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Column: Vertical elements in the garden

Hanbidge on Horticulture: Vertical gardening requires suitable structure and support.
watermelon (Large)
Growing squashes, pumpkins and melons that would otherwise need a large amount of horizontal gardening space is a space saver.

This is the ideal time of year when those thirsting for gardening knowledge can take some time to expand their knowledge base – to learn new techniques that will allow more efficient and more effective gardening in next year. It is a time when gardeners take a moment to say, where is my garden going next spring?

I encourage you to “reach for the sky and go vertical.” You might be wondering what I mean by vertical gardening, which is simply exploiting the vertical space instead of relying on the horizontal, which is the more traditional way to garden. Going vertical will give you more space but it is also a way to make your garden more attractive and more accessible. Imagine harvesting strawberries while standing straight up – instead of crawling along the ground.

If you are an avid garden grazer, then vertical gardening has even more advantages. The fruit or vegetables that you harvest will be cleaner as they are not in direct contact with the ground. You will also find that you are losing less fruit/vegetables to moisture and rot again due to less contact directly with the soil. Air circulation is definitely better as well as any breeze will waft through those plants that are vertical. The only drawback to going vertical is you may have to water more often. However, perhaps it is the ideal time to install a simple irrigation system that suits your personal needs.

From the perspective of one who was rural and now is urban, adjusting to a much smaller space and still managing to grow everything desired is challenging. How do you make the best use of the space you have? One solution that is definitely worth trying is to go vertical. Any plant that is a sprawler, a natural climber or needs staking can easily be grown vertically, with the suitable support.

Vertical elements can be used as working functions of the garden. They work well to screen unpleasant areas in the landscape; can provide shade or shelter from the wind, can soften stark vertical surfaces, can define use areas in the garden and can provide movement.

Some easy plants to use for your vertical garden include: cucumbers, sweet peas, tomatoes, melons, peas, pole beans, black-eyed Susan vine, morning glory, climbing snapdragons, hyacinth bean, nasturtium, passion flower, grapes, Virginia creeper, hops, and more. Just ensure that you supply the suitable structure and remember that some plants need to be tied to the structure while others entwine themselves to the support.

In the vegetable garden, there are so many ways that vertical gardening can be beneficial. As we all become more avid food gardeners, space seems to be ever more limiting. Growing any of our vining crops upwards is an easy way to grow more with less space. Growing all of the squashes, pumpkins and melons that would otherwise need a large amount of horizontal gardening space is for sure a space saver. However, any fruits of weight will need additional support to keep them properly attached to the vine. Personally, I prefer to grow my cucumbers vertically as they are easier to pick and stay much cleaner when off of the ground. Also, because they are smaller in size, there is no need for additional support for the fruit itself.

Watch for more intel on some of the other vertical plants we can grow in our garden in the upcoming weeks.

Hanbidge is the Lead Horticulturist with Orchid Horticulture. Find us at; by email at; on facebook @orchidhort and on instagram at #orchidhort.

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