How Does A Verticle Vegetable Garden Work?

Getting Your Vegetables To Grow Up And Down

beans growing on trellisTraditionally a vegetable garden was planted in a square of soil in your yard, growing horizontally and set out in rows. Today's lifestyle calls for more creative ways to garden, minimizing space needed and ensuring that our vegetable gardens look and taste fabulous.

In a vertical garden, your vegetables grow up tall structures instead of along the ground in a traditional set out. This style of gardening allows keen gardeners to grow their vegetables when they only have limited space, to use vegetables to create a focal point in their garden by growing them up vertically (for the design buffs out there) or to even use vertical gardens to block out undesirable views or nosy neighbours.

Getting Started Growing Vertically

vertical garden - beans growing up bambooPreparation of your vertical garden

Remembering that most vegetables need at least six hours of sunshine, consider where you will plant your vertical garden. After locating a nice sunny spot you are ready to begin. If you live in an apartment your balcony will need a fair amount of sunshine and if you have a small yard then a south facing wall may be perfect for your vertical garden.

Vertical Structures to Hold Your Plants

A vertical garden needs a support structure to grow up. You can use trellis, tripods, pyramids, walls, fences or wire. If a plant can get a grip on it, you can use it for a vertical structure. You can also buy ready made arches or garden arbors if you want to create a focal point in your garden. Want to get creative? Use tree branches, bamboo poles, sunflowers, old ladders or cornstalks!

Always remember that your support structure needs to be strong enough to support what you are growing. Your vine plants are going to be laden with vegetables at the end of summer – you need to make sure that your aesthetically pleasing support structure doesn't come crashing down with all of your valuable produce halfway through the growing season. Use your common sense. Something like garden peas are going to put relatively little stress on a climbing structure while something heavier like tomatoes or squash are going to be considerably weighty.  

Securing Your Support Structure

Before you plant out your seeds or seedlings you should make sure that you have your climbing structure in the ground and secured. This will prevent you from damaging any of the new seedlings. Make sure that you have supports for your structure and that they are securely anchored. You may need to stake them directly into the ground, secure them with wire or twine or even attach them to a wall. If you are are growing your plants up a wall be careful that there is enough air circulation between the wall and the vertical support structure.

cucumbers growing verticallyPrepare the soil

Soil quality is very important and the quality of your produce will reflect the quality of your soil. Good soil preperation is imperative for good vegetables. Use a compost rich soil and mix it with perlite or something similar to promote good drainage. Make sure that your container is deep enough to accomodate your vegetable. Larger vegetables are going to need larger, sturdier containers. Don't limit yourself to pots bought from your nursery, get creative and use old crates, baskes, urns, coffee cans and wash tubs! If you don't have drainage holes in your container you will have to drill some in before adding your soil.

If you are growing directly in the ground make sure you have adequate drainage, that you have turned over your soil and composted as appropriate and that you have secured your vertical support structure efficiently.

Plant Out Your Vegetables

Planting your vegetables should be done according to the instructions. Just because you're growing in a container doesn't mean you can plant your vegetable more closely together. You can grow almost anything vertically as long as the container is large enough to accomodate your plant and your vertical stake is strong enough to hold it.

Look at your garden conditions. What is your climate like? How much sun will your plants be getting? Is the position in a sheltered or windy area? Choose plants to suit the conditions, or you will be disappointed. Remember if you're growing in containers you will need to water your plants frequently as they may be susceptible to drying out.        

Pointers On What To Grow

The easiest vegetables to grow are the vine varieties. These will naturally grow vertically and are easy to train in the direction you want them to grow. Beans, squash, cucumbers and peas are all easy varieties to include in your vertical garden. Winter squash and gourds grow well, but remember to have a strong support trellis to grow them on. Peas will climb almost anything and weigh relatively little. Pole beans are a great option, they grow effectively and taste great. Did you know Native Americans used to plant these with corn? The corn stalks acted as the support structure for the beans as they grew.

When growing winter squash or pumpkin wrap cloth or strips of pantyhose around each vegetable to give additional support and secure the fruit to the climbing structure. Don't use string – you may cut into the vine or the fruit and damage the plant. Your nursery will have twine specifically for this job but old pantyhose work just as well.

Melons work beautifully in a vertical garden, but again you must be sure to have a strong structure and secure the fruit to the support structure with pantyhose. For larger fruit you can make slings to help support the vegetables from old towels, torn up sheets or rags. The larger the vegetable the more support they are going to need.

Cucumbers are perfect for vertical gardens, natural climbers that need little encouragement to grow up a vertical structure, cage or trellis. Cucumbers will hang vertically from your plant, they are easy to harvest, care for and they taste great too.

Tomatoes are a plant, but they are easily trained up a vertical structure. Remember that they get heavy though, so you need to be sure that your support structure is secure and strong enough to hold the weight of a fully laden plant. Tie your branches to the support at regular intervals with pantyhose to help support your plant.  
Vertical gardening is rewarding and can take up very little space. So many vegetables lend themselves to growing vertically that you will be able to find something that suits your space, style and taste.




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