Whether they come from grapes, beans, or sweet potatoes, vines have a tendency to creep along the ground at first. Later on, they desire to move upwards — mostly because as plants, they're drawn to a more consistent source of sunlight. Unfortunately, many small yards and gardens just don’t have a lot of space for creeping plants to scale. On top of that, not every trellis available in the home improvement store is going to fit the aesthetic of every garden.

The best solution to these problems is to make your own inexpensive trellis for your climbing plants. To do so, just follow these simple steps:

Evaluate Your Plants

an espalier tree growing along a garden trellis

Different plants require different trellising systems. Do your plants prefer to grow far apart but low or close together and high, more like a ladder? Do they tend to form a thick bush (which means the trellis will have to support a lot of weight), or do they tend to climb quickly and in a thin layer? These questions can all be answered by studying all the plants in your garden and learning more about them online.

Evaluate Your Space

The space you have and the look you hope to achieve will also help you determine the trellis that's best for your garden. Do you want a charming wooden trellis that will look pretty in an ornamental garden, or are you more concerned about making the least expensive trellis you possibly can? Think about how long you plan to let your vines grow before pruning them back, and make the appropriate measurements to make sure you don’t end up creating a trellis that dwarfs the rest of your space.

Choose the Materials You Need

Last but not least, you'll want to look into some of the different trellis materials that are available to you. One of the simplest, sturdiest, and least expensive is PVC pipe, which can be threaded with cattle panels, plastic mesh, or string to be made into a trellis. Of course, some materials will take longer to work with than others.

If you're shooting for a more ornamental trellis, look into used goods stores and vintage shops for things like glassless windows, which would allow plants to grow in and around their frames. You can also paint or stain these frames to create beautiful garden features, but this wouldn’t be appropriate if you were looking to prioritize space and strength.

Some other common trellis setups include:

— Cedar slabs set into a thicker cedar frame, close enough to create a bit of a fence but far apart enough to allow for plants to creep through the cracks.

— Plastic mesh with plastic brackets or wooden blocks to pin it in exactly the spots where you want plants to grow along your walls or fences. Mesh can also be independently strung onto PVC pipe frames, which themselves must be buried to a certain depth for sturdiness.

— Bike tires with strings running down to the ground where the seedlings are — inventive and recyclable!

— Old crib walls and ladders make great trellises for smaller climbing plants.

— Metal pipes (especially copper) make for great-looking trellises as long as you can cut them into pieces and fix them together. Keep in mind that this option can be pretty pricey, and that anyone looking to keep project costs down should do their best to stick to reusable/recyclable materials.

Construct and Compare as You Go

building a garden trellis

One of the best parts of making a trellis yourself is that you ultimately only need three things to do it: a solid structure, something flexible for your plants to latch onto, and a mechanism to keep it all standing when wind blows. If you consider the fact that those three things can all be easily shifted or changed, you'll see that you have a lot of options to work with, and if your original design choices turn out to be more flimsy or less harmonious than you expected, you can always make adjustments mid-build. As you construct, you'll also want to make sure that you are utilizing materials that won't rust or degrade in the rain (or at least that will not do so faster than you would like them to). This may mean galvanized nails and sealed wood, or it may mean twine lattices, even with the knowledge that re-weaving the twine may be necessary each and every year.

Make Modifications After a Season of Growing

garden trellis

As your garden mushrooms into life over the next few months, keep track of which parts of your trellis work and which don’t. Do you find that you want your bushy bean plants to be spread out over a bigger double trellis so that their beans are easier to pick? Would you enjoy a sturdier wooden trellis so you wouldn't have to worry about yours falling over in every thunderstorm? All of this information will help you figure out how to innovate and improve come next year's growing season.