Vertical gardening is gaining in popularity among many gardeners. Smaller yards mean smaller gardens, and one way to maximize the space is to garden vertically when possible. Whether you are using trellises, fences or free-standing structures with pockets for planting, the amount of actual garden space needed is significantly less than if the same crop was grown the traditional way. Vertical gardening opens the door to growing more vegetables even if the only space you have is the patio or balcony of your apartment or condo. Plant vegetable seeds like pole beans or peas and let them grow up the wall or provide a trellis. These are vegetables that have traditionally been grown vertically, but there are other vegetables that are new to vertical gardening. Here are some of the best.
Tomato plants come in two categories: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes grow to a certain height and stop growing. Whatever fruit is set is all the plant will produce. These tomato plants do well with support from a tomato cage to keep them off the ground and supported vertically. An indeterminate tomato will continue growing until the weather turns cold or something else kills the plant. In the tropics where tomatoes are perennials, the plants can reach 25 feet long. Obviously, a tomato cage would be inadequate to support an indeterminate tomato. Traditionally, they were left to grow on the ground where they took a lot of space and were susceptible to disease and vulnerable to animals. Today, many gardeners are using a tall wire fence in the garden made with open weave wire like cattle or hog fencing. The wire is spaced far enough apart to allow the tomato stem to be tied to the wire as it grows. Tomato stems are strong enough to support the weight of the tomatoes even when growing vertically. The tomatoes are off the ground and in the sun. They are easy to pick as they are very visible and no bending is required.
Another advantage of growing vertically is that the gardener can try more varieties of tomatoes each season. There is renewed interest in heirloom varieties of tomatoes, many of which are indeterminate. Start tomato seeds indoors and you know you will have space for several heirloom tomatoes if you grow them vertically.
This is another vegetable traditionally grown on the ground taking up a great deal of space. Today, gardeners plant the vegetable seeds for regular cucumbers or pickles for canning on a vertical support. Again, it’s much easier and takes up so much less space in the garden for other vegetables to be grown.
3. Pole beans
If you love beans fresh from the garden and have always grown bush beans, you will be impressed with the amount of beans you can grow in the same amount of space by growing vertically. Let your beans grow over an arbor and the beans will be hanging right down in your face, waiting to be picked.
Plant your peas, which are an early spring crop, and follow with the pole beans on the same trellis. The peas will be finished by the time the beans are getting tall on the trellis.
This is a plant that you don’t usually associate with vertical growing, but it can be done very easily. Choose personal-size watermelons or grow smaller melons like cantaloupe. Don’t try to grow a family-size watermelon vertically as the weight will probably snap the melon from the vine before it is ready. Even the smaller melons will be safer if you make a hammock for them to sit in and take some of the weight off the vine. Attach the hammock to the trellis and your melon will be able to reach maturity while growing vertically.
Much like melons, pumpkins can be grown vertically if you limit your choice of pumpkin to the smaller sizes. Pumpkins also may benefit by having a hammock to support the weight of the pumpkin.
Besides the plants that are vining and can grow on a trellis or arbor, many more row crop vegetables can be grown if you invest in a vertical planter. Plant a strawberry plant in each compartment or plant vegetable seeds for a salad garden. Include lettuce, arugula and spinach for mixed salads. Let vertical gardening open the door to more vegetables fresh from your non-traditional garden.