Vertical gardening is a method of growing crops up a fence, trellis, or wall. Plants can be grown from the base of a garden bed or straight from the ground.
Vertical gardens have many advantages:
- They save space, so they’re particularly useful in small gardens
- They help keep disease at bay by allowing vining plants to climb up a wall rather than spread over the damp ground with little air circulation
- They can help shade other crops that need less sun; just make sure the directional orientation is correct before installing them!
- They help prevent certain pests that aren’t vertical crawlers
- They can allow plants to be within arm’s reach for individuals who are unable to garden in a traditional way
There are several ways to create vertical gardens: many people use a combination of frames, fabric, and mesh. Read on for instructions on how to construct your own vertical planters!
Stakes are one of the easiest ways to support plants
Difficulty level: Easy
Good for: tall or heavy plants, especially tomatoes
Simply drive stakes into the soil near the base of plants (or, plant seedlings after installing the stakes so as not to disrupt the roots).
Tie plants to stakes to support them. Tomato stems are delicate so use cloth strips or pieces of panty hose to tie them to the stake
Note that for optimal growth there should be two types of ties. One should support the plant at the base and middle of the stem. The cloth should be wrapped around the stem and then lashed in a figure-eight to the support. The other type of tie should direct the top food of the tomato stem upwards. Loop the cloth gently under two side stems and tie the rest of the cloth securely to the support.
Difficulty level: Easy
Good for: tomatoes
How to:Plant seedling in a row
Drive eight-foot stakes one to two feet into the ground near seedlings – every two seedlings or so “sandwich” your seedlings between a double-wrap of the twine around each pair of posts. That is, begin and end the first run of the twine on the same side of each post, about a foot from the ground. Then string the twine on the opposite side after rounding the second post. Repeat the wrapping another six inches above the first one. Depending on how tall you predict your plants to grow, continue the wrapping process in six inch increments until they reach the predicted height of the plants
Teepee trellises are used in Three Sisters Gardens
Difficulty level: Easy
Good for: beans, peas, tomatoes, and heavily fruited crops such as melons and squash
Acquire three to six poles (choose the weight based on how heavy your plants are) at 10 or 12 feet long
Sink them one to two feet into the ground
Pull the poles into a tight bundle at the top and use strong twine to lash the poles together
If you’d like, leave one section between the poles unplanted to leave a space for easy access to the crops or to provide a space for a child to play
Difficulty level: Medium
Good for: sprawling plants like tomatoes and cucumbers
You will need:
- a roll of concrete mesh
- bolt cutters
- slip-joint pliers
- Decide on the desire diameter of your cage For a cage with a diameter of 5’, measure 5’ along the side of a wire role.
- Cut with bolt cutters so that one vertical edge of the meshpanel has wire “fingers”. The other vertical side should simply have a vertical wire running along the edge; fingers should not be exposed.
- Next, cut off the bottom edge of the panel so that, again, in the absence of the edge the “fingers” are exposed. These are the spikes that will anchor the cage in the ground.
- Now back to the side “fingers”. Slip the screwdriver ½” over each side “finger” and use the leverage of the handle to bend the fingers into hooks.
- Then, starting at the top of the cage, draw the hook around the other side of the mesh panel (the non-finger side). The top finger/hook should now be hooked around the top of the vertical wire. Clamp the hook shut with pliers.
- Continue down the rest of the cage this way.
- When complete, the cage will be heart-shaped.
- Place the cage on its side and, using gloves, push/bend it into a cylinder shape.
- Place the finished cage finger-side down around seedling in order to anchor it in the ground
Difficulty level: Advanced
Good for: heavy fruits such as melons, gourds, and pumpkins
You will need:
- 7 Pieces of 1" x 4" x 6' plywood, treated or untreated (you only really need 6 - one's for backup)
- Box of wood screws (#8 - 1 1/2" will do nicely)
- 36" x 25' roll of wire Hardware cloth
- Saw - manual or power electric
- Screwdriver - manual or electric
- Staple gun - manual or electric
- Wire cutters
- Pencil and tape measure
- Cut 2 of the 6-foot plywood pieces in half to get 4 3-foot pieces.
- Put two of these 3-foot pieces, along with two of the 6-foot pieces together at the edges, forming a "picture frame" shape.
- Create the two sides of the trellis: Connect these four pieces with wood screws. Then repeat with the other 3-foot and 6-foot pieces.
- Roll out enough hardware cloth to cover one side. Using your staple gun, staple it to the frame. Pull the hardware cloth tight as you are stapling it to the frame, otherwise it will sag in the middle.
- Repeat for the other side/frame.
- Screw in the two hinges at the top of the frame to connect the two frames. Do this while the two frames are laying open on the ground to ensure that the angle is as desired
- Make the "feet" pieces by first cutting another 6-foot piece into two 3-foot pieces.
- Then, cut diagonally across the 3-foot piece to create two "feet" pieces. The pointed side will point downward and stick into the ground.
- Repeat for the other two feet pieces
- Screw the four feet pieces to the frames
- Plant seedlings beneath the frame
One structure we love is the Skyscraper Garden Trellis™ which allows you to grow vertically vining plants either against a wall or as a free-standing unit. It’s easy to assemble, reusable, and takes up only 4 square feet of growing space. To learn more about the Skyscraper Garden or share your own experience with it, visit our community group, “Skyscraper Garden.”