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Top Veggies That Trail and Vine For an Abundant Vertical Garden

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Small space gardening is all the rage and rightly so! It is absolutely amazing how many types of veggies you can grow in a very little space when you grow them upwards. While many plants are naturally inclined to trail – others need a little coaxing at first, but will happily comply as long as they have great soil, plenty of sunlight, enough water, and a good support system.

While you can grow an abundance of food using vertical growing systems, there is so much more to enjoy about vertical growing. Many vertical growing projects serve as attractive points of interest for patios and decks while others are useful as living privacy screens.

Vertical vegetable gardening is any kind of gardening space with veggies that go up rather than out. A vertical garden can be as simple as providing a trellis for vine vegetables to cling to and grow. It can also be much more complex and involved. You can even create an entire vegetable patch that grows more in the vertical space than the horizontal by using baskets, pre-made vertical beds, scrap wood, even old wooden pallets.

Vines may be the first type of plant you think of for vertical space. They need some kind of support anyway, so definitely consider incorporating these climbing veggies in your vertical garden. Most will not even need any encouragement since they have a natural inclination to trail. With a little support and lots of love, these plants will reward you with a huge harvest!

Climbing Veggies

  • Peas. The classic vining vegetable is the pea. Try different varieties, like snow peas, shelling peas, and sugar snap peas. As the vines grow, trim off the trailing tips to encourage branching out to the sides and more peas.
  • Pole beans. Another climbing vine that works well in a vertical garden is the bean. It grows up readily, just like peas. For both of these veggies, start the plants down on the lowest part of your garden, in the ground if possible. Train the bean vines to make sure they climb up and add vertical strings to your structure if necessary—beans won’t climb up horizontal supports.
  • Cucumbers. While it’s possible to grow cucumbers horizontally, they thrive in a vertical space. Let them grow from the bottom up. If the developing fruit gets too heavy, support them with string or slings and tie them to the vertical trellis or wall.
  • Malabar spinach. Consider this unique green if you live somewhere warm or are growing indoors where you can control the climate. Native to Asia, this climbing green is edible and also pretty, with beautiful purple stems. Malabar spinach needs moist, fertile soil and full sun to just a little shade.

Veggies that Trail

Don’t forget the vining vegetables and fruits that usually sprawl across the ground. These trailing vines spread laterally naturally but can be easily trained to run up a trellis or other vertical structure. Trailing plants usually produce fruits that are heavier, though, so some extra support may be necessary. As they develop, tie individual fruits to the structure. Create a sling out of a rag or cloth, or even old pantyhose. Don’t use string to support heavy fruit, as it can cut into the flesh or stems.  

  • Sweet potatoes. Sweet potato vines sprawl and make a good ground cover, but you can also run them up your vertical garden. Plant them in the ground or containers and don’t forget to harvest and eat the edible, nutritious leaves. Use them as you would spinach.
  • Winter squashes. Butternut, acorn, and delicata squash vines look lovely growing up a vertical garden. Delicata may be easiest of these to grow on a trellis because the fruits are smaller and lighter.
  • Melons. Look for smaller varieties of watermelon, cantaloupe, or honeydew to trellis in a vertical garden. They’ll need support but not as much as full-sized watermelons. Try ‘Sugar Baby,’ ‘Minnesota Midget,’ ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ or ‘Honey Bun,’ for smaller, flavorful melons.
  • Pumpkin. As with melons, choose pumpkin varieties that are smaller in size. These include ‘Munchkin,’ ‘Baby Boo,’ ‘Hooligan,’ ‘We-Be-Little,’ and others.

-Susan Patterson 

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