Sure, vertical gardening saves a lot of space, but trying to construct a vertical garden capable of supporting multiple tiers of vegetables is tricky. That is why I decided to start growing vining fruit and vegetables. These plants are easy to train to a trellis and have no problem with a vertical climb, helping me save space and enjoy the fruits of my labor.
Why Choose Vining Varieties?
Vertical gardens use garden space efficiently and help you grow more food per square foot. The downside is that building a vertical garden sturdy enough to support all of your vegetables requires construction skills and supplies, which not all gardeners possess in abundance, not to mention the physical strength necessary to build and add soil to your frame.
Vining fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, are easy to trellis. This means that you can put vegetables like carrots and lettuce at the bottom of your vertical garden and vining varieties closer to the top, saving you the effort of lifting heavy bags of soil and building a heavy duty frame.
Let’s start off with the obvious winner: beans. Pole beans will climb onto just about anything, including other vegetables, which makes them easy to trellis and harvest. Beans do not require as much soil as some of the other contenders either, meaning you can stick them just about anywhere in your vertical garden and expect them to thrive.
Who doesn’t love a nice, crisp cucumber? Cucumbers are easy to grow and do very well when trellised. I find they are also easier to pick when grown vertically. As an added bonus, vertical cukes turn out uniformly green, unlike their counterparts grown on the ground, which tend to be a little yellow dirt-side down.
A few climbing nasturtium vines will add zest to your salads and color to your vertical garden while serving double duty as a pollinator attractant. These flowers are also especially easy to care for once established, as they don't need additional fertilizer or particularly rich soil to thrive.
Kiwis make the list with a few caveats. Kiwi grows best in climates with short winters and long, frost-free growing seasons. This perennial vine also requires space—and lots of it. The vines can spread up to 20 feet, so your kiwi vines might need their own corner of the garden or balcony all to themselves. On the other hand, kiwi fruits are delicious and well worth the effort.
Grapes, like kiwi, are perennial vines that take a few years to establish but are an excellent investment if you have a permanent vertical garden, pavilion, or pergola. Grapes do require regular pruning and care, so do your research before selecting a variety and location. In return, you’ll have years of delicious fruit to look forward to.
Melons like to sprawl and climb and do very well trellised. The only additional growing step you need to take is to make sure that your fruit gets plenty of support as it grows. Old pantyhose makes an effective fruit sling for your melons, preventing their weight from damaging the vine.
If you live in growing zones 9b to 11, then you should consider trying your hand at growing passion fruit. This South American native is cold intolerant, but in the right climate produces spectacular blooms, grows quickly, and provides hefty yields. This perennial vine, like grapes and kiwi, can grow quite large, so make sure you give it plenty of room to grow.
Peas, like pole beans, are traditionally grown with support, so transitioning them to your vertical garden is simple. Snap peas, shelling peas, sweet peas, no matter the variety, the pea family has one thing in common: a love of climbing. These early spring vegetables are a great way to start your vertical gardening season.
You don’t need a long furrow for your potato crop. Potatoes can also be grown in barrels. Instead of hilling, simply add soil as the plant grows, and then dig the potatoes out of the barrel when the plant is finished growing in the fall.
Strawberries don’t vine, they creep, but that works in the vertical gardener’s favor. These plants don’t have a problem spilling over the sides of their containers and are a sweet way to fill in the edges of your garden frame.
Summer squashes provide an abundance of vegetables during the warmer season. They also have a tendency to take over the garden, overloading us with pounds and pounds of zucchini. Growing them vertically can actually help control this riotous take-over, keeping rogue zucchini the size of baseball bats out of your garden pathways.
Tomatoes require trellising anyway, so why not grow them vertically? You can even grow tomatoes upside down, making it super easy to prune and harvest them. Make sure you check whether or not you have a determinate or indeterminate variety when planting, however, as indeterminate varieties tend to grow larger and longer than their determinate relatives, posing a problem for neighboring plants.
Melons are not the only vine that produces heavy fruits. Winter squash will happily trellis itself, vining throughout your garden and popping up in unexpected places like the manure or compost pile. Winter squashes provide storage vegetables for the winter, and all they ask in return is that heavy varieties, like pumpkins and Hubbard squashes, receive a little extra support (remember that pantyhose) as they develop.