You want to start growing your own food in your backyard, but you don’t have a lot of space to produce some of your favorites. I get it, it’s tough when you want a BIG garden, but you have limited space. But if you create a vertical vegetable garden and think up and not out, you may have more space than you even need.
Does a vertical vegetable garden work?
A vertical vegetable garden is a perfect solution for a gardener with limited space. Growing up and not out, you can pull your heavy spreading vegetables and fruit off your raised beds and have them climb, freeing up space to plant more food. There are many great ways to grow food vertically in a garden and many great benefits.
Read on to find inspiration and ideas on including vertical vegetable gardening in your backyard.
The Many Benefits Of Growing A Vertical Vegetable garden
There are so many excellent benefits to growing a vertical vegetable garden:
Vertical Gardens Maximize Space
When you grow a vertical vegetable garden, you save space for planting more crops.
Growing large sprawling crops like pumpkins and squash, cucumber, and zucchini can take up a lot of ground space. So get them up off your beds and growing vertically, and claim back all that growing space for more food!
Grow Vertically For Better Air Circulation
A vertical vegetable garden will have much-improved air circulation. With the plants up off the ground, it helps air to circulate under the leaves.
Squashes, melons, and cucumbers all can be susceptible to powdery mildew, which is a soil-borne disease spread to the leaves from the ground. You will significantly reduce the instances of powdery mildew on these crops if you grow them in vertical space.
Vertical Gardening Means Easy Harvests
It is easier to find cucumbers and zucchini growing on a trellis than to see them lying on the ground.
Harvesting vertically also reduces bending and stooping or crawling around the ground to pick and find vegetables.
Growing a vertical garden will also help keep the fruit and vegetables clean. If you ever saw a pumpkin or a melon growing on the ground, the fruit ends up marked. Sometimes that spot can get soft and be an entry point for insects. If you grow these vegetables vertically, you don’t have to worry about that problem.
Vertical Gardens Help Provide Shade
If you are like me and your garden is 100% in full sun, it does make growing cool weather crops a challenge.
But when you add trellises to your vegetable garden, especially ones for large vining plants like squash, cucumber, and pumpkins, you create a shaded area behind the frame that is perfect for growing salad greens like spinach and lettuce.
- Learn More: See our list of 28 vegetables that grow well in the shade for ideas of what you can plant behind your vertical garden structures.
- Learn More: See our guide on growing romaine lettuce from seed to harvest.
What Grows Well In A Vertical Vegetable Garden?
There are several crops you will grow well in a vertical vegetable garden:
Vining Tomatoes and Vining Cherry Tomatoes
There are two different types of tomatoes, determinate and indeterminate.
Determinate tomatoes are bushy tomatoes that only grow to a certain height. They set and ripen all the tomatoes simultaneously (give or take a few days).
Indeterminate tomatoes are vining tomatoes that grow large and sprawl. They set and ripen through the growing season until the nights start to get cold in the fall.
Vining tomatoes work exceptionally well for trellises and for growing them vertically.
Tomatoes are not naturally vining plants; they do not grab on top or climb independently. Therefore, they will need additional support to climb a trellis.
- Learn More: You can grow tomatoes in containers successfully as long as you provide vertical support. See our guide for growing cherry tomatoes in containers!
Pole Beans, Vining Beans, and Peas
Pole beans & peas are the quintessential vertical garden plant. Beans want to climb and will climb on almost anything from poles to trellises.
It makes the beans easier to find and harvest when grown vertically and keeps them looking fresh and clean.
- Learn More: You can grow beans and peas in containers so long as you provide a trellis. See our guides on how to grow both beans and peas in pots for healthy abundant harvests.
I always grow my cucumbers on simple a-frames built out of wood. I love the way the cucumbers look growing in a vertical vegetable garden. They fill out the trellis quickly, and the vines and leaves look lovely.
Cucumbers will naturally climb, but they will need help with support once the cucumbers are set. The fruit can be heavy and can pull vines down.
Learn More: See our guide on how to grow healthy cucumbers from seed to harvest.
Melons, Zucchini Squash, and Pumpkins
You can grow two different squashes in your vegetable garden, bush and vining. For a vertical vegetable garden, you will want to ensure your squash plants are vining.
You will need to ensure that your trellis is strong. I mean strong. We use a 2×4 frame in our raised beds with cattle panels. Since melons, squash, and pumpkins can grow big and heavy, you need to ensure your supporting system will make it through the season.
- Learn More: See the steps required for growing pumpkins in containers with trellises.
- Related Post: See our detailed companion planting posts for pumpkins and melons.
Support and Care Tips
It’s also vital to support set fruit early on, so they do not grow heavy and break off. We have found adding small hammocks out of fabric work very well. We like to use pantyhoses because they are stretchy and allow water to drain off without pooling.
It’s also good to use a drip watering system with your squash, pumpkins, and melons to avoid overwatering any adjacent vegetables.
- Learn More: Did you know that you can grow zucchini and pumpkins in containers? You can! If your space is limited, check out our guide on adding these sprawling plants to containers.
Cucuamelons are one of our new favorite vegetable crops. These tiny cucumber-looking fruits should be grown on a trellis system. They like to climb, and their small fruits are much easier to spot and find when raised off the ground.
Cucamelons also do not cross-pollinate, so you can grow them with your cucumbers and squash and still harvest seeds at the end of the season without cross-pollination concerns.
You will want to grow your grapes up a permanent structure. A permanent system is required because grapes will keep growing and need a permanent space as they do not pull up and transplant well.
Grow your grapes on arbors, arches, pergolas, and permanent trellis structures.
Types of Vertical Planters and Structures
There are many ways to grow a vertical vegetable garden, from a trellis of cucumbers to a hanging basket filled with strawberries!
Trellises are the most accessible and valuable garden structures for a vertical vegetable garden. (In my humble opinion). They only need a few pieces of wood, netting, or chicken wire to give the plants something to climb on, and all fruit and vegetable plants listed in this article will climb on a simple garden trellis.
Trellises work best in containers or raised beds as they can be connected to the bed for more stability.
Once your trellis goes up and you plant your climbing vegetables consider growing salad greens behind the trellis, where they will be shaded from the midday sun.
We like to grow our cucumbers on A-frames. A-frames are like they sound, two trellises attached at the top that fold into an A shape.
A-frames are freestanding, but it is good to secure them into the ground. One benefit to a-frames is you can fold them for winter storage.
Obelisks are fancy support structures that work well for vining plants like beans, peas, and nasturtiums or as a supporting structure for bush varieties of tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and peppers, to name a few.
If you’re starting a potager-style garden, you will want to add a few obelisks to your plan.
Fashioned after the traditional maypole used in many European May Day celebrations, this support solution has strings that radiate from the center of the pole to support climbing plants.
Grow beans of all vining types and peas up your maypoles!
What is the purpose of a garden arbor?
An arbor is a vertical support structure in a landscape or gardening that can provide privacy, shade, and support to grow crops. It makes a lovely entranceway to any vegetable plot and can be used to grow grapes, squash, melons, cucumbers, and zucchini (to name a few).
How do you use a bamboo pole in the vertical vegetable garden?
You can use bamboo to construct a simple teepee for climbing plants.
To make a bamboo teepee, insert one end of three or more bamboo poles into the soil, then connect them at the top with twine.
Hanging baskets are a much-overlooked support system for a vertical garden. But there are so many beautiful vegetables and fruit you can grow in a hanging basket.
To grow vegetables and fruit in a basket, use fresh fertile garden soil amended with water retaining additives such as vermiculate.
Strawberries, small peppers, small tomatoes (varieties like Tiny Tim), and lettuce make lovely additions to hanging baskets.
Like hanging baskets, be sure to use fresh fertile potting soil with lots of organic matter amended with vermiculite for your vertical vegetable garden.
You can grow strawberries, cherry tomatoes (look for small bush varieties), tiny peppers, lettuce, Paris carrots, radishes, kale, and spinach, to name a few.
- Learn More: You can quickly build your very own window boxes. We have plans for a lovely shingled window box planter you may want to check out.
Planters with Support Systems
You can grow a vertical garden with homemade planters, or planters of any size, so long as they have a support system attached.
Ensure that your planters have good potting soil and that the planter has drain holes.
For growing crops in planters, you can use anything from bamboo poles to tomato cages.
A hanging garden is a unique vertical garden. You can use walls, ladders, pocket gardens, shelves with pots hanging from a string, anything!
You can get very creative with hanging gardens both indoors and out, but it’s a great way to add more food to a space without digging into the ground.
Vertical gardening: Grow up, not out!
Are you inspired to grow your own veggies in a vertical garden this summer and save some growing space?
If you’re looking to learn more, we highly recommend the book Vertical Gardening by Derek Fell.
Want to Learn How to Grow Vegetables and Fruit in Your Backyard?
We have many articles to help you plan and grow a vegetable garden; check out these articles for more information: