The Sky's the Limit: Vertical Gardening


What’s a lazy farmer to do when she’s already weeding as much garden as she cares to tend?  Why go up, of course!  Much like urban housing, gardening has been reaching skywards for a while now.  There are as many ways to garden vertically as there are gardeners.  Let’s talk about a few approaches with specific vegetables. 

 Blog13   bean teepees

Standing Tall

One method of vertical gardening is to intercrop short and tall crops in the same garden bed.  You can extend the season by growing cooler season vegetables under taller summer crops to benefit from their shade.  Planting early season crops in hills with wider spacing allows for bunching later season crops in between the hills.  The early crop is harvested before the later crop needs more room in the bed.  You might also plant fall crops a month early by placing them between tall summer crops which provide the shade to keep the ground cooler.  Many flowers will grow taller than usual in search of sunshine if you plant them amongst tall crops like corn.  Some examples of this type of planting include:

  • Turnips planted in bunches followed by hills of sweet corn a month later
  • Pole beans grown on bamboo tee-pees with lettuce under them in summer for deep shade
  • Zinnias growing in the corn patch grow as tall as the corn
  • In rows of caged tomatoes, plant winter radishes or Napa cabbage seedlings anywhere you pull a past-production tomato plant. Make durable, sturdy cages from concrete reinforcement wire.
  • Okra creates a leafy canopy for Swiss chard or spinach

 Blog13   tomato cages

Double Duty

If your garden is fenced you’ve got a built in vertical garden.  When planting garden boundaries pay attention to the sun’s track during the growing season.  You can use the extra sun to boost crop production and sun-blockage to create cooler conditions down below.  Our garden fencing is full a great part of the year.  Seasonally it is used for:

  • Snap peas in the spring, positioned so as not to create shade until late afternoon
  • Italian zucchini positioned on one of the fences where no shade is created by the plants
  • Runner beans create a dappled shade across beds that need to be kept cool
  • Small melons grow in sections of fence that only give early morning shade to the beds
  • Cucumbers grow readily up fences while rampantly covering the bed as well

 Blog13   fenced peas

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