Vertical gardening is another branch of the many faces of vegetable container gardening.
The vertical vegetable garden layout is a particularly good idea if you do not have a large footprint area on the ground where you can grow things.
Vertical growth is particularly suited to climbing plants such as runner beans, French beans, peas, squash, cucumbers and courgettes, melons and even marrows. Despite some of these crops being heavy, such as marrows and squashes, it’s still perfectly possible to grow them in a vertical garden. The secret is building in the support structure strong enough to support the weight of the fruits.
This can be done in many ways depending on the plants being grown. A common vertical growing technique is to attach a trellis to a wall immediately above the container where the plants are growing, and to train the plants by weaving the stems into the trellis as it grows.
Another common and easy method of vertical growth for things like beans is to make a kind-of wigwam shape with bamboo sticks stuck into the container and tied at the top.
Ready-constructed tomato cages or spirals are a good example of the type of supports that is readily available on the market for your tomato plants. I have recently been let to believe that tying tomato plants to straight bamboo sticks can hinder the growth of the plant and give lesser crop, so it may be worth looking into these alternatives.
Communal Wall Method
You could have a vegetable garden layout featuring a selection of containers and pots bunched together that contain climbing plants.
You can make a free-standing climbing wall structure simply by using two upright poles joined together with either wire mesh, garden netting or lengths of wood or bamboo.
The structure can be moved to a position above the pots so they can all climb onto it from both sides.
It’s best to position the wall so that it takes the best advantage of the sun as it tracks across the sky throughout the day.
In these two pictures, we have constructed a very basic pergola-style framework consisting of some lengths of wood. The two sides running North to South have nets attached for the plants to grow on, the other two sides will be left open as a walk-through.
The interesting thing about this vertical gardening arrangement is the way the nets have been applied.
At the base of both walls we have added spacers (see red circle), allowing us to attach not one, but two separate climbing nets; thus effectively giving me two separate growing walls on each side of the pergola. That’s four growing walls in total, effectively doubling our growing space and yields!
The pergola is spaced wide enough to enable both climbing walls facing East to get the sun during the first 6-8 hours of the day, and both climbing walls facing West to get the sun for the rest of the day.
The same vertical frame 5 months later
This is a picture of the same vertical frame taken mid-growing season. The runner beans and climbing french beans growing from builders buckets placed at the foot of the frame, have taken to it beautifully and are now providing a good healthy crop.
A place for hanging plants
In addition to doubling up on the growing space with the double net arrangement, I also purposely left overhangs in place when constructing the framework. From there we intend to hang my upside-down tomato plants.
Vertical gardening is not just restricted to plants growing upwards! Potatoes are a great vegetable to grow in containers, and they, of course, grow downwards. Each planted potato tuber should produce twenty or more new potatoes in about four months. All you need is a rubble sack, old bin, or a container at least 10 inches tall. Just fill with about 4 inches of soil, lay on your potatoes and cover with another 5 inches of soil. You can purchase specially designed vertical potato planters that have little doorways to give you access to the crop. Another way is to use a circular containment area made from bamboo sheeting and lined with scrap cardboard. At the end of the season, simply cut the sheeting away and you will have a stack of soil full of potatoes to harvest.
Apart from climbing plants, vertical gardening can also be employed when growing almost any other kind of plant, although growing root plants like carrots and turnips might prove to be a little more tricky.
Hanging baskets, vertical pod-type bags, and containers also fall under the umbrella of vertical gardening, or even growing your plants upside down for a bigger higher-yielding crop. You can buy or make long tube-like plastic or canvas bags, fill them with soil and cut multiple holes into the sides where you can easily grow a whole host of foods including among others, strawberry’s, lettuce, cabbage, and cherry tomatoes.
Use Your Airspace!
Another great tip here is to realize that hanging planters do not have to be limited to being hung from a wall. You can suspend a wire or rope between two suitable anchor points, such as a tree and a wall, and hang your planters along the length of rope, making great use of the available air space.
The prop is to allow you to push them up out of the way, but just like an old-fashioned washing line, you can lower them down for watering.
You may need to cover them with netting to stop the birds from eating your crop – depending on what you are growing.
Obviously, you’ll need to take into consideration the shadows they may cast over other plants and position accordingly.
Click here for my page on planning and getting started for lots more ideas!