By Sargent’s on 2nd’s Cathy Hanson
One obstacle many urban gardeners face each season is having enough space to plant all the fresh vegetables they wish to grow. The simple technique of growing vertically is a great way to expand your growing space without a lot of work. Vertical gardening can be anything from training one or two of your vegetables to grow upward in the garden, to creating an elaborate structure with a frame.
Any space you have available for gardening will be better utilized if you take advantage of growing your plants upward instead of outward. Research has shown that growing plants vertically can actually increase yields in vining crops. When you get plants off the ground you increase sunlight and improve air circulation around them which can help prevent fungal diseases. Veggies that are not lying on the ground will be cleaner and less likely to rot. Vegetables that are grown vertically will also be easier to see and easier on your back when picking.
Use bamboo teepees, sticks, chain link fence, wooden or metal trellises, obelisks, metal stakes and cattle paneling or any combination of these, to create a space-saving vertical garden. Choose your support structure based on the type of plants you want to grow on it. Large tomato plants will require more sturdy structures than a flimsy vine. Some plants will need to be fastened to the support structure, for example tomatoes and squash. Install the support at or before the time of planting so you are less likely to damage roots.
Almost all vining crops can be grown vertically with the exception of large watermelons, pumpkins and Hubbard squash. Summer squash, when trained on a trellis will produce along the vine, when on the ground it only produces towards the end of the vine. Winter squash stems will grow stronger with the weight but be sure and use strong mesh wire for support. Pole beans will actually produce 3x as much as bush beans when grown vertically. Cantaloupe should be harvested as soon as it is ripe or it will fall off the vine to the ground.
By using the space you already have prepared for your garden but adapting it by adding some supports you can maximize your growing area to get more abundant harvest.