usually at least once each summer we have a storm with high winds that attacks my bean fencing, maybe because it's typically a solid mass of foliage. My tomato tripods can normally withstand it, but they are anchored in the ground.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Rick We tried the tri-pod method with the bamboo poles the first year here, but the results were less than satisfactory. By the end of the growing season, the whole shebang had fallen over!

terri_emory We have a regular spade (similar to the one in your link) and hubby and I have decided to try putting in the posts using it. If that doesn't work, we'll scratch our heads and think of something else. LOL

Horseshoe I have followed peas with beans on several occasions over the years with no apparent ill effects. This year, I'm going to follow peas with melons. I purposely purchased 8ft posts so I would not have to add extensions as you have done. I'm hoping they will still be tall enough once I get them into the ground ^^_^^

Honeybee (who is rather surprised that "shebang" is actually a real word!)

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Hehehe, yeh, "shebang" is a great word, Honeybee! I'd love to hear it said with your accent!

As for tripods, I usually put up a couple each year in an area where there is not quite enough room for a straight-line trellis. But like some of ya'll they are best if the legs are pushed into the ground a bit. Once a tripod is full of foliage it is like a sail and easily toppled over once it is top heavy.

I think my best one was a four-legged one (a quadpod?). It was big enough to stand under and roomy enough to put other plants within its legs. I think its height was 9 ft tall.

Nothing like a pretty tripod or two in your garden! Then again, nothing like a pretty string trellis, too...they look like a work of art, don't they?


Thumbnail by Horseshoe
Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

A work of art indeed, Shoe- but in my country the wind would put that down real quick! Here's what I have in place for this year- My soil is terribly rocky, and it's nearly impossible to put anything in deep enough. So I braced the fence posts to the cedar fence about every 6' or so. Hope it will work. I can add cages, twine net or whatever I want along the way.

Thumbnail by JoParrott
Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

I love seeing pics of your beds, Jo. Mighty purty!
And yep, I believe your trellis will stay put just fine.

Fortunately for me I was able to dig down fairly deep, and in hard clay so it really holds tight. Those cedar posts are probably two feet deep.

Hope you post another pic when that trellis is brimming with vines...will make a great "before and after" pic.


Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

Yep-can't wait to join all the others (namely Gymgirl, drthor and the other lucky southern gardeners who are potting up now!!!) But our time will come. We are just starting to melt some of the 8" of snow & ice that we got. I think I will spend the day making carrot seed tape with TP & watered down white glue. Exciting? not- but I'll be glad to have it in a few months when it's planting time.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Um, Gymgirl's potting up progress has been impeded by the fact that, as I was slicing up several Brussels Sprouts plants that are only giving me "blown" sprouts, and I had just said to myself,"be careful, Linda," I promptly sliced through my left index finger with the pruners. Luckily, I sliced in at a 45 degree angle and missed a major artery. But it's still deep and, as we well know, digits love to bleed!

So, as much as I want/need to pot up the seedlings, my finger would not allow me to maneuver playing in dirt with a rubber glove on. Shoot!

I measured, and the seedlings are about 4"-5" tall, and getting fat. Looks like spacing them in the community flats when I sowed gave them room for their roots to thrive, and they're not competing for light nor water.

I also calculated I would have 4 more growing weeks if I pot em up tomorrow + one week to harden off. I can still fall within the plant out window for this batch. They'd be around 8"-10" at plant out. I'll have missed getting them in by 6"-8" as one expert grower recommend. But, I'm on track with the growth rate from last year, and they were fine. But, I wanted to see what a younger seedling would do.

Good thing Drthor tipped me off about starting the longest season maters first!

Will try the glove tomorrow.


Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

I live on a short,dead-end street with no teenagers or young children. It's so quiet and peaceful without the way or another, the posts will get into the ground - it just might take awhile

If I were a tad closer I would pop over there with some ice cold lemonade and we'd have us a pole raisin'! Good luck with it all Honeybee.

Thumbnail by MaryMcP
SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Lovely setting, MaryMcP!

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Gymgirl Blood meal can be purchased in a bag y-know - you don't have to feed them directly!

Seriously - I'm sorry to read about your encounter with the pruners! There must be something in the air... my son-in-law cut his finger badly enough to need stiches over the weekend while cutting drywall with a box cutter!

Be careful out there!

While I'm thinking of it - I had my doctor give me a tetanus shot during my last visit.

MaryMcP - thanks for the offer - however I'm allergic to all citrus fruit!

This message was edited Jan 23, 2012 12:24 PM

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks, HoneybeeNC!

I'm scheduled for a tetanus shot myself. Had my local pharmacy order it, and I need to make a lunch run to get it!

Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9b)

In that case I'll just bring beer!

Deep South Coastal, TX(Zone 10a)

Shoe, what a great idea for extending posts! We use t-posts with cattle panels for tomatoes. I tried them with beans, cukes and melons but we have too much wind. When the panels rocked, the vines ripped out of the ground.

Gymgirl, the pharmacist can order tetanus shots? Bud and I were just talking the other day about updating ours.

We use a post driver to put in the posts. A construction stool (like a tool box, but it has legs and a handle so it is easy to move) gives the right height to pound them in.

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