In the Garden:
Lower South
April, 2010
Regional Report

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3426

This watermelon is growing on a vertical lattice with a section of hosiery to support the fruit.

Grow Up

No offense, but you really need to grow up! Seriously. Okay, I'm talking about your garden. Now I don't normally pry into your business, but if you'll allow me to for just this one time, I think you'll see the benefits of vertical gardening.

I happen to have quite a large lot around my home which allows for a large garden and plenty of room for landscaping too. Nevertheless each year I add more vertical elements to the garden and landscape. Vertical gardening makes sense for a number of reasons.

First of all, you can grow more in less space by growing vining plants vertically on a trellis. Think of a sprawling melon plant or cucumber vine. Now picture it on a vertical trellis. Same vine, foliage and fruit but with a fraction of the gardening "footprint"! Yes even muskmelons and watermelons can be grown vertically. Just support the fruit with a "sling" made from pantyhose, a piece of tee shirt fabric, or a mesh bag that produce comes in.

Growing plants vertically can reduce disease problems by improving air circulation through the foliage and minimizing soil being splashed up onto the plants from rain or irrigation.

Vertical gardening simplifies weeding. Every square foot of garden you have is a square foot of soil that may require weeding. The vertical garden encompasses less space and thus less area to keep weed free.

Vertical gardening simplifies gardening chores. It is easier to harvest from a trellis than to have to stoop and harvest from the ground. It is also easier to get around the garden when there aren't vines sprawling around to step over.

Gardens and landscapes are outdoor living areas. Living areas can have floors, walls and ceilings. Too often we focus on the floor of our landscape but neglect creating the walls or ceilings. A vine on a trellis or a row of vertical shrubs creates an outdoor wall that can add a nice visual element to the landscape.

Arbors form a ceiling that not only blocks out the sun, creating a cool shady spot in which to sit, but can support flowering or fruiting plants, including grapes and vining vegetables.

I like to use livestock panels in the garden. They make great trellises for vining plants. A full size panel (about 16' long) can be bent into an arch and secured with a couple of T-posts to make a cool structure for vining flowers or vegetables under which you can walk. Put several in a row and you have a tunnel! Add a bench and you have a cool spot to sit.

Even non-vining plants can be used in a vertical plan. There are some interesting new containers that are made for hanging on a fence or post. Picture a wall of flowering containers on a fence or a series of cascading pots attached to a porch post. Also available are pots made to "straddle" the top of a deck railing or to hang on the top of a fence.

Vertical doesn't just mean growing up. You can also "grow down". A second story porch or balcony can be a great place to set a large container of vining plants that will cascade downward. The novel hanging tomato planters are another example of this approach.

Even though I have space to grow things, I like to add the vertical element to my gardens. It adds interest and creativity, and it's fun.


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