Trellises are not expensive balcony garden design materials to purchase, but cheaper trellises are not organic and often are not pleasing to the eye. There are many more expensive trellises that are beautifully intricate, but you may want to save a few bucks and make your own trellis with an organic feel. To read about the container plants that you can grow up trellises, read "Balcony Container Gardening Design: Using Climbing Plants."
To make your own trellis, you can either purchase bamboo sticks at your local garden shop or go to a local park (or a friend or family member’s house) where you can collect some fallen branches. You will need at least five straight sticks, but you can find one long branch and snap it or cut it to the correct size. You can make this trellis as small or as large as you’d like, so the sizes are up to you. If your plant container is too small for the trellis, though, the trellis may tip the container over, especially on a windy day.
Once you’ve collected all of your sticks, bring them home and cut them to the size you’d like all the pieces to be (see the blueprint below for measurements). You can use wire, twine, string or a natural-colored yarn to tie the sticks together. For extra security, you can use Super Glue or a hot glue gun to secure the sticks together before using the wire, twine, etc. Once the glue has dried, set the trellis into an empty plant container and fill it with potting soil. Once you have the trellis in place just how you like it, make sure that it is not too heavy for the plant container. Bamboo is lightweight and will not be too heavy for most containers. Then place your plant container where you’d like it and place in some plants or seeds that will eventually climb their way up the trellis. You may need to secure the plant to the trellis to train it to grow up.
The whole setup time for your new DIY trellis can be less than a half an hour.
Do realize that a trellis made from found branches or sticks will not last forever. It is best used with climbing annuals, such as morning glories, rather than perennials that will stay in your balcony garden for years, such as English ivy. It will need to be replaced often (perhaps once a year) because the wood in the soil will rot, and the rest of the wood will become brittle and may crack easily. Remember that the wood trellises at your local garden shop have been treated to withstand the elements (rain, heat, dry air, sun, etc.) and it should be sterile, meaning that these should not bring disease or pests into your balcony container garden. When you collect wood from a park, it is possible that you may bring in disease or insect pests. This is why those inexpensive bamboo sticks (you can make two or three small trellises or one large trellis for less than $3) are best to use for a DIY trellis. The bamboo could potentially last for 10 years or more in the balcony container garden, and it will also not bring in insect pests or diseases.
To make the trellis pictured above in this article folllow this blueprint.
- Purchase two 60-inch-long bamboo sticks
- Cut one 36-inch piece. This will be the long middle section of the trellis.
- Cut three 24-inch pieces. Two of these pieces will branch outward from the middle of the 36-inch piece. The last 24-inch piece will attach to the other 24-inch pieces and across the vertical 36-inch piece as a horizontal support.
- Cut one 12-inch piece. This will be a horizontal support attached to the two 24-inch pieces.
- Tie the pieces together according to the blueprint, using yarn, string, wire or twine.
Making a Branch Trellis Last Longer
If you want to make a branch trellis last longer, you can purchase clear lacquer made to coat wood so it can last outdoors in your container garden. You can purchase a spray lacquer. Follow all precautions to apply it safely and correctly, and let it dry completely before exposing it to any soil or plants. As with any chemical spray, apply it at a friend’s house or somewhere where the spray cannot blow away in the wind and perhaps harm your other plants. If you do use a spray on the balcony, shut all windows and doors so that the fumes enter your apartment. You may also want to bolt the pieces together instead of tying them. This will make the trellis more sturdy throughout the years.
Have fun with your DIY stick trellis project! If you decide to try it, post some pictures of it to BalconyContainerGardening.com’s Facebook page.