This article was originally published on June 23, 2012 and expired on July 13, 2012. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.
Gardeners who have limited space often have to plan very carefully to maximize every square inch.
"Sometimes they have to give up growing vegetables, such as cucumbers for salads or a pumpkin for Halloween decorating, that require a lot of space on the ground," said University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Greg Stack,.
However, "While there may be limited space on the ground, there is often a lot of unused growing space if you think vertical," said Stack. "For example, there is always room for a trellis or two."
The best place for trellises and other tall supports are the east and north side of the garden, where they will not block the rest of the garden from the sun. When choosing the trellis, make sure that it is strong enough to support whatever will be grown upon it. Plants loaded down with fruit can become quite heavy.
The ideal support might be two 4" by 4" by 8' long timbers placed in the ground about four feet apart and then faced with 2" by 2" wire mesh. This provides an excellent long-term support for most plants.
"Also, don't be afraid to be creative. Anything that can be pointed skyward will work," said Stack. Tall tree branches, bamboo poles lashed together, and even ladders will not only work but are quite distinctive and give the garden personality. A cyclone fence can be pressed into service to support vining crops.
Once the supports are in place, planting can begin. Vegetables such as cucumbers and small gourds can be planted in front of the trellis. As they start to grow, they may need a little encouragement to attach themselves, but soon the tendrils will wind around the support and climb skyward. The fruit that is produced will hang down and can be harvested easily.
Choose varieties of melons and pumpkins that produce small fruit (four- to six-pound varieties). As the plant grows up the trellis, take note when fruit starts to form. "Because these fruits are heavy, they will need a little help to keep them from breaking off the trellis," Stack said.
The way to help them is to nestle the developing fruit in small "hammocks" made from cloth, a diaper, or panty hose. Tie the cloth to the fence and leave the fruit to mature.
Pole beans and peas are good vertical vegetables because they do not need much encouragement to twine around supports. Tomatoes also lend themselves well to this type of gardening. Cages are often used with tomatoes, but they also can be trained onto a vertical, flat support. They may, however, occasionally need to be tied to a vertical support because they do not climb naturally.
Stakes or poles that are tied in a tepee-like fashion can also be used to provide vertical support. Vines such as pole beans will grow up the poles quickly, providing a supply of produce and creating a unique-looking garden fixture.
A "maypole" type of support can also be used. This system uses a central pole driven into the ground. Strings are then run from the top of the pole in a three-foot-diameter circle around the pole, anchoring each string with a ground stake. Plants will twine up the lines to form what looks like an upside-down cone.
"In all of these systems, the footprint on the ground for the vegetable is minimized because the majority of the plant is growing up and tends to form a flat, monolithic surface," Stack said. "Any of these support systems can be easily adapted to containers, providing a way to grow many vining-type vegetables in the confines of a large container.
"So the next time you are faced with the dilemma of not enough space on the ground, teach your vegetables to go vertical," he concluded.
Source: Greg Stack, Extension Educator, Horticulture, email@example.com
Pull date: July 13, 2012