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Whether you’re looking to save space, or just love the aesthetic of leafy trellises and arches, there are so many types of vertical vegetable garden ideas out there! Vertical gardens are not just for gardening experts. Here are some ideas to inspire you to get vertical.
What Are Vertical Vegetable Gardens?
Vertical gardening is really any method of growing plants using vertical space rather than horizontal space. A vertical garden can take many different forms, from a living wall of lettuce, herbs and other edibles on a patio, to structures within a larger vegetable garden to allow vegetable plants to grow upwards. There are also cylindrical vertical gardens like the Tower Garden II or Greenstalk Garden, which hold 30-50+ plants and are large enough for vegetables like peppers or even carrots, despite only taking up a few feet of floor space. For some, vertical gardening simply describes a more unique method of growing tomatoes, squashes, or cucumbers to save space.
What are the benefits of a vertical garden?
- saves space
- may improve air quality
- enhances your space visually
- makes fresh food more accessible in urban settings
- may improve air flow and reduce plant disease
What is the best vertical gardening system?
There are many different vertical gardening techniques, systems, and products to choose from. As you can probably guess, the best choice is the one that works best for you.
Vertical Gardening Ideas:
A hanging garden for the patio gardener
A gutter garden of strawberries, lettuce, or beans.
Window boxes of culinary herbs above other vegetable plants.
Hanging baskets of strawberries or leafy greens.
Vertical Hydroponic systems.
Upcycled 2 liter bottles to create hanging planters.
A pallet on the wall with wire or netting to hold in soil and smaller veggies & herbs.
Vertical garden towers or stacked planters, DIY or otherwise.
Easy-to-install hanging pockets full of small and medium food plants.
Creating an image and space that you love is important, but you shouldn’t only think about aesthetics in your choices of vertical garden–they each have different benefits and challenges.
9 Vertical Vegetable Gardening Tips
1) Consider crops that grow vertically already!
You don’t always need a special system for growing vegetables vertically, of course. Some types of vegetables naturally prefer vertical space, and can be found growing along a fence in many vegetable gardens.
Pole beans are one of the best choices for growing on a vertical wall since they usually don’t require any training or tying at all. They can produce a huge harvest while using up a very small amount of floor space, and as an added bonus, you’ll love the look of the leafy vines with their pretty curling tendrils and dainty flowers.
Pea plants also grow straight up naturally. They might need a bit more help finding the trellis than pole beans, but they also have curly climbing tendrils that reach out for support. My kids love to harvest and snack on peas–they are much sweeter when home grown.
Tomatoes can be pruned to grow as a single upright stem instead of a bush, but you will need to support them by carefully attaching them to a pole or trellis using soft plant ties or clips.
Cucumbers and small melon varieties (they’re in the same family) are a good option for slanted trellises, but they may require a bit of training to help the vines climb where they should. Depending on how big the melons get they may need extra support as they grow so that they don’t break off the vine–think little melon hammocks made from nylons or small pieces of cloth or netting.
2) Use smaller plants for smaller containers
For any vertical vegetable garden that uses a smaller amount of soil, smaller food plants are the best choice. For instance, lettuce, leafy greens and small, annual herbs are great for creating pallet gardens along a wall–especially since greens tolerate less sunlight. Bush beans, small herbs, greens, or other shallow-rooted crops work well in a hanging basket or gutter garden.
Herbs such as basil, thyme, cilantro, and parsley are suitable for small containers. Rosemary starts out as a smaller plant, but can continue to grow for many years as an evergreen shrub. As long as you buy the upright-growing variety, you can prune it into almost any shape you’d like!
3) Consider your climate
If you want to grow a vertical vegetable garden, you should always think about the potential challenges of your particular climate and the growing season. Is your area very hot or dry? Any plants in a smaller container could dry out quickly or get hot more easily and will need plenty of water. If you have this issue, try growing shade-tolerant vegetables in a cooler part of your garden, or choose more heat tolerant crops, like the highly nutritious vining food plant Malabar Spinach. Sweet potatoes also love warm weather. While the sweet potatoes themselves grow underground, the beautiful leafy vines are perfect for growing vertically–and they’re edible too!
4) Water often–keep soil damp but not soaked
Keeping steady moisture levels can be one of the greatest challenges of growing a veggies, especially in a container garden. If your vertical vegetable garden uses very little soil or gets a lot of air circulation (like a living wall contained by chicken wire) it will be more prone to evaporation on hot or dry days. If you do live in a dry area, consider using automatic drip irrigation or reducing soil exposure to air by wrapping with landscape fabric. You could also look into hydroponic vertical gardening systems.
5) Don’t forget about sunlight & shade
One of the possible concerns with growing vegetables vertically is sunlight–vertical veggies may be more likely to shade each other! Keep this in mind when arranging your plants, so that every seedling gets the light it needs.
6) Choose the right soil mix
Potting mix works just fine for vegetables and will provide the right balance of moisture retention, drainage, and air flow to prevent disease. It also often contains enough fertilizer to get your plants started. The pot and soil you use for any vertical vegetable garden in containers must do two essential things:
- Hold enough moisture to keep roots happy (usually the ingredient peat moss does this)
- Allow enough oxygen to the roots (usually thanks to perlite or vermiculite)
7) For hanging baskets, keep total weight in mind
Many small vertical vegetable garden containers or hanging baskets are designed to be shallow or small, because large amounts of wet dirt can be quite heavy. If you hanging multiple baskets from the same hook, make sure it is mounted securely and can handle the weight. You should also choose rope or cord that is strong and able to withstand outdoor elements, so that even over time your hanging baskets will be secure.
8) Plan to add some nutrients to your vertical garden
Green thumb experts agree, plants need nutrients and great compost to grow–especially vegetables! Growing with limited soil means that you will need to apply plant food more often than with a standard vegetable garden. Liquid is the easiest to apply, just don’t make it too strong.
9) Think outside the planter box
Especially, with limited space and city life. But if you do have some ground space to work with, you’ve got even more options for ways to grow vertically! Inside your vegetable garden, you can create structures like a teepee using poles or two trellises leaned together as an A-frame for cucumbers, squashes, or melons. My favorite way to make a strong but cost-effective trellis is using a livestock fence panel. They can be difficult to get home from the store since they are long, but the thicker gauged wire is strong and has the perfect amount of bend to make an upside-down-U-shape arbor. Some gardeners use them horizontally to make a trellis along a row. In either case, it’s wise to secure them with metal T-posts.
Most gardeners grow zucchini and other squashes on the ground as a huge bushy vine. But, with some effort and lots of support, the plants can be trained for growing vertically to save space. You will need a large, plant support cage (like the larger ones for tomatoes).