Ten dollars and two hours later you’ll be wishing you had more vines

The number of vines on my garden wish list will soon outnumber the structures on which I can grow them. Is that a bad thing, you ask? It would be if I had to rely on the vine supports for sale at local nurseries and home stores. What I found on a recent shopping trip was either overpriced, lacking in character, or made with flimsy materials. That’s what motivated me to make my own trellises out of bamboo. Bamboo is a wonderfully versatile building material and one of the world’s most renewable resources. It’s lightweight, strong, and flexible, and it looks at home in most gardening schemes, even in the garden that surrounds my late-19th-century in-town house. Another plus is that bamboo can last 8 to 10 years before showing signs of deterioration.

One of the benefits of designing and building my own trellises is that I can determine their size. Furthermore, I can work with two cane widths to give my designs more visual interest. To tie the bamboo together, I use a wax-coated black lashing cord that contrasts nicely with the buff-colored bamboo. I mail-order bamboo in bulk to save money and to have extra on hand for other projects. With an investment of less than two hours and for about $10, I have a custom-made trellis for one of the vines in my growing collection.


• Several canes of bamboo in different diameters
• Lashing cord
• Hand saw
• Ruler or tape measure
• Pencil

1. Create a design

Imagine your trellis where it will eventually be placed, taking into account the size and shape of the area where it will be situated. Draw the design of your trellis on paper. Deciding on as many measurements as possible in advance will help you to stay on track during the building process.

2. Cut the bamboo to size

If the bamboo is thin enough, you can use pruners to make the cuts.
Use a hand saw to cut the sky-facing ends of your vertical canes just above a node, which is solid. This will keep water from collecting in the open ends, which would encourage rot. Then cut the trimmed canes to size from the bottom. Cut the horizontal canes to size as well.

3. Lay out your trellis

On a flat surface, arrange the canes into the shape of your design, using a ruler to ensure that the canes are spaced evenly. Mark the intersecting points of the crossing canes with a pencil, since the unbound canes will shift around a bit as you start to connect them with lashing cord.

4. Lash it together

Using the lashing method pictured at the bottom of this article, lash the crossing canes together as tightly as possible.

Try this lashing technique

Lashing is the most important part of making bamboo trellises, since it’s what holds them together. Here’s a technique I use that is both strong and attractive. Start with a piece of cord that’s 4 to 5 feet long and trim the excess when you’re done. See the photos below for details, or watch my video Lashing a Bamboo Trellis .

More on lashing and trellises...

For a different technique (and links to more trellis articles), see 
Learn Lashing and Make Your Own Garden Trellises  on  VegetableGardener.com .

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