Take advantage of garden space by using the third dimension to grow vegetables and vining fruit.
When garden space is limited, you can still grow space-hungry plants. Growing your vegetables and vining fruits on an arbor or vertical trellis is the most efficient way to add space in a less-than-spacious garden. Growing vertically improves air circulation, which helps minimize mildew and other plant diseases. Trellising also eliminates soil contact so vegetables and fruits stay cleaner and are less likely to rot. Fruits are quicker to ripen and often are more flavorful due to the additional sunlight exposure. Trellising also saves strain on your back by minimizing stooping, bending or hunching over in order to harvest crops. And just imagine the extra watering, weeding and feeding it would take to grow enough bush beans or peas to equal the yield pole varieties produce when grown on vertical supports.
GETTING STARTED: Before setting up any type of trellis system, amend the soil with lots of rich compost or well-rotted manure. This is key to producing optimum yields in a smaller space. By enriching the soil, you will improve the soil tilth and fertility, and help get plants off to a good start. Where and how you situate your trellis system is equally important. Keep in mind that plants grown vertically will cast a shadow. Running your trellis in an east-to-west direction on the north side of your garden will create optimal light exposure for trellised plants while casting the least amount of shadow in the garden. Shadows cast over neighboring sun-loving crops can be minimized by running your trellis in a north-to-south direction, although vertical plants on the northern end of the trellis will receive less light than plants on the southern end. A few shadows are inevitable, but they can be an asset if you use them to your advantage by planting shade tolerant crops such as lettuce, spinach and other heat-sensitive vegetables, flowers and herbs near a plant-laden trellis.
STANDING TALL: A variety of trellis systems can be used to grow vegetables vertically, from cages and hog panels to poles, stakes, and strings. Plants typically are grown up plastic or string mesh, chicken wire, wire panels, or hand strung twine or wire attached to trellis supports. My favorite materials for trellising plants is a livestock wire panel. These are sections of fencing with square openings made of heavy-gauge, galvanized wire. They vary in height from 3 feet to 5 feet. Available at farm supply stores, they provide an inexpensive way to create a long-lasting and rust resistant trellis. You can position panels to form an A-frame secured at the top or run panels upright and secure them to metal posts spaced about 5 feet apart in a row. The panels are attached to each post with heavy-duty wire or zip ties. To raise the trellis height, simply attach the panel off the ground as high as necessary. Whether you place your trellis horizontally or vertically, growing certain crops off the ground will expand your gardening options for space-hungry vegetables and fruits. Either way, your gardening -and the bounty it provides will soar to new heights of satisfaction.
- Keep plant roots and seeded beds intact by installing a trellis in its place before planting in the garden.
- Choose netting or panels with large openings for easy harvests.
- Set your trellis firmly in place by sinking trellis posts 12- to 24-inches deep.
- Vertical frame trellises are often set side-by-side in a straight row. However, arranging them in a zigzag pattern, as an arbor or with spacing between frames will create different areas and microclimates for growing low-growing plants.
- Ideally, a trellis should be portable or relatively easy to dismantle since it’s difficult to cultivate a bed when a permanent trellis is in place.