Garden Up! Space-saving structures for your garden

Vertical gardening

It inevitably happens every few years, I get a call from someone growing grapes or the perennial flower vines wisteria or trumpet vine. They lament that that had no idea how strong plants could be. And whatever vertical structure they were growing on has now taken over and crushed the support system.
What do you do now? A lot of pruning and rebuilding the support with a far stronger structure.
But gardening vertically applies to more than just grapes and ornamental flowers, it is a smart strategy for not only maximizing the space in your garden, but ease of harvest, and believe it or not, protection from plant disease.
But you need to know a few things about vertical gardening to get the maximum benefit. As illustrated above, the most important tool of vertical gardening is what material you are going to use to create the support system. There are myriad choices, but look to research-based info, not the cute garden idea on Pinterst for garden success.
First off, location, location, location. If you are gardening vertically, always put it at the north end of your beds (particularly in raised beds). Then the trellis doesn’t shade out the rest of your sun-loving vegetables.
Next, the material you use should be based not as much on how tall the vines will grow, but what weight the maximum anticipated harvest can withstand. Let’s compare sugar snap peas and cucumbers. One sugar snap pea can weigh about 2 ounces. At any one time during the height of the cool season harvest, you could be harvesting one-fourth of a pound per plant daily. So, for every four plants, you could have one pound of weight. A light twine trellis or, as I have described in the past, using a “pea bush” (cuttings from shrubbery), would suffice bearing the weight of the crop.
Now let’s look at an average slicing cucumber. The average weight of is 11 ounces per cuke. And you have multiple cucumbers developing on a single vine throughout the season. Now we are talking a little heftier support. Using a twine trellis might not provide enough support during maximum production season, unless it is bolstered to strong metal or wooden posts.
The idea I have found most useful for cucumbers is a wooden or metal frame that has the capacity to be on a 45-degree angle. The vine crawls up the trellis, but the fruit are literally low-hanging and will be extremely easily harvested from underneath the angled support.
An added bonus is you have created a little microclimate of shade in your garden under that angled trellis. So, you now have the ability to grow some of our cool-season crops like leafy greens and radishes later into the warm season.
Using an upright growing system benefits all produce when it comes to plant disease. Powdery mildew and other fungal pathogens thrive in damp environments with low air and light circulation. Just think about your own shower — another moist, dark environment — and how easily it gets funky if not wiped down regularly.
By gardening upright, the plants have great light and air circulation (what day in Will County is it not windy?). Now fungal diseases don’t feel as welcome to spread their little spores.
Now let’s move up a notch with heavier plants that benefit from upright trellising in the garden: squashes, melons and gourds. I don’t know how many times I am lured in by those perfect giant trellises with dozens of birdhouse gourds hanging like lanterns underneath.
Trellising these big boys is not for that cute, light-duty trellis you found in a craft store. We are talking cattle panels or bigger. Melons and gourds, depending on the variety you choose, can really tip the scales at individual fruits weighing over 10 pounds — and that is just one.
But since gardening has become a top hobby again, there are more and more companies creating some great hefty trellising that can support many heavy varieties and become a highlight of your landscape.
I do grow some gourds and melons on my 1960’s cyclone fence that cosmetically has seen better days. What better way to use a super strong (but rusty) fence for some added produce? I have grown grapes, birdhouse gourds, luffa gourd and personal-sized cantaloupes and melons on this relic fence.
The key for me is to check the developing fruits to be sure they don’t become a “statistic” of growing halfway through each side of the fence, just a little guidance and some pantyhose works. Yes, panty hose.
Some of our trellising crops have their own tendrils for attachment, but given that we live in the Wind Bowl of the country, securing your vines is another important part of growing vertically. The key is having a tie that can support the growing vine and fruits, without strangling them or, due to wind, cutting them off just when they are at top production. So, no zip ties; instead strips of pantyhose or other flexible tie-off material.
One last thing about support. And I do compare this to human support clothing: You won’t forget this one. Once the visual appears in your mind, you will never be the same again.
Fruit bras, yes, I said it, and it works. So as the larger fruits develop on your trellis, they start putting on size and weight. Using a personal-sized melon as an example, they can achieve a 6-to 8-pound weight at harvest.
If we have windy, dry days near harvest, sometimes the fruit can rip from the vine, just before it was at the peak of flavor. So, enter the fruit bra. You use some type of flexible material (again pantyhose) and tie it to the trellis on both sides of the fruit, forming a cup of support.
See, it wasn’t crazy after all.
Not only do you get perfectly shaped fruit without worry of them pulling the whole vine down, but it also gives your neighbors something to talk about!


July 2024
August 2024
September 2024
October 2024
No event found!
Prev Next