Tee-Pee Trellis

Tee-Pee Trellis

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:: 04.09.08 ::

garden_teepeetrellissnow1This is the most popular page of my Garden Diary. There are a lot of you searching for help on how to build a trellis!  So I thought it was time I made an update for future visitors.  The trellis I built three years ago is still standing today. The bamboo poles have shifted out of line a bit, they aren’t perfectly straight anymore and some of them have small splits or cracks at the bottom, but nothing that would cause me to want or need to replace them.

I did have to replace the cotton string that wove around it since the vines that have grown on the trellis have torn and stretched the original string, but that’s a small repair and other than that it’s holding up just fine.

The trellis has lasted through some very windy, wet weather so I think after this amount of time we can officially call this project a success!  In fact, I’m still as much in love with my trellis today as I was when it first went up. It gives the garden a lot of charm, especially on a snowy day.

I hope you find what you are looking for here on this page. Good luck making your own trellis. I have a comments thread at the top of my homepage, let me know how your search is going.  Happy gardening everyone!

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:: 05.05.05 ::

A New Project

I wanted to plant some peas and cucumbers but I needed something tall that the vines could trail on, so I decided to build a trellis from scrap bamboo sticks. I saw a picture of a trellis on an old Wills Cigarette Card from 1923 and it reminded me of similar types of trellis supports I had seen in the past. I thought it looked cool and I didn’t have any extra money to buy anything fancy, so I decided to try to make it from what I had around the house. I didn’t have to spend any money at all so it was the perfect option!


I tried to find more specific instructions on how to build something like this but I couldn’t really find anything detailing the different ways to stake plants.

So without any specific instructions, just this little three inch card with an image, I set out to build this trellis just by looking at the illustration and from the basic info that was on the back of the card. It wasn’t really that hard. The only bad part was my tendency towards procrastination in making decisions each step of the way. I was afraid I was going to do something wrong, but then I just said to heck with it and started putting it together. This was completely experimental and time will tell how sturdy this thing turns out to be (crossing fingers it doesn’t collapse). I will make updates as the trellis goes through the growing cycle. We’ll see how long it stands, a few months or a few years.

So here is how I put mine together…see what you think, learn from my mistakes, then use your own creativity to build one that is right for you without spending any money!
garden_teepeetrellis_1I didn’t have any long tree limbs to use, as seen above in the card illustration, but my mom has a lot of bamboo growing behind her property so I decided to try and use that instead…which I think is probably better since bamboo will should last longer and be more sturdy than tree limbs would have been. My mom has been cutting back the bamboo and collecting some of the larger sticks for a while and she gave me a large bunch of dried ones that were completely weathered and ready to be used. I’m sure you could also use ones that have been fresh cut and are green. I was just lazy and took the ones she had already cut. Getting them in the car to take back to my house was not easy since most of the sticks were over eight feet long.

Once home, I inspected the sticks and began to notice that some of the bamboo was better than others. I sorted through them selecting the best ones without any splits or cracks.  Next I paired them up by length, tossing aside the ones that were too short or too long. I stored all the extras sticks to use later on something else.

Now I had to finally decide where I was going to put the trellis. Looking over the South side of the house where I get most of my sun, I settled on a spot and cleared the grass, weeds, dead leaves, and running vines from the area so that it was mostly bare soil.  Next I laid the bamboo out in the space to get a feel for how tall they were and how long I wanted to make the trellis.

Next I laid down two of the poles/sticks parallel to each other to mark the width and length of the area where I would build the trellis. I didn’t do any fancy measuring. I never have the patience for that! I just eyed it until it looked about right, trying to get it as straight as possible and an even width all the way down the length of the space.

garden_teepeetrellis_2I took a hoe and worked the soil loose in the middle of this spot. I had to pull out a lot of ground roots and runners under the soil. I even had to dig up an old tree stump! Leave it to me to pick the one spot where there is a hidden tree stump that has to be dug up and cut out of the ground!

Once all the debris was removed from under the dirt about five or six inches deep, I began building two side mounds by dividing the dirt in the middle and pulling it from the center to make a little hill on each side. This formed a trench in the middle.

Next, I laid all the sticks that I wanted to use in pairs out along the length of the trench. I spaced them out on the ground to see how far apart they might need to be and to determine how many pairs I would need total to make the trellis the length I wanted. This helped me get a feel for the spacing. This was a little tricky since I didn’t want to bother with exact measurements. I just spaced them by looking, about a foot apart, and ended up using nine pairs total. You could do more or less.

Step Four:  GET IT UP!
Once everything was arranged on the ground it was time to tie the poles together. I had one extra large bamboo cane that would go across the top and keep the trellis level and give weight to the sticks to keep them from moving around. The hard part of making this came as I was trying to get the large bamboo pole that went across the top to sit level on the sticks. This is a lot easier to do with two people, so find a helper if you can…don’t be stubborn like me and do it anyway because you can’t wait for someone to show up to help!  That’s why I don’t have pictures of this part, my hands were full in holding all the sticks!

garden_teepeetrellisI started pairing the side sticks together by putting up the third set of poles inward from each end pair. So that means, with a total of nine rows I started by first putting sets #3 and #7 into the ground. This allowed me to get the top bamboo bar level across both sets before adding the other sticks.

To put the sticks in the ground I just pushed them in at an angle towards each other. I pushed them as far down into the ground as I could get it. I didn’t worry whether or not the tops were exactly equal in length. I just let them taper off naturally without cutting them to make them all exactly the same. I didn’t dig any extra holes either. The ground was already soft where I had worked it so they went in pretty easy.

Once I got the first two sets of poles firmly in the ground I tied them together with cotton string so they wouldn’t move around. Later I went back over them with the thick root vine runners that I had pulled up from under the ground. This gave it a natural look and really made it sturdy. I just kind of wove them around in a playful manner crisscrossing them and tying knots here and there. I had to stand on a step ladder to reach the top where the sticks were tied…but I’m really short!


garden_teepeetrellis_3 garden_teepeetrellis_closeup2

Once I had sets #3 and #7 secure in the ground and tied together to the pole that went across the top, I repeated the process by adding sets #4 and #6 moving inward. I then put up sets #2 and #8 toward the outside. I put the middle set #5 up next and finished with the outer sets #1 and #9. When you first start tying the poles together around the top stick that crosses them, the structure feels a little wobbly, I was worried at this point that it was moving around too much, but as you add more sets of sticks, and tie everything together, it becomes more stable and is less likely to sway back and forth.

I had to step back away from it a lot and make sure that the sets were the same distance apart or that they were stuck in the ground at the same angle. There were a couple of times I had to re-adjust them after having tied them up…frustrating, but not a major disaster, and again probably a lot easier with a helper. Mine aren’t spaced perfect, but they were close enough for me!

The next thing I did was weave cotton string around the sticks/poles so that the pea vines would have some extra support in the middle spaces between the poles when they started to grow.  This also helped bind the poles together even tighter so that they didn’t shift. I just wrapped the string and tied it in a kind of basket weave going in and out from one pole to the next wrapping the string around each pole as I went down the row pulling it tight and working my way from the top to the bottom.

The next day I went back over the soil and defined the center trench again, pulling the dirt back into two nice mounds that went around the poles. I packed the dirt down hard to help further secure the poles in the ground. I also added compost and fertilizer to the mounds of dirt on each side of the trellis.

garden_teepeetrellis_closeup1 I took some old boards and placed them along the sides to mark a boundary between the growing area where I would put the plants and the walkway around the trellis (see below).  The dirt is raised slightly higher but not flush with the top of the board. This lets me run water for the plants along the outside edge and also in the center where the main trench will collect water.

To finish, I soaked the soil really good. Once the ground was wet, I layered double sheets of newspaper in the center of the trellis. I overlapped the seams of the paper bringing them up just past the bamboo sticks. I probably put down about five layers total. Once all the paper was down I filled the center trench with straw. This acts as mulch and will keep weeds from growing in the center area. It also holds in moisture to keep the soil from drying out. Later it can be dug out and added to the compost or fresh mulch can just be added on top.



garden_teepeetrellis_4 garden_teepeetrellis_5

Finally came the time to set out cucumbers and peas! When the plants begin to grow I will also mulch around the bottom of the plants to keep them moist.

I am very happy with my new trellis…especially since it didn’t cost me anything to build!

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  2. Kelly Carron Says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your idea. I thought it was great! But unfortunately I have no bamboo around but still enjoyed your all your hard work!

  3. Deirdre Says:

    Hi Kelly…

    Thanks for the note…this trellis finally came down in 2010 and I need to build another one. Cucumbers and peas really grew well on it. If you were in the DFW area I could give you a truckload of bamboo we have more than enough! Use tree limbs and make a smaller one, it will still work great and isn’t that hard to build. Good luck with your garden.

  4. ram Says:

    firstly i thank you ,

    I as searching for such a guidance

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  6. Jacqueline @ Deeprootsathome.com Says:

    I don’t know if you ever link-up, but I would love to ask you to consider adding this to the ‘EOA’ link-up at Deeprootsathome.com tonight or tomorrow. this is so well done, and I would like to see more posts on gardening there. Thank you!

  7. Stephen P Says:

    I like your work. Much thanks.

  8. Susan Says:


    If you were in the DFW area I could give you a truckload of bamboo we have more than enough! I live in Carrollton, TX. A coworker has periodolicy been giving me some bamboo, about five 8′ to 10′ poles at a time. I can definitely use more.

    My husband is a firm believer that cantaloupe should be grown on the ground. Even though our (my) garden is 25′ x 37′, I don’t have the space to grow them on the ground. Last year, I planted them along our 6′ wood fence that I had attached some concrete wire mesh to. Had to rotate this year and they have overgrown my 3′ rabbit wire fence. I have built one trellis so far on a 9’3″ section similar to what you did, but it is one-sided as I had exiting t-bar posts in place.

    Long story short, if you still have some bamboo that you want to get rid of let me know. Hopefully you don’t live to far away. By the way I can pickles and will be willing to trade some for the bamboo.

  9. Cheryl Ann @ Pretty Charmed Says:

    Hi, Deirdre! Love this trellis, love the way you built it and the bed around it. I have all sorts of gardens around my house and love to experiment and plan on building something just like this. Also love the old card with the pictures of trellis’ and want to make one like the other one pictured, too! Found this on Pinterest. Any new gardening ideas from this year?

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  11. Damian D Says:

    TO COOL sending from Pensacola FL I really like your idea and will be doing one asap i just put up a 5 pole tepee and it is my first time growing pees WISH U HAD PIC OF THE PEES GROWING ON YOUR TRELLIS OK THANK U FOR A GREAT IDEA.GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY

  12. cheryl bunn Says:

    This looks wonderful, I am doing a garden in 2013. Its been years since the last one. But I have been helping a friend in her garden for 2 years. Got the bug really bad this year. Sooooooo here I am, thanks again.

  13. cheryl bunn Says:

    This is the first time in years I have wanted a garden. Thanks for the help.

  14. Jake M. Says:

    I think what you did was really great….mind you..we have bamboos here but I don’t know if I have lots of patience to do what you did…But I will try…your’s is very helpful…Thanks much..

  15. Deirdre Says:

    Thanks everyone for your kind comments…I need to keep updated of my own blog more often and try to resurrect it. I have new projects planned for this coming year and would love to share the process with everyone. Hope all your gardening is going well. Take Care!
    SUSAN if you’re still around (or anyone else near DFW) and want bamboo sticks just email me and let me know how to get in touch with you. We always have plenty, it’s just a matter of cutting it down: deirdre(at)deirdrepope(dot)com

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