Do you wish you could grow a vegetable garden, but you’re stuck with a small outdoor space? Even if you have a patio or apartment balcony, you can make the most of your small space garden by growing up–not out. If you don’t have a lot of space and want to grow fresh produce in your home or small space, try vertical gardening! This is a great way to maximize the space you do have.
Vertical gardening can cut down on your grocery bill, give you a fun summer project, and help you create an outdoor space that is not only practical, but beautiful.
I started vertical gardening when I lived in the middle of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and only had a small city lot. I’ve since moved to an acreage just outside of the city, but I still prefer to use vertical gardening techniques because they make gardening easier and more beautiful.
If you’re interested in vertical gardening, read on for the best plants for vertical gardens and tips and tricks from my experience using this technique!
Good Vegetables for Vertical Gardening
Not just any vegetable is a good candidate for vertical gardening on trellises. While there are ways to take almost any plant up, only a few types of vegetables benefit from a trellis. Here are six vegetables that you can grow up a trellis.
Any size of pumpkin can be grown on a trellis. However, depending upon whether you’re planting in a raised bed, in-ground or in a pot on your deck will determine the type of variety you should plant.
If you’re planting in a pot, you’ll want to grow your pumpkin in as large a pot as possible (preferably one around 2 feet in diameter), and you’ll want two varieties like Jack Be Little, Jill Be Little, or Baby Boo. Growing in a raised bed or in-ground, you can grow almost any pumpkin you’d like.
If you’re new to planting pumpkins, here’s what to do: make a small hill and put three seeds in that hill. Hopefully, all three will germinate from there, but sometimes only one does. For smaller varieties of pumpkins, it’s fine to leave all three if they all germinate. However, thin your seeds to one if you choose a larger variety like Cinderella (Rouge Vif d’Etampes or Galeux d’Eysines).
Squash can be grown vertically in the same way as pumpkins. However, more varieties of squash are specifically bred for container gardens. If you’re in a situation where you’re only gardening in pots, look for varieties such as Small Wonder Spaghetti Squash or any variety that says “good for containers” on the seed packet.
Zucchini doesn’t normally grow as well vertically (at least in my experience). However, I have seen people grow zucchini up through a tomato cage, which has worked well for them. I have also successfully grown regular butternut squash on a trellis.
3. Indeterminate Tomatoes
If you’re new to growing tomatoes, there are two types: indeterminate, which have vines that grow to an indeterminate length, and determinate, which are bush varieties that will usually grow no taller than 4 feet (and often shorter). Indeterminate tomatoes do well on strings. You can clip them up with little clips or wind the vines around the string. To save space, it’s easier to prune the tomatoes, so you have just one lead vine, but you don’t have to. See how I clip my tomatoes in this video.
Cucumbers are easy to grow vertically, no matter what situation you have them in (pots, raised beds, or in-ground). I have used an a-frame trellis which my husband made for me, and I really liked it. I grew spinach underneath it, and it was shaded out and didn’t bolt as fast. I’ve also grown cucumbers on a string trellis and just wound them up the string. I’ve even grown cucumber vines on pallets (which is the cheapest possible trellis you can use).
Both sweet peas and regular-eating peas are excellent candidates for growing on a trellis. Whether you grow them up a chicken wire frame, string, netting, or whatever apparatus you have, they will easily climb up. I often grow Homesteader peas, though most pea varieties grow very similarly, in my experience.
P.S. Make sure to cover tender pea sprouts from the birds, as birds love your young peas as much as you do!
6. Vining Beans
There are two different types of beans: vining beans and bush beans. I normally grow bush beans, but the one vertical variety I do like is Scarlet Runner because it has beautiful flowers. More often than not, the vining varieties are grown for dry beans.
If you want beans for fresh eating, watch the seeds advertised in the seed catalogues so you’re growing what you want. Blue Lake is a pole bean that I’ve grown for fresh eating. I would also suggest Snowstorm and Firestorm, which can be grown for dry beans or fresh eating.
Looking for seeds? You can find many varieties listed above (and more) online at West Coast Seeds!
What do you need to vertical garden?
To begin vertical gardening, you can go as cheap or as expensive as you desire. On the more economical side, you can use free pallets. To encourage vines to grow up, you can use chicken wire on a wooden frame. You can also use string, twine, or any found object with places for a vine to climb. On the less economical side, you can invest in sturdier metal arches and trellises in frames and foldable shapes. The sky is the limit!
Here are some options to get you started:
- nylon trellis
- small cucumber trellis
- larger cucumber trellis
- a good option for pumpkins
- foldable and easy to store
Can any plant be grown in a vertical garden?
Yes and no. If you’re planting with traditional vertical gardening methods, you’ll have to stick to vining types of flowers. However, in recent years with products like the tower garden, vertical gardening is available for root vegetables and leafy greens, which traditionally are less common to grow vertically. The other nice thing about the tower garden is that you can easily bring it inside in winter. If you have decent light sources, you can grow indoors all winter!
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How can I grow non-vining plants vertically?
As mentioned above, the tower garden is an excellent option for growing non-vining plants vertically. Lettuce, kale, strawberries, and anything you can’t grow up a trellis can be grown in the tower garden. Sometimes you’ll see lettuce and things growing on a living wall online. Unless you live in a house with amazing southern exposure, the pockets are incredibly deep, or you’re growing air plants, this does not work for cold climate short-season gardeners like me in Zone 3, Saskatchewan.
For indoor vertical growing specifically, check out Click & Grow. Try the Smart Garden 27 or the Wall Farm Indoor Vertical Garden for vertical options, and use SHIFTINGROOTS10 for 10% off your purchase! For a more economical option, try the Smart Garden 3 or 9!
What are the pros and cons of a vertical garden?
I can’t really think of any cons in growing a vertical garden, so let’s talk about the pros. For one, if you’re in a smaller space, you can easily grow more vegetables than with traditional gardening methods. You’re also giving other plants shade by having some taller vertical structures. In a balcony situation, you can use vertical gardening to strategically give yourself more privacy.
And, finally, vertical gardens are beautiful. One of my favourite features in my yard is the archway between two of my raised beds, where I grow pumpkins or cucumbers every year. There’s also nothing like walking down the beautiful path of my high tunnel of ripe tomato plants. Happiness indeed!
For more about vertical gardening, check out the book Vertical Gardening: Grow Up, Not Out, for More Vegetables and Flowers in Much Less Space by Derek Fell.
If you liked this blog post, find me on Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram for more cold-climate vegetable gardening tips, delicious recipes, and cut flower goodness! I also make weekly videos over on my YouTube channel. I hope to see you there!
P.S. If you love the content I create for Shifting Roots, consider joining our community on Patreon. Your support means the world to me and I am grateful for each and every one of you!
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