Growing Plants Vertically

Growing Plants Vertically

If your garden feels cramped and crowded, take advantage of vertical space. It is healthier for vining plants to climb upward into the air and sunlight than to sprawl on the damp earth.

Reasons to garden vertically:

  • Fruit is cleaner and less susceptible to damage from rotting, insects, and slugs.
  • More air and sunlight reach the plants.
  • Cultivating and harvesting are easier.
  • Requires less space.
  • Yields are generally higher.
  • Creates a shady garden spot.
  • Provides a framework for plant coverings.
  • Allows more efficient watering.
  • Makes monitoring and managing pests easier.
  • Earliest, cleanest, and longest-lasting harvests

The simplest of all plant supports are stakes or poles. Drive them into the soil near the base of a plant and the vines instinctively latch onto them. Tie tall or heavy plants to the stakes to support them. Then prune the excess growth at the top.

Use three to six or more poles to make a tepee. Sink them at least 1 foot into the ground and lash them together at the top. Not only does this create a sturdy and attractive structure for vining plants to climb up, but it also provides a cool and shady nook underneath in which children can nap, read, or hold tea parties. Leave one section between poles unplanted for easy access.

Garden centers offer a variety of wooden, bamboo, and manufactured stakes, or you can make your own from scrap lumber, pieces of metal or PVC pipe, or other rigid materials.

Tepee Trellises

Tepees make excellent supports for beans, peas, and tomatoes, and for heavily fruited crops such as melon and squash. To build one, you will need three to six poles -- thin ones for flowers or lightweight plants,stouter ones for heavily fruited crops. Cut the poles 10 to 12 feet long so you can sink them 1 to 2 feet into the ground. Use twine, raffia, or strips of rawhide or cloth to lash poles together near the top. Pull the poles into a tight bundle, wrap the twine around the bundle a few times, and tie it snugly. Prop the bundles over the planting area, positioning the bottom ends so each pole will support one or two vines. Thicker poles are heavy enough to be freestanding.

Fence Trellises
Drive a post at each end of a row and place other posts in between where needed. String with twine, wire, netting, or wire mesh and you have a fence-type trellis. Fences over 20 feet long should have an extra post installed every 10 to 12 feet. By attaching cross arms to the end posts and running wires between them, you can convert the simple fence trellis into a double fence or clothesline trellis that can support two or four lines instead of just one.

Another simple and efficient method of containing sprawlers is with a cage. Cages can be nailed together from scrap 1 x 2 lumber or made with sturdy wire mesh. Bend the mesh into shape and arrange it over transplants such as tomatoes and cucumbers. Round or square cages, 2 to 3 feet in diameter and 3 to 4 feet high, will both contain and support a variety of vines.

Construct an A-frame trellis of lightweight lumber -- 1 x 2s or 2 x 4s. Wire mesh fencing, garden netting, or vertically or horizontally strung wire or twine will serve as the plant support. You can design an A-frame in any dimensions, but it must be of manageable size if it is to be portable. Both sides of this versatile trellis are used, and it can be made sturdy enough to support heavy crops such as gourds and pumpkins.

— from The Big Book of Gardening Skills by the Editors of Garden Way Publishing
illustrations by Ann Poole and Elayne Sears

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