Vertical gardening

Use upward space to grow your edibles
By Kris Wetherbee
Vertical gardening

A vertical trellis — anchored by wood on either end and rows of hand-strung twine offering an easy path to sunlight — suspends a wall of beans.

Growing vegetables and vining fruits on an arbor or vertical trellis is the most efficient way to add space in a less than spacious garden. Not only will you be able to grow more produce in less space, but the added sun and air on plant surfaces will help bring a superior quality to the produce.

Growing vertically improves air circulation, which helps minimize mildew and other plant diseases. Trellising also eliminates soil contact so vegetables and fruits stay cleaner and are less likely to rot. Fruits are quicker to ripen and often more flavorful due to the additional sunlight exposure. And since the veggies and fruits are more visible and not hidden beneath lush growth, they can be harvested at their peak of perfection.

Trellising also saves strain on your back as there is minimal stooping, bending or hunching over needed to harvest crops. And just imagine the extra watering, weeding and feeding it would take to grow enough bush beans or peas to equal the yield that pole varieties produce when grown on vertical supports.

vertical-TOMATOES-ON-PANEL-TRELLIS

Trellising eliminates soil contact so vegetables and fruits stay cleaner and are less likely to rot. Fruits are quicker to ripen and often more flavorful due to the additional sunlight exposure.

Getting started

Before setting up any type of trellis system, amend the soil with lots of rich compost or well-rotted manure prior to planting. This is key to producing optimum yields in a smaller space. The soil should be deep and well-drained to allow roots to extend vertically. Where and how you situate your trellis system is equally important. Keep in mind that plants grown vertically will cast a shadow. Running your trellis in an east-to-west direction on the north side of your garden will create optimal light exposure for trellised plants while casting the least amount of shadow in the garden. Shadows cast over neighboring sun-loving crops can be minimized by running your trellis in a north-to-south direction, though vertical plants on the northern end of the trellis will receive less light than plants on the southern end.

A few shadows are inevitable but can become an asset if you use them to your advantage by planting shade-tolerant crops such as lettuce, spinach and other heat-sensitive vegetables, flowers, and herbs near a plant-laden trellis.

Standing tall

A variety of trellis systems can be used to grow vegetables vertically, from cages and hog panels, to poles, stakes and strings, and store-bought trellises and arbors. Plants are typically grown up plastic or string mesh, chicken wire, hog panels, or hand-strung twine or wire attached to trellis supports. These supports are often made of metal, wood, bamboo, plastic or PVC pipe.

About the Author

Oregon-based writer Kris Wetherbee specializes in the areas of gardening, food and outdoor living.

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