This week the Growing NOW Garden Tour is growing UP with vertical gardening tips. In my garden and throughout my community the vertical growing trend has caught on! Think you don’t have enough room for gourds, cucumbers, runner beans, or strawberries? Well, you may want to rethink that! Follow along as we visit several gardens, see how typical flat surfaces can easily be modified, and learn some practical ways to keep your vertical crops healthy. It’s practical, fun, and offers a host of new growing experiences.
Why Vertical Garden?
Why would you want to vertical garden? Most gardeners can easily see the space saving benefits of vertical gardening, but vertical gardening offers a host of other benefits. Growing vertically …
- Requires less time and energy to prepare the soil.
- Allows for a greater variety of plants in a smaller space.
- Cuts down on the square footage that requires weeding (a huge bonus!).
- Reduces the time/space needing water.
- Improves the overall health of your crops by improving air circulation which cuts down fungal growth.
- Creates a natural screening for privacy or aesthetic purposes.
One of my all time favorite vertical growing projects is this simple DIY trellis made of 2 x 1″ cedar, mounted in the center of my 4′ x 6′ raised bed. This season I’m growing birdhouse gourds. I’ve always wanted to grow gourds, but didn’t think I had the space. This raised-bed-plus-trellis approach allowed me to grow shallots and beets earlier in the season, once I harvested those my gourd vines began climbing the trellis.
I won’t lie, growing gourds vertically takes a bit of management. To insure the gourds received proper sun and air circulation the distance between the slats is approximately 10 inches. With a distance that wide, I need to guide the vines to make sure they wrap around the supports. I also adhere many of them to the slats with florist tape.
(Other gardeners use twine or clips. I’ve tried all three and have the best luck with florists tape. When I used clips, the vines grew too big and popped open the clips. When experimenting with twine, I found that after a storm I had more broken vines with twine than with florist tape. Your experience may be different.)
If the thicker vines are properly supported, once the fruit begins maturing the vine connected to the fruit will thicken and strengthen on its own.
Most squash will not need additional support. However, there is always the exception to the rule! If you fear your fruit is getting too heavy for the vine to support, you can make a sling from mesh fabric or even women’s hosiery. If your neighbors aren’t already interested in your growing project, they will be now!
I also need to keep an eye on my vines to make sure they stay in their place! I recently came home from vacation and saw my vines getting a little too friendly with my beans.
While it looked a little creepy with the vines sprawling into other areas, it wasn’t a hard fix. A quick snip of some of the tendrils freed the vines. I then adhered them back onto their proper trellis. It’s inevitable that your garden will languish while you’re home ready and able to take care of it. Then the moment you leave for vacation it somehow finds a burst of energy!
Fun & Easy Vertical Gardening
If you’re interested in growing vertically here are a few simple and efficient ways to get started.
Build A Portable Trellis
Using a basic grid design, we built this simple trellis out of cedar. The slats are also 2 x 1″. We built two panels and hinged them together. Last year I successfully grew small sugar pie pumpkins on this trellis. This year I’m growing lemon cucumbers. I love this trellis for its sturdiness and flexibility. I can open it as wide as I need and also move it around my yard. During the past winter months I stored it in my garage. But this year I’ll be leaving it out and using it as a support for bird feeders and other items of winter interest.
My community sponsors an incredible garden classroom. The school staff and students have created a beautiful growing space. I love these bean tents! They’re supported by poles lashed together with sturdy twine. The other day I saw the garden being visited by young children….the kiddos loved the bean tents! They make perfect summer hide-outs or story time nooks. If you’re garden is visited by small children, a sturdy bean tent may be just what you need!
We have another teaching garden across town that is tended by our local extension Master Gardeners program. Their bean tent may not be quite as whimsical, but it still boasts sturdiness and practicality. Made of natural branches it supports a healthy mass of runner beans that look delicious!
Arbors are always a delight in a garden, but there’s no need to spend hundreds of dollars. A simple, sturdy metal frame can provide amazing vertical interest. These morning glories grow in our school garden. They make a wonderful statement of natural beauty.
Vertical Gardening Tips & Tricks
Growing vertically isn’t difficult. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you successfully garden UP:
- Keep it simple. Start with a basic structure and make sure that it’s sturdy enough to support the vine and fruit you desire to grow.
- Always begin with soil that drains well and contains a lot of organic nutrients.
- Keep an eye on your vines. While many vines such as morning glories and runner beans will naturally climb vines, others such as gourds, cucumbers, and pumpkins will need a little assistance.
- Handle the vines carefully. Broken vines can compromise the health of your plants.
Some great veggie vines to consider growing vertically include:
- Cucumbers, Malabar spinach, sweet potatoes, & pole beans (these need light support)
- Gourds, melons, pumpkins, zucchini and other squash (Will require sturdier support and the fruit may need to be supported)
Thank you for engaging in this week’s Growing NOW Garden Tour. If you grow vertically, we’d love to know. Please leave a comment below or share photos of your growing endeavors on Twitter or Instagram at #GrowNOW2015
Keep growing up!