How to Frugally Build a Bamboo Garden Trellis
My wife and I have an affinity for plants that spread. We love berry bushes. We love tomatoes. We love cucumbers and grapes and wisteria. Heck, if it has a vine we have a home for it. But as every gardener knows, at some point in time we have to gain control of our garden, or the darned plants will take over the entire property.
Last year, we planted gourds for the first time and oh my goodness . . . the little devils became what can only be described as an invasive species.
One thing I knew for certain is that we were not going to give up on our vines. So the only logical solution was to find a way to control them, and that is my introduction to the subject of bamboo trellises.
Bamboo Is Exceptionally Versatile
Bamboo is the ultimate in versatility as a building material. And unlike so many other materials you can buy at the gardening center, bamboo is renewable. It's also lightweight, flexible, and strong.
With proper care, bamboo can last 5 to 10 years and look great in just about any gardening scheme you have.
Oh yes, I love bamboo! And in this article, I'll show you how to use this wonderful plant to make your own trellis.
Create a Design That Works for You
When we are discussing trellises, one size does not fit all. That’s the problem with trellises that you buy at a store. They are all standard sizes, and most yards that I have seen need abnormal and not standard. So draw a design that works for you. Below, I will explain how to make a very simple tipi design, but you can literally make any size or shape trellis that you can imagine.
Take a look at your needs. Will your future vines be climbing vertically or horizontally? How much space do you need, and how many feet of trellis will you need? Draw a simple design with accurate measurements and then head outside and make your trellis.
Supplies Needed for a Bamboo Trellis
Chances are good that once you find some bamboo that you have everything you need already to make a great trellis. Here is what we use when we make our trellises:
- Several canes of bamboo
- Cord or twine for tying
- Hand saw
- Ruler or tape measure
Tip: Don’t buy anything! That is the first rule to follow if you want to be a frugal gardener. If you don’t have any twine, however, you can pick some up for about $2.50 for 100 feet, more than enough for these projects.
Please note that you do not need nails or screws. Bamboo does not handle nails well at all. We will simply be tying all pieces together. Easy peasy, my friends!
How to Make a Simple Tipi Trellis
This is the simplest trellis project that you can imagine, and it literally will take you a half hour max to complete it. Just follow these steps:
- Take three bamboo canes and cut to the same length. For ours, we use 6-foot lengths.
- Make notches about 1 inch from the end of each cane for the twine to fit into.
- Wrap twine around the end of the first cane.
- Put the second cane next to the first and wrap the same twine around the second, lashing it to the first.
- Put the third cane next to the first two and, again, lash them together.
- Tie off the loose end.
- Take the three canes and stand them vertically in your garden, and then spread the legs outward to form a tipi.
- Now take twine and wrap it around the tipi. Take the first strand and wrap it about one foot from the ground. The next strand will go 1 foot above that, and so on up to the top.
- Your trellis is completed.
This is a great design for tomatoes, beans, peas, and cucumbers. Once those vines grow to be 1 foot tall, they will grab hold of your twine and willingly do the rest of the work as they climb towards the sun.
Other Designs Work Well Too
The picture above shows a very simple box design that we use when the plant is young. We will be taking that down soon, since the berry bush is now in need of something bigger. But it's no problem, because we have a lot of bamboo to play with. The small one can obviously be used again, and you can bet we will do just that.
If you plant in rows, try a rectangle design that follows the rows. Cut your bamboo to 2-foot or 3-foot lengths for your vertical supports. Then tie long lengths of bamboo horizontally to those vertical supports.
The picture below shows another popular trellis design. I call it the “Fan,” and it is quite easy to make following these steps.
How to Make a Bamboo "Fan" Trellis
- Cut four or five bamboo canes to the same length, but at least 5 feet.
- On the end of all the canes, make grooves with a knife or saw so that your twine does not slip when you are tying it.
- Bring all the ends together and interlace the twine to tie them all.
- Now fan out the tops so they, in fact, resemble a fan.
- Tie cross supports horizontally every foot or so.
- You're done!
Where to Find Bamboo
Of course, you can go to a nursery or big box store like Home Depot and buy some bamboo. But for any frugal gardener, that is akin to buying a pre-built planter . . . it just isn’t done.
We were recently out running errands when we came across a homeowner who was giving bamboo away. We loaded up our car with over 50 bamboo poles, all at least 6 feet in length, and they were all free.
Walk around your neighborhood and chances are good that you have a neighbor with bamboo in their yard. Ask them if you can have some the next time they prune. Or ask for some cuttings and grow your own supply of bamboo poles. Bamboo grows like a weed—a 20-foot vertical weed—and it will grow that much during one summer from a small cutting.
The Battle Shall Be Won
The vines have fired the opening volley, but they will not win this war. I have a lot of bamboo and an equal amount of patience. Victory shall be mine!
Go get yourselves some bamboo and have fun. One of the things I like most about it is its versatility. If you can imagine it, then you can make it with bamboo.
If you are frugal, then give bamboo a try. If you are into the reusing of resources, then give bamboo a try. If you are into self-sufficiency and the natural look, then you really do owe it to yourselves to give it a try. Why pay exorbitant prices for store products when nature has provided for you for free?
Now strap on your helmet, grab your saw, and get out there and teach those vines who is boss!
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Bill Holland