Introduction: Fence Trellis Brackets

About: I build drums, make costumes, work on house projects/repairs, dabble in Genealogy, eat tacos, and work a real job for money.

Over the course of many years, I've been slowly expanding my backyard garden infrastructure. It started by planting directly in the ground in a back corner, which had insufficient sun exposure. This was fine for lettuce and parsley, which was what the pet rabbits wanted, but not much else thrived.

From there I switched to individual pots for more control over the soil and sun exposure. This year, I ramped up the operation following the removal of several trees in the neighbor's yard (sunlight) and dying bushes in my yard (space). Three raised beds, additional pots for herbs, and a composting bin.

We started with two squash plants in one of the beds, but of course they tried to take over the entire town ... then were killed by a combination of beetles and powdery mildew. For the second squash attempt, we decided to plant directly in the ground along a fence, which started out great ... then two of the plants turned out to be more of a spreading/climbing variety and were taking over the lawn

I decided the solution was to run them vertically, but that came with a few limitations.
1. The new wooden fence belongs to my neighbor and I don't want to fill it full or screw/nail holes.
2. This isn't a permanent planting location, so I didn't want to build a large trellis.
3. When I finally get a fence built, things will probably need to be moved around.

I had an idea for a nondestructive and easily removable fence bracket and what better way to use up shop scraps than building prototypes.


2 x 4 offcuts
1" dowel stock
1 1/2" stainless screws

Step 1: Dowel Lengths

I started by rounding up 1" dowel offcuts and cutting them to a standardized length using the small parts crosscut sled on the table saw.

Due to available material and saw kerf lossage, this ended up being 11 5/8" ... two came in at 10".

Step 2: Ripping Board Stock

For the board stock, I'm using up 2x4 offcuts, which would otherwise end up in a fire pit.

The blade was set to half the height of a board and fence to half a board width. Run one side - flip - run the other side.

I then ran all the boards through the drum sander to remove tooling marks. It's not necessary, but I have the sander and it's fun to use.

Step 3: Board Lengths

The crosscut sled and stop block was used to batch out 5" lengths. Minimal offcuts were tossed into the burn bucket.

Step 4: Boards Widths

These were then ripped down to 3" wide. I'm not sure why I chose this order instead of ripping first, but either way works.

Step 5: Hole Layout

Every board gets marked for a hole at 1 1/2" in from each long edge (the center of the board) and 1" in from each end grain/short edge.

Step 6: Hole Drilling

Each board received a 1" through hole on one end of the board using a Forstner bit. This was made easily repeatable by setting the fence on the drill press table and then clamping a speed square to the table.

I'd drill most of the way through from the first side, then flip the board to finish the hole from the opposite side in order to eliminate tear out.

At this point, the boards were split into two piles before drilling the second holes.

Front/adjustable boards get a 1/8" countersunk hole large enough for a stainless wood screw.
Back/fixed board get a 1/8" pilot hole.

Step 7: Assembly

Assembly is also quick and easy.

The 1"dowel is glued into the hole of the back board and pinned with two brad nails.

The front board is then slid onto the dowel. I used some scrap plywood to keep the parts from binding (and away form wet glue) as I ran/threaded the screw for the first time.

Since this is a test, I opted for no finish, but I'd probably use boiled linseed oil or shellac.

Step 8: Glamour Shots

The bracket just slips onto the top of the fence between two boards. Since this fence has dog-eared boards, the dowel nicely settles into the V recess.

The front board is pressed towards the back like a clamp and the screw, holds them in place.
Note: The screw runs between fence boards, so no destructive/unsightly holes.

I then ran a few loops of twine between the base of the plant and the dowel. Initially, I secure to bottom to the round with some wire steaks, but they kept backing out. I upgraded them to longer 2x4 offcuts, which were hammered into the ground. I think tent stakes would work nicely.

As the plants grew, I would thread them through the twine and for the most part, they didn't consume the fence. Towards the end of the season, a few did decide to grow over the fence, but the neighbors garden as well and didn't mind.

As a proof of concept, the idea works, but I have a few take aways:

1. The afore mentioned bottom stake upgrade is a must.
2. I only ran the twine vertically for each individual plant. I probably should've also run diagonals between each plant and a horizontal run across the top. This might've created more stability and grab-ons for the plants.
3. When I removed the brackets, I found that each one had become a home for a clan of earwigs. I didn't detect any damage to the fence because of this ... just a bit creepy. Not sure if I can resolve this .. maybe a section of foam dowel, but I'm not sure how that holds up outdoors.
4. One of the boards developed a crack and will eventually split in half. Probably no way of entirely avoiding that .. unless you use composite materials.

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