How to Make a Trellis

Lead Image
What You'll Need
Scrap wood boards, wrought iron, or wiring
Pencil and paper
Circular saw
1/4-inch exterior screws
Stain or paint (optional)
Paint brush (optional)
Safety goggles
Vining plants

To accent any yard or garden, a trellis makes for a useful and aesthetically pleasing addition. Luckily, these versatile accessories are easy to make yourself and customize to fit the needs of your garden and yard.

What Is a Trellis?

Even if you don’t recognize the term trellis, you’ve likely seen one and not even realized it. A trellis is a simple framework of vertical supports accompanied by horizontal crosspieces that are flat and can be used to train plants to grow up against the structure. This includes plants such as shrubs, small trees, vines, and other greenery. Trellis are usually comprised of an open framework, such as a lattice, so that plants can be supported while naturally woven through the structure.

Why Build a Trellis?

A brown wood trellis with an orange and yellow flowering vine.

But why would you want a trellis? There are several reasons. First, these are a pretty, yet functional, accent piece for any yard or garden. Next, they can act as a privacy screen from neighbors or the street. Finally, they make it easy to control the growth of plants that tend to become invasive or large. A trellis can also support vining fruit or vegetables if you don't have the surface area for them to grow on the ground, making them perfect for small vegetable gardens.

Building Your Trellis

A yard with wood trellis and shrubs covered in snow.

As mentioned above, building a trellis is quite simple. You can usually opt for scrap wood to make your own trellis. Keep in mind that although these structures can remain relatively lightweight, they need to be strong enough to support not only the weight of plants that adorn them, but withstand the elements including wind, rain, and snow. Here's how to build your own in nine steps.

Step 1 - Choose Your Spot

First, choose the spot your trellis will live, in order to determine the size and shape of it. The great thing about these structures is that you can customize them to be any size and fit wherever you like!

Step 2 - Choose Your Materials

Now, choose what materials you want your trellis to be made out of. As we mentioned, many DIYers opt for lightweight scrap wood. However, you could go with alternate materials such as wrought iron or wire.

Step 3 - Sketch Your Design

Make a loose sketch of your trellis design to tally up how many boards you will need and to determine the dimensions.

Step 4 - Cut Your Boards

A man using a circular saw to cut lumber.

Using a circular saw, cut your boards to be the correct sizes for your structure.

Step 5 - Create a Grid

On a concrete surface, use chalk to trace the line of one of your boards. Create a grid on the pavement to map out the overall design of your trellis, true to size, to make assembly easier. As a general guideline, this should include perpendicular lines that create six-inch squares. While you don’t need to follow this grid exactly during assembly, it makes it easier to keep your angles straight and to stay on pattern while assembling your trellis.

Step 6 - Lay Out the Boards

On top of your chalk grid, begin laying out your cut boards. Feel free to modify your design and lay and re-lay boards until you find the exact design you want before securing them.

Step 7 - Secure the Boards

Using screws and a drill, secure the boards using two screws wherever two boards intersect. Do this from the backside to avoid seeing the screw heads from the front of your new trellis.

Step 8 - Paint or Stain Your Trellis

If desired, paint or stain your trellis using an exterior paint. This is optional, as you’re also welcome to leave the wood as-is, allowing it to attain a aged look over time. You can also choose to paint or stain the wood before assembly.

Step 9 - Plant Your Trellis

A white wood trellis with colorful sweet pea blooms growing on it.

To affix your trellis in your yard, dig post holes 10 inches deep and fill the bottom few inches with gravel. Then, place the base of your trellis on top of the gravel and plumb it into the material. Backfill the hole with soil, tamping it down every so often to ensure its security. Now, all that’s left to do is plant around your trellis. Species like Black-Eyed Susan Vine, perennials, or sweet peas are all easy to grow along a trellis, and they look great, too.

This easy DIY project will add an abundance of character and dimension to your garden, and you’re sure to love how simple it is to make.