Vertical Gardening – More Vegetables Using Less Space

pole bean tepee

Gardening on a Trellis is a great way to save space, whether it be in your garden, porch or container grown vegetables.

Trellis grown plants still need about the same number of square square feet for your vines, but, now they are taking up vertical space and not sprawling over valuable garden space.

Many crops require little effort and only light supporting materials to hold them up. Beans and peas for example.
Other vine plants like tomato’s, squash, cucumbers, melons require a strong trellis secured well to your containers or post in your garden. Keep in mind that a free standing trellis covered with vines catches a lot of wind during storms and required substantial attachments to poles deep in the ground.

Trellis materials can be anything from twine secured between two or more bamboo sticks {small wood post}. They can be free standing or secured to your house, garden shed or fence. Larger decorative trellis can be made from lattes purchased from your local hardware store. Lattes commonly comes in 2ft X 4ft, 4ft X 4ft or 4ft X 8ft sizes.

wall mounted trellis

They are made of light weight wood or now days more commonly will be plastic and comes in many colors, white or green being the most common colors. Being light weight wood or plastic they are easy to work with cutting them to any size or special shape you may need.

Stronger larger trellis can be erected using livestock {cattle or hog] panels. Cattle panels are 52in tall X 16ft long and hog panels are 34in tall X 16ft long. They are constructed from heavy steel 6 or 4 gauge welded wire. These panels are not as pleasing to look at but will last 20 years or more, are easy to erect and to store at the end of your gardening season.
An easy way to erect these panels is using three T-Post driven into the ground. One on each end and one in the middle of a long panel. Secure to the post using steel wire or strong plastic wire ties.

general use trellis

Securing you vines to your trellis can be accomplished using many different materials. Old bread bag wire ties, string{twine}, loosely secured plastic wire ties. My choice is to cut up old pantyhose into 2 inch wide strips. It’s easy to work with, cheap, strong and seldom will it damage your vines. Don’t skimp on using vine ties, you need more than you may think you need. As vines get larger and when fruit appears, there is a lot of weight that must be secured to your trellis.

What and how you build your trellis is only limited by your imagination. Recycle chain link fencing, old field fence. Small light weight trellis can be made using limbs you prune from trees, bamboo, twine, wire. Anyway your getting this picture in your mind, right?

As a side note: I don’t know why, but, it is easier to get your vines to climb a trellis when it is located on the east side of your north/south rows or on the south side of plants in east/west rows.

University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science “said” Growing vegetables upright not only saves space, but makes harvesting easier. You don’t have to stoop to cut fruit from the vines.

Upright vegetables can also be grown on fences to hide ugly chain link ones, or to screen undesirable views.

Pole beans (make sure you don’t get the bush varieties) will climb up just about anything, even other plants. Native Americans used these in their traditional “three sisters” plantings of beans, corn, and squash or pumpkins. The corn stalks provided support for the beans, and the pumpkins (or other squash) provided a ground cover or living mulch. Just make sure if using this method to give the corn a head start, or the fast growing beans won’t have anything to climb!

Pole beans can be grown on bamboo teepees, trellises, or over an arbor. The scarlet runner bean is old fashioned, and has attractive red flowers. There is even a variety of this bean with yellow leaves. Pole beans add a vertical accent, and they keep producing longer than bush beans.

Gourds, melons, pumpkins and winter squash have very long vines up to 25 feet for the gourds and up to 10 feet for squash.
Heavy fruits of winter squash, such as butternut, should be individually supported by cloth twine (strips of used panty hose works great) tied to the trellis or fence on which the vines are trained. For tying these and other vertical crops to their supports, avoid string which can cut into stems.

Melons and pumpkins can be grown similar to winter squash, and their fruit similarly supported with cloth twine or even slings made of old towels, sheets, or rags.

Cucumbers (the traditional vining types, not the bush types) can also be grown up a trellis or A-frame structure. You can also make a cage of the heavy wire used to reinforce concrete. This will be quite strong, stand up on its own, and support the weight of the vines. You can also use cages of wide mesh fencing, only this will need additional support such as wooden stakes or iron rods.

If using bamboo stakes, decorative rods, or the rusty colored iron rods, make sure and purchase “cane toppers”. These can be plastic or ceramic function to protect your eyes when working around poles ans stakes.

Peas are a favorite early season, upright crop suitable for the vertical garden. Choose the edible pod or snow peas that produce longer vines than most shelling, or English peas. And since they produce early in the season during cooler weather, combine them with later maturing vines such as beans or cucumbers. Or you may sow peas again in late summer for a fall harvest.

Tomatoes that have stems that keep growing, the indeterminate varieties (check the seed packet or description for this feature) perform much better grown upright than sprawling over the ground where the fruits can be damaged by disease and insects.

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