How To's

Home How-To's – A DIY Garden Trellis


We are now into our second summer at our house, one that came with nothing in the yard except for a very non-descript shed. We have made quite a few improvements to the yard—plants were a welcome addition—but one of my favourite projects we took on was a garden trellis, to help improve the look of the boring shed. I wanted to share this project because of how easy it really was. It took a little planning and careful measuring, but we knocked this one off in an afternoon! A lot of people say they are not handy, but I really believe it is more a matter of being a little scared. Perhaps this is a good way to learn how handy you really are!

Our starting point was a section of 19th century iron fence that we picked up at a local antiques store for $85; not bad for something that is 150 years old! It really formed the foundation of the project and added a nice design element instead of an all-wood trellis. You could easily use any other panel, an old window, pieces of drift wood, or just get a little creative with scrap lumber.


For the wood, we went with cedar. Pressure treated wood will save you a bundle, but we wanted a West-coast look and cedar is also pest-resistant—I don’t want to be repairing this thing ever! (Pressure treated wood will take on a nice grey patina after a season outside and costs about half of cedar. The red cedar set us back around $150.) Once the trellis was built, we planted some beans from a previous garden (I like free stuff) and my girlfriend’s mom re-gifted her some gnomes she painted as a kid. We considered painting them a modern chromatic white but in the end felt the retro colours were too good to paint over. We just sat the gnomes on the trellis—voila, modern art!


Now that the beans are starting to fill in I am glad we took the time a couple of months ago to build this. I don’t even notice the boring garden shed anymore!

How to (more or less):

  • Plan! Draw your trellis. It doesn’t need to be pretty but it might save you a trip back to the home store if you know what you will need.
  • Supplies: Depending on your personal design of course–Two 12 foot 4×4 posts, 2 bags of quick dry cement, approximately six 2×4’s, two 2 x 10’s for the top, wood screws. Tools: A power saw preferably but a hand saw would work, drill, a bucket to make cement in, a level is pretty handy as well, to make sure everything is straight.  (150 year old fence and gnomes are optional.)
  • Start by cementing the posts around 2 feet deep. Don’t just bury them in dirt or your trellis won’t last the summer. We used cement that only requires a little water and dries literally in minutes. We didn’t worry too much about the distance apart the posts were; you can cut the rest of the wood to fit between afterwards. Wait until the posts are solid before moving on!
  • Next build the bottom cross beam to hold up the centre piece. We found some metal L-brackets that would help support the weight of the fence and once attached you can’t even see them. Attach the L-brackets to the posts, then set the cross beam on and screw it together.  We put one 2×4 on top of another (perpendicular) to add extra support—that fence is heavy! Everywhere else we used 3” galvanize wood screws—they won’t rust.
  • Next, get someone to hold up the fence or panel, and attach the piece that goes across the top of the fence, to hold it in place. We then added two frame pieces down the side and then the small pieces of wood for looks and eventually for the gnomes. The fence is literally held in place by the wood above and below it, but I added a few screws to make sure—no repairs ever!
  • For the very top we used 2 x 10’s to give it a finished look; I’ve seen some with smaller pieces of wood and it just doesn’t look right. My GFF made a paper template and cut out the curved parts with a jig saw. We drilled a hole through the posts and top piece and used 8” galvanized bolts to hold it altogether.
  • Plant some beans, lavender, or whatever your heart desires but a really recommend some kind of vine. Beans are great because they grow quickly, have flowers, and you can eat them. A good layer of mulch below will help keep weeds and grass from growing and looks good too.


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