Vertical gardening is one of my favorite parts of gardening! The benefits of growing vertical vegetables are as numerous as the options available. Whether you’re gardening in containers, raised beds, or a ground bed, you can make vertical gardening work for you.
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In this episode of the Beginner’s Garden Podcast, I talk to the author of Vertical Vegetables, Amy Andrychowicz. You may recognize her as the writer behind the web site Get Busy Gardening. Amy is a zone 4b gardener in Minnesota, and she uses vertical gardening to both practically make the most of her small space and aethestically beautify her backyard patio and garden.
Click below to listen to our conversation or read the article below. Then make sure you grab your copy of Vertical Vegetables. It has quickly become one of my favorite gardening books.
Why is Vertical Gardening Important?
Vertical gardening is important for several reasons. It saves space so that even those with small yards can have a garden. It can prevent pest or disease problems. Growing vertically can also make your vegetables easier to harvest.
3 Ways Plants Climb up Vertical Supports
Some plants grow tendrils, like cucumber vines. They send side shoots out of the main stem that wrap around the trellis and hold on to grow vertically. Other plants, like pole beans, have twining stems and the whole stem holds onto and wraps around the support. Plants like indeterminate tomatoes that have long branches aren’t technically climbing plants but we grow these plants vertically by tying the branches to vertical supports and training them to grow up.
Best Trellis Ideas for Cucumbers
Cucumbers have tendrils that allow for climbing, and the main thing we have to consider is the weight of the vines and the fruit, plus the length of the vines. You don’t want to grow a cucumber vine on a tiny trellis because it will quickly outgrow it. You want something strong and tall. And although the cucumber vines do have tendrils that will help them climb, you will need to train the vines to grow up the trellis. Left on their own, they’d rather grow along the ground. An arch trellis or an A-frame is great for cucumbers and you have plenty of room underneath for other crops.
Best Trellis Ideas for Indeterminate Tomatoes
Indeterminate tomatoes have long, pliable branches that we can tie to a trellis. If you’ve grown them before, you know that they will quickly overtake a regular tomato cage. You want something very strong to hold the heavy fruit. It can be very fun to have an arch or A-frame so that they’re beautiful as well as functional. Here are some options for tomato trellises.
Best Trellis Ideas for Squash and Melons
Squash, melons, and pumpkins have similar growing habits and they are great to grow vertically. Even more than tomatoes and cucumbers, you have to think about the weight of the fruit. You need the strongest supports, like an arbor or arch. They have tendrils like cucumbers but they don’t like to climb so they must be trained to grow up. You may need to tie or clip them to the trellis as they grow. Some plants may need extra support with a hammock or to be tied up some other way.
How to Grow Non-Climbing Vegetables Vertically
Lettuce, herbs, strawberries, and even root crops can be grown vertically. Growing non-climbing vegetables vertically frees up space and can be beautiful in containers. They can be placed anywhere around your home to add function and beauty.
There are many creative ways to hang planters and place containers to grow up instead of taking so much space in your ground like this ladder planter above. This and many other unique designs can be found in Amy’s book, Vertical Vegetables.
Vertical Gardening FAQs
Can you plant vegetables closer together if you grow them vertically?
You can place vining crops growing on a support closer together than if they were growing along the ground. That’s one of the wonderful things about vertical gardening!
What vegetables will climb vs ones that need to be secured with twine or clips?
Crops that have tendrils, like cucumbers, or twining stems, like green beans, are good at climbing a trellis but you will still need to train these plants and may need to tie them until they grow well. Crops with long branches, like tomatoes or raspberries, will need to be tied to the trellis.
How can grow vertical vegetables on a budget?
One of the great things about vertical gardening are the DIY options. There are great plans that you can build from things around your home or that you find at a yard sale. Many of the ideas in Vertical Vegetables are budget-friendly and all include DIY step-by-step plans.
Can I grow lettuce and strawberries together in a hanging planter?
You’ll want to remember that strawberries come back every year while lettuce you need to replant each season. Companion planting lettuce and strawberries can work the first year, but you may not have the space to plant lettuce between established strawberry plants after that.
What plants grow well together (companion planting) in a vertical system?
Amy suggests planting vining crops, like peas and beans, on a trellis growing up while lettuce or carrots grow underneath. It is also beautiful to plant flowers under climbing crops, which also helps prevent pests.
What is the best way to irrigate vegetables grown vertically?
For more ideas, inspiration and step-by-step DIY vertical gardening projects, check out Amy Andrychowicz’s book Vertical Vegetables.
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