by Karen Weiland, Advanced Master Gardener
Whether your garden is large or small, you can make good use out of every inch of it by using vertical gardening techniques. Vertical vegetable gardening is simply the process of growing vining and climbing vegetables on an upright structure instead of horizontally on the ground. Vertical gardening is especially helpful for those gardeners that do not have a lot of horizontal space.
Because squash vines can grow up to 10 feet long and the fruits can become very heavy, a person will need to provide a sturdy, secure vertical support structure. Installing this structure will take some time and muscle. I have chosen to use a 16 foot by 52 inch cattle panel, arched between 4 metal T-stakes, two driven into the ground at each end. I place my stakes 10’ apart and almost the width of the panel. The cattle panel measured 64’ high in the center after it was bent. Hog panels can be used also. They are not quite as wide as a cattle panel though. Other materials such as bamboo poles shaped into a teepee form or trellis’s made with 2×4’s and hardware cloth, then connected at the top to form an A-frame can be used. Match the weight of what you are growing to the sturdiness of your structure.
Keep in mind when deciding what to use as your vertical structure, using a temporary as opposed to a permanent structure, gives you the ability to relocate crops the following year.
Heavy fruits will need extra support. This can be accomplished by, for example, using a length of panty hose as a squash sling, with the ends tied to your vertical structure. If growing tomatoes vertically, tie the branches to the structure at regular intervals, with a soft material such as panty hose, taking care not to damage the stems by tying it too tightly.
One of the best perks I have found is the fact that with my vining veggies growing up, I can mulch more of my garden surface or more easily keep it cultivated and therefore avoid having to pull as many weeds. Now that is a good thing!
Plants grown vertically will be subject to better air circulation around the foliage which should help with less pests and diseases and thus creating a stronger plant and unblemished fruits.
Vertical gardening can not only be used in a traditional garden, it can also be used with raised garden beds and container gardens. Folks with physical limitations may find vertical gardening in containers or raised beds makes their hobby easier or even possible.
As always, Happy Gardening!
More information about gardening and related subjects can be found online at https://ag.purdue.edu/hla/Pages/default.aspx The Purdue University Cooperative Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.
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