If you’re not growing vegetables vertically in your garden, you’re — how can I say this nicely? — wasting space. Aside from the cool factor, growing vertically makes sense on so many levels — it saves on labor by reducing gardening tasks, makes harvesting easier, and makes the most out of the space you have.
And while it’s particularly useful for space-challenged gardeners, even those with ample room benefit from planting and growing vertically.
What kind of vertical structures can you use?
The most obvious choices are trellises and arbors, made from wood, metal, or welded ranch panel fencing. But don’t forget your existing fencing — if you have an open-work fence (chain link, for example), you can grow all manner of vining and twining plants on them. And then there are more commercial vertical systems, including pocket garden products, stacked containers, and aeroponic towers.
And let’s remember the fun DIY vertical gardening projects like creating bamboo teepees — fun for kids (oh, heck, grown-ups, too), great for the vines, and really cool to look at.
In my garden, we use ranch panel fencing to create “squash tunnels” from one raised bed to another, an arbor at the entrance to the vegetable garden itself, and existing fencing between my veggie garden and the pollinator garden. In my world, everything is fair game to be planted upon.
Top 7 Vegetables to Grow Vertically
While, in theory, nearly any vegetable can be grown vertically in some fashion, there are veggies that take to it quite naturally, like these:
- Cucumbers: Cucumbers are quite commonly grown on vertical structures, with their long vines and fast-growing fruit. Last year, we grew adorable cucamelons (which are neither a cuke or a melon, but still) on one end of our squash tunnel, and they went berserk.
- Pole beans: Probably one of the easiest veggies to grow vertically, pole beans typically have a long and vigorous harvest season. Be careful to not buy “bush” beans, however — those plants truly are a bushier variety and won’t make use of your vertical system.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes are so typically grown with cage supports that 1) I bet you already do this, and 2) I’ll make another bet that you never even considered this “growing vertically.” But it is, and it’s much healthier for the tomatoes as well, because the leaves and the fruit don’t lay on the ground, vulnerable to all sorts of pests and diseases.
- Squashes: Most different varieties of squashes, melons, and pumpkins take well to growing vertically, as long as they are not too large. Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins, for example, would nearly kill a person if they fell off a vine growing vertically, so plan to grow those types of veggies on the ground (and give them plenty of room).
- Sweet Potatoes: Growing sweet potatoes vertically saves so much space and makes weeding the area that much easier! You can plant your sweet potatoes slips in vertical tier gardens or even crates. Save your back when it’s time to harvest by growing vertically!
- Peppers. Take the weight off of those pepper vines by growing them vertically! Pepper can get heavy and drag their vines down with them. Prevent that by staking your peppers. You can even plant your pepper plants into vertical planters to maximize planting space.
- Malabar Spinach. This special vining spinach is one that grows well in the summer heat — unlike most leafy greens. Break out the trellises because malabar spinach was make to climb!