Spring has officially sprung in Seattle, and I’ve been itching to get back into the garden! This year I plan to transform our weed-infested backyard into a gorgeous, relaxing retreat. Our privacy fence makes the space feel more secluded, but the flat expanse of planks is so boring! I’m going to transform it by building my own garden trellis to allow beautiful flowering vines to cover up the plain backdrop.
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The small garden area I’m working on is a great spot for a climbing vine. The previous homeowner must have thought so too, because there are climbing roses attempting to make their way up the fence. Unfortunately, there’s not much for the rose to cling onto, so it just grew straight up about 8 feet!
I’m not much of a rose person, and this particular plant isn’t producing many blooms anymore, so I decided to start with a fresh slate. I cleared the entire area, and mixed some compost into the soil so my new vines would have plenty of nutrients.
There are a lot of choices when it comes to vines. Check out my post on how to choose the best climbing vines for your trellis to help you find the right one for your space.
Materials Needed for Garden Trellis
- Three 5 1/2″ wide, 6 foot flat-top fence pickets
- If you don’t have a table saw, you can also use 1 x 2 cedar boards. You’ll need six of them.
- Table saw
- Any saw you prefer for crosscuts (miter saw, circular saw, jigsaw, or even a hand saw)
- Sander and sandpaper
- Outdoor wood stain
- Speed square
- Measuring tape
- 1″ nails
- Brad nail gun (optional, but make the process much faster)
How to Build a Garden Trellis
The wood you choose for an outdoor project is important. Cedar doesn’t rot, so it’s the perfect choice for a garden trellis like this. I used cedar to build my outdoor sofa and loveseat, and it looks brand new even after a winter of non-stop rain!
I bought these cedar fence pickets, which are the cheapest source of rot-resistant wood you can find. You’ll need three pickets per trellis, which costs a grand total of $7.50. Can’t go wrong with that! You can also use 1 x 2 cedar boards if you don’t have a table saw, but you’ll pay the same price for a single board.
Give both sides of the fence pickets a good sanding. It’s ok if they’re not perfectly smooth (it might actually help the vine cling), but you want to take off any splinters on the surface.
Set your table saw to 5 1/4″ wide and run each picket through to remove one rough outside edge.
Now set the table saw fence to 1 1/2″ wide. Place your freshly trimmed edge along the fence, and rip three strips. Make sure to use a push stick when you get down to the last cut. Safety first!
Three of these 1 1/2″ strips will be used as the vertical supports of the trellis. You can set those aside for now. The rest will be cut down to various lengths to create the horizontal slats.
Cut List for Horizontal Slats
- 1 @ 21″ (bottom slat)
- 1 @ 44″ (top slat)
- 2 @ 16″
- 2 @ 20″
- 2 @ 22″
- 2 @ 24″
- 2 @ 26″
- 2 @ 30″
It might seem like a lot of cuts, especially if you’re making three trellises like I am. Using a stop block at the miter saw makes the process a lot faster. You can learn how to set up a stop block here, or check out how I use the Kreg stop block system on my miter saw stand.
As you make the cuts, mark the length on the back with a pencil. That way you won’t be pulling out the measuring tape every time you switch sizes during installation.
It’s much easier to stain the individual pieces at this point, using a rag to quickly coat each side. I had some of Behr’s outdoor stain in Coffee left over from my outdoor sofa project, and I thought the dark espresso color would be a nice contrast to the natural cedar fencing.
Once the stain is dry, it’s time to start assembly! Lay out your three 72″ vertical supports, and find the 21″ and 44″ slats.
Mark the center vertical support 7 1/2″ up from the bottom with a pencil. Then mark the center of your 21″ slat. Line up the bottom of the 21″ slat with the 7 1/2″ mark and center it. Check that everything is square, then nail it into place. I used my Ryobi Airstrike brad nailer, and it made assembly incredibly fast and easy!
The outside vertical supports are 12″ apart. Use a board flat against the bottom to keep the ends even. Once you have them in the right spot, put ONE nail in each side. You’ll need to pivot the top of the supports a little to get the right angle.
Place the 44″ slat three inches down from the top of the side vertical support. Then measure 3 1/2″ in from the ends of the slat, and line that mark up with the edge of the support. Nail in place.
Then mark the middle of the slat, and line that up with the center vertical support. Check for square and nail into place. Now you can go back and securely attach the bottom slat that only has one nail.
That’s the hardest part! The next part is sooooo much easier if you have a 3″ wide piece of scrap wood (about 2 feet long should be enough). This scrap is used as a spacer between the slats, and makes assembly a breeze.
The rest of the slats are assembled in this order:
Mark the bottom edge of the 16″ slat 3 1/2″ from the end. Place the spacer above the bottom slat, and lay the 16″ slat with your mark lined up with the edge of the vertical support. Nail in place, move the spacer, and attach the other 16″ slat on the other side. Keep alternating sides while adding more slats until you get to the top.
Once it’s assembled, out to the garden it goes! You can choose to simply lean it against a fence or siding, but I decided to mount it with a few nails through the vertical supports.
Give your vines a little hand getting started by weaving them through the bottom slats of the trellis. Soon they’ll take off and cover the entire piece with beautiful blooms! If you can’t decide what to plant, my post on choosing the best climbing vines should help!
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