|Publisher:||Cool Springs Press|
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VERTICAL GARDENING BASICS
MY FAVORITE THING about vertical vegetable gardening is that I can use my creativity to grow food in fun and unique ways! There aren't any hard and fast rules for selecting the types of vertical gardening structures to use, which means our options are basically unlimited.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing vertical gardening supports to ensure that your crops will grow their best and be easy to harvest and maintain. You want to be sure that the structures will mesh perfectly with the size of your crops and become gorgeous additions to your garden rather than unintended eyesores.
To avoid any epic vertical gardening faux pas, it's a good idea to come up with a plan for your vegetable garden before you start building vertical gardening structures. So I encourage you to first sit down to plan out your vegetable garden, making a list of all the crops you want to grow. Then start brainstorming ideas for how and where you will incorporate vertical gardening structures based on your plan.
As you design your vertical vegetable garden, you may also want to think about the types of materials that you will use and any budget constraints you may have. When it comes to building your own vertical gardening structures and supports, it's important to use materials that will not only fit with the size and height of the plant, but will also work for your budget. Items that are readily available tend to cost less than materials that are difficult to find, and this is one of the main deciding factors when it comes to choosing materials.
In this chapter, we discuss the basic vertical gardening techniques, the different types of vertical gardening structures, things to consider that will help you decide which structures will work in your garden space, how to choose the best supports for the crops you want to grow, and options for selecting materials to use for DIY structures.
VERTICAL GARDENING TECHNIQUES
Some of the vertical gardening techniques discussed throughout this book may be unfamiliar to new gardeners. Understanding these common terms will help you plan your vertical vegetable garden and choose the best type of structure for each of your crops.
TRELLISING: Trellising is a technique for growing vining or branching crops vertically. It's also is a general term that is used in reference to any type of vertical support, not just trellises.
STAKING: Staking is a common practice in vertical gardening and a popular way to trellis plants that don't send out tendrils or have twining stems. It can also be used simply to give extra support to non-vining crops so they won't flop over when they're heavy with fruit.
CAGING: Caging is a vertical gardening technique in which the plant is encircled in a cage. It can be used to grow any type of vining or branching plant, such as indeterminate tomatoes.
TRAINING: Many types of vining crops, especially those that don't grab on to the structure on their own, will need to be trained to grow vertically. Training simply means showing the plants where to grow and attaching them to the support if necessary.
VERTICAL CONTAINERS: Vertical container gardening is a broad term that is used to describe gardens that are grown in stacked planters, wall pockets, hanging baskets, or any other type of container that is off the ground.
How Plants Climb
Some vegetables will naturally climb a vertical gardening support on their own, while others can easily be trained to grow vertically. To help choose the right type of structure, it's important to understand how plants climb.
Tendrils — Vining vegetables such as cucumbers, peas, and squash send out shoots from the main stem, called tendrils, that will wrap around anything they touch. These types of plants aren't always great climbers on their own and may need to be trained to grow vertically.
Twining stems — Pole beans and hops are examples of vining crops with twining stems that will wind around a vertical support rather than sending out tendrils. These types of plants are excellent climbers on their own and don't usually require much training.
Long branches — Though technically not climbers, plants with long, pliable branches — such as indeterminate tomatoes, raspberries, and blackberries — can be trained to grow vertically by using ties or plant clips to attach them to a support.
VERTICAL GARDENING S TRUCTURES
There are many types of structures you can use for growing food vertically, with virtually unlimited room for creativity. Take some time to think about which structures will work best for the vegetables that you plan to grow and will also fit into your garden space. Here's a sampling of different options for vertical gardening structures to help get you started.
TRELLISES: A trellis is probably the most well-known type of vertical gardening support, and trellises can come in many different shapes and sizes. But generally speaking, a trellis is a flat structure that can either be freestanding or attached to something else, such as a wall or fence.
ARBORS: An arbor is a structure that is frequently found at the entrance of a garden or over the top of a pathway. It's common for arbors to have latticework on the sides that is perfect for vining crops to grab on to.
TEEPEES: Teepees are fun structures that are easy to make. They can be as simple as a few twigs collected from the yard tied together at the top with twine, or as solid as the project in this book that is made out of 8-foot sturdy garden stakes.
PERGOLAS: Larger than arbors, pergolas are permanent structures that are commonly used to shade a patio, deck, or garden area. Arbors and pergolas are similar structures, and often the only difference is their size.
ARCHES: An arch in the garden can take the form of an arbor or a pergola, or it can be an architectural element on its own. Large arches are often used to create tunnels or shaded pathways, and small arches can be used in the vegetable garden to double your growing space by training heat-loving vines over the arch and planting cool-season crops underneath.
OBELISKS: Obelisks are pyramid-shaped structures that have four sides and are traditionally found in formal gardens. They can be made out of any type of material, including wood, metal, or plastic, or even fashioned out of rustic materials like twigs and grapevines.
CAGES: Cages are often circular or square, and they can range in complexity from flimsy wire tomato cages to heavy-duty wooden cages. They can be as simple as a circular piece of leftover garden fencing or chicken wire tied together at the ends.
TOWER GARDENS: A tower garden is simply a tall or stacked container garden. A tower garden can be a tall structure that is made out of wood, metal fencing, or plastic, or even just a few stacked pots or planters.
A-FRAMES AND LEAN-TOS: A-frames and lean-tos are simple structures that can easily be made out of wood, twine, or metal garden fencing. They are almost identical, but an A-frame is shaped like an inverted V, whereas a lean-to leans to one side.
HANGING GARDENS: Hanging gardens can be anything from a few basic hanging baskets suspended from hooks, to more complex creations, such as vertical wall pockets, living walls, and picture frames.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
When you start thinking about all the different types of structures you could use to grow food vertically, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement and forget to think practically. But it's important to choose the right type of structure for each of the crops you plan to grow, and for the size and style of your garden. Here are some considerations as you plan your vertical vegetable garden.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO GROW?
Before you get too excited and hastily start building vertical walls, arbors, and trellises, take some time to think about what types of vegetables you plan to grow. While you might think an arbor would look incredible standing at the entrance of your vegetable garden, if you never grow large crops like cucumbers or squash to cover it, it may end up looking silly just sitting there empty. Likewise, a vertical living wall may not be very useful to you if you already have a large vegetable garden plot with plenty of space for growing all of your crops.
Most vegetables need to be grown in full sun, so it's important to think about where you plan to put your vertical container garden, as well as the placement of tall supports such as arbors and arches. A north-facing fence or wall will shade the vertical pockets or living picture frames hanging on it, and tall structures placed at the south end of a garden plot can end up shading the rest of the garden.
GARDEN S TYLE
Another thing to consider is the style of your existing garden space or landscaping. Vertical gardening supports are not only functional; they are decorative elements in the garden as well. If your garden style is informal and casual, then stately structures like arbors or obelisks could be overbearing. On the flip side, a rustic teepee made out of twigs, or a handmade bamboo trellis, may look awkward in a formal garden setting.
Regardless of which vertical gardening technique you choose to use, be sure that the size of the structure is proportionate to the plant you wish to grow. Growing long vines such as pole beans, pumpkins, or hops on a 4-foot obelisk or fan trellis, or planting full-sized tomato or pepper plants in a living picture frame or small vertical pockets will be overpowering (and could end up being disastrous). On the other hand, if you want to grow small vining crops such as peas or mini melons, then a large trellis or arch tunnel is going to be superfluous.
In addition to the proportion of the structure to the size of the crops you plan to grow, think about the scale of the structure in your garden. Plopping a tall pergola or arbor in the middle of a tiny garden will likely overwhelm the space, while hanging a tiny living picture frame in the middle of a huge empty wall would look equally disproportionate.
TEMPORARY OR PERMANENT?
When planning which type of vertical gardening structures you want to incorporate into your garden, think about how they fit into your long-term plans. Large structures such as arbors and pergolas will become permanent fixtures in the landscape, while fan trellises, small arches, and tomato cages can easily be moved around as needed after each gardening season.
The maximum height a vine will grow is different depending on the type of crop. Vines can stay short, growing only a few feet tall like peas and mini melons, or they can grow to the tops of trees like pumpkins and watermelons — or anywhere in between. Make sure to choose a support that's tall enough so the vine will have plenty of room to grow. A wire tomato cage or small fan trellis would be sufficient for growing short vining crops, but longer vines such as beans and cucumbers will need taller supports.
STRENGTH AND WEIGHT
Once large vines such as squash, grapes, melons, and cucumbers are full of produce, they will become very heavy. You don't want a vertical gardening structure to collapse under the weight of heavy vining crops, so be sure to choose a support that is sturdy enough to hold the weight of the mature vines.
Weight is also an important factor for hanging vertical gardens. The soil in containers such as vertical wall pockets, hanging planters, and living picture frames will become very heavy once it's wet. So consider the weight of the finished project, and ensure that the place you plan to hang it, especially on a wall or fence, is strong enough to support that weight.
EASE OF HARVESTING
Harvesting is usually easier in a vertical vegetable garden, but choosing the wrong type of support can actually make it more challenging. Some types of structures, such as narrow obelisks or small teepees, make harvesting difficult because these compact structures keep the vines in a tight cluster, which makes it harder to find and reach the fruit growing in the center of the support. Tall structures, such as pergolas and arbors, can also make it difficult to harvest your vegetables. Getting out a ladder once or twice to harvest crops like grapes or hops isn't a big deal, but lugging the ladder out to the garden on a daily basis to harvest beans, cucamelons, or cucumbers is not very practical for most gardeners.
When it comes to building your own vertical gardening structures, choose materials that will work with the type of structure you plan to build as well as the plants you want to grow. There are lots of wonderful materials that are great to use for building vertical gardening structures, and each one has pros and cons. Many times the final decision comes down to the availability of certain materials in your area and the size of your budget.
WOOD: Wood is easy to work with, readily available, and highly versatile. Since wood rots, especially any parts that are buried in the ground, choose a naturally rot-resistant lumber, such as cedar. Pressure-treated wood is usually much cheaper to buy than naturally rot-resistant wood, and it may be more budget-friendly. New pressure-treated wood is considered safe for use in vegetable gardens. However, wood that was treated before the early 2000s may contain arsenate, a chemical that can leach into the soil. That being said, new wood is still treated with chemicals, so it's up to you to decide if you want to use it in your vegetable garden or if you'd rather stick to using natural, untreated woods.
METAL: Metal is a common material used for making trellises, obelisks, and arches, and its beauty and durability are hard to match. Some of the projects in this book are made out of various types of metal, and if you know how to weld, you can build even more elaborate vertical gardening structures. The downfall of metal is that it can rust or develop a patina over time. Some metals rust faster than others, but it's not always a bad thing when they develop a heavy patina. Another thing to consider with metal is that some types of metal are very heavy, which may not be practical for building a tall vertical gardening structure.
GARDEN FENCING AND CHICKEN WIRE: Metal garden fencing is a wonderful material to use for building vertical gardening structures. It's inexpensive and easy to work with, and I'm willing to bet that most gardeners have leftover rolls somewhere. When it comes to choosing the type of fencing for your project, be sure to take into consideration the thickness of the metal. Fencing made out of thin metal, such as chicken wire (also known as poultry netting), isn't strong enough to stand up on its own and will need extra support to keep it from collapsing under the weight of vining crops. Fencing made from thicker-gauged metal, such as cattle panel fencing, is much heavier and can be used to build strong vertical gardening structures. The biggest downfall of using wire fencing for growing crops vertically is that large vegetables can get wedged in the fencing voids as they mature.
POTS AND CONTAINERS: It's fun to find unique ways to use pots and planters in vertical gardening, and there are tons of gorgeous options. Always consider the full weight of the planted container when making your choice. And if a container does not already have adequate drainage holes, make sure the material will allow you to add them easily.
BAMBOO: Another type of natural material, bamboo is strong and rot-resistant, and it can be used to make very sturdy supports that will last for several years. Bamboo is great for staking plants and making simple structures such as teepees and trellises. If you're lucky enough to have a dependable supply of bamboo readily available to you, then you're in business. But for others, bamboo can be difficult to find and expensive to buy.
UPCYCLED MATERIALS: When it comes to using upcycled materials to build garden structures, the options are limited only by your imagination. Many items can be found for pennies at secondhand stores and yard sales, or if you're lucky, you can get them for free! You may even find hidden treasures in your garage or shed that you can repurpose into vertical gardening structures like the upcycled garden tool fan trellis project found later in this book. However, if you plan to use antiques or vintage items, be careful using anything that was painted before 1978, because the paint could contain lead.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Vertical Vegetables"
Copyright © 2018 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc..
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
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Table of Contents
Why Grow Vertically?, 11,
Finding Your Way Around, 12,
Benefits of Vertical Gardening, 14,
1 VERTICAL GARDENING BASICS, 17,
Vertical Gardening Techniques, 19,
Vertical Gardening Structures, 21,
Things to Consider, 25,
Choosing Materials, 29,
2 CHOOSING WHAT TO GROW and CARING FOR VERTICAL GARDENS, 33,
Vegetables Best Suited for Growing Vertically, 34,
Caring for Your Vertical Garden, 55,
3 TRELLISES and OTHER STRUCTURES, 65,
Freestanding Arbor, 67,
Large Arch Tunnel, 74,
Large Teepee Fort, 77,
Small Arch Trellis, 81,
Classic Obelisk, 85,
Contemporary Obelisk, 91,
Large Trellis, 95,
Upcycled Garden Tool Fan Trellis, 99,
Pipe Fan Trellis, 103,
Copper Trellis, 107,
4 LIVING WALLS and HANGING GARDENS, 111,
Upcycled Living Picture Frame, 113,
Large Self-Standing Living Art, 119,
Antique Ladder Hanging Planter, 125,
Hanging Cone Planters, 131,
Simple Vertical Wall Pockets, 135,
DIY Living Vertical Wall, 139,
Self-Standing Privacy Wall Garden, 145,
5 PLANTERS and TOWERS, 151,
Corner Tower Garden Planter, 153,
Planter Box with Trellis, 161,
Stacked Pots Tower Garden, 169,
Strawberry Tower Garden, 173,
Self-Standing Gutter Garden, 179,
Upcycled Utility Rack Planter, 185,
Metric Conversions, 187,
Photography Credits, 191,
About the Author, 192,