Vertical gardening is the process of growing vegetables in a vertical direction due to space restrictions. This technique is best for gardening enthusiasts living in a small space that doesn’t allow for creating and maintaining a large growing space or for those who want a vertical element to their gardens for ease of harvests or maximum use of space.
There are plenty of benefits to having a vertical garden. Not only does it look beautiful, but it also promotes better airflow that helps the plants grow without danger of mold. Additionally, by following this technique, you can also protect your veggies from harmful pests and insects. So, it’s a win-win situation!
How to Set up a Vertical Garden
There are different options a gardener can use to set up a vertical garden element. These range from using a vertical structure, such as an obelisk or teepee, to creating long panels or rows of vertical support. You can also use a vertical garden tower that can be used both indoors and out for those looking for a compact growing system all in one planter.
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Here are some of my favorite tutorials and products for adding a vertical element to the garden area. These range from obelisks, which can be added to planters, raised beds, or row gardens to DIY supports that cost next-to-nothing, to complete systems for those who want as little set up as possible.
- DIY Bean Teepee (Get instructions here!)
- Wrought Iron Garden Obelisk (I’ve had this one for five years, and it still looks great!)
- Garden Stakes (I like these 8ft garden stakes from Tractor Supply.)
- Garden Arch
- Tower Garden vertical planters (Can be used indoors or out!)
- Garden Wall or Vertical Planter
Vertical gardening is a wonderful way to grow your favorite greens without having to worry about space restrictions. It helps you grow fresh organic plants, fruits, and vegetables that are important for healthy nourishment. It also enables you to unleash your inner creativity by growing a garden full of beautiful leafy green vegetables.
I’ve handpicked some of the best vegetables for vertical gardening. Scroll down to explore them.
Vegetable Favorites for Vertical Gardening
While not all vegetables are an excellent choice for a vertical garden space (think root vegetables!), there are some that are perfect for growing up! All of the seeds linked below are from True Leaf Market; a seed company that sells heirloom and non-GMO seeds; I love them!
One of the first vegetables I plant in early spring along a trellis is sugar snap peas. Peas are a great option for a vertical garden because they won’t need lots of space. The tendrils on the peas seek out the trellis and require less space for growth and nourishment. They don’t need any special maintenance or additional support system, making them ideal for people who want an urban garden environment.
Growing these cool-weather veggies also improves the quality of the soil. How? Because peas act as nitrogen-fixing plants and store nitrogen in their roots. When removing pea plants from your garden, do not pull the roots out. Let them decompose and fertilize the soil so other plants can benefit from it.
In winter, you can enjoy creamy pea soup or make a healthy vegetarian appetizer with peas, crostini, and ricotta. I bet they taste delicious!
There are three major types of pea plants, and all of them can be grown vertically. These include:
While not a vining or trailing vegetable, bloomsdale spinach and similar varieties work well in upright planter or even one of a repurposed pallet garden filled with soil and propped on a wall. By growing spinach, you can expect to have multiple harvests throughout the year. It is also an amazing vegetable that you can grow upright, requiring less space. If you’re considering arranging a fence or pyramid-style trellis, these will make a perfect choice.
The spinach plant leaves are rich in magnesium and can boost your metabolism. Having your own fresh produce of this leafy green vegetable will also contribute to your overall health and well-being.
If you want to try a vining variety of spinach then one of the best choices would be malabar spinach. This isn’t a traditional spinach in plant type and shape, and unlike bloomsdale and other rich green, low growing types, malabar can have either a green or red hue and is best used cooked. It also thrives in the heat of summer, unlike it’s cooler loving counterparts.
To try malabar spinach, grab some seeds here.
Cucumbers are another great option for vegetables for vertical gardening. They come in both bush beans and vining types and can fully grow within 50-70 days. The biggest advantage of growing this plant vertically is that it becomes easier to spot the ripe fruit and trellising cucumbers also keeps the fruits off of the ground where some pests will be more present.
Unfortunately, cucumbers are often more vulnerable to pest attacks and require a proper ventilation system to prevent fungal infections. Keeping them off the ground is the best way to keep them safe. In essence, the vertical growth of vines protects the fruit and produces healthier plants.
Vertical gardening works for full sized cucumber varieties as well as pickling and gherkin types. Here are some of my favorites:
- Parisian Pickler (a smaller pickling variety)
- Boston Pickler
- Muncher Burpless Cucumber
Tomatoes thrive well in a vertical setup. Why? Because it keeps them clean and dry while also allowing proper air circulation. You can use wood, bamboo, or metal sticks to support the vertical growth of this vegetable. By choosing an urban gardening system, you can also grow more tomatoes in less space and prevent them from harmful diseases.
When it comes to choosing the best option, you can’t go wrong with buying Indeterminate tomatoes. However, you can also grow other varieties of tomatoes like cherry, Roma, Cherokee Purple, and Sungold in your vegetable garden. Bush tomatoes (or determinate tomatoes) won’t be the best choice for vertical gardening, so just be sure to check labels before purchasing plants or seeds.
See my full post on how to stake tomatoes to grow them vertically instead of using a tomato cage, but you can also use a trellis or obelisk.
Pumpkins and Winter Squash
Another good option for vegetables for vertical gardening is pumpkins and winter squash. Planting a pumpkin or squash vine on a trellis is a great way to save space. Moreover, vertical growth improves air circulation and allows you to spot ripe fruits easily.
Smaller varieties of pumpkins, such as; Small sugar, Cotton candy, and Baby pam, work well in a vertical setup since you do have to consider the size of the fruit and if the trellis can support the weight; a strong trellis is key! There are creative ways to grow larger squash and pumpkins vertically. This usually involves support with panty hose or netting. It’s a fun idea!
Here are some good varieties to grow:
- winter acorn squash
- honey nut butternut (one of the sweetest butternut varieties!)
- birdhouse gourds (perfect for Martin houses)
- Jack Be Little Pumpkins (tiny pumpkins perfect for decor)
Green Beans are also great vegetables for vertical gardening in a limited space. They require adequate sunlight (6 to 8 hours) and slightly acidic fertilized soil to grow properly.
The trellising variety of green beans are known as pole beans, and they do require some form of support unlike their bush bean cousin. Pole beans can truly be grown up any kind of support system, much like pea vines.
Some varieties even have beautiful flowers like the scarlet runner bean which attracts pollinators and hummingbirds. Here are some of my favorite beans to use for vertical vegetable gardening:
- Blue Lake Pole Bean (old reliable!)
- Scarlet Runner Bean
You might be thinking about how is it possible to grow melons in a small garden, right?
Well, the good news is that it’s actually quite easy, but only if you come up with a good support system. Although you can’t grow massive watermelon trees in a small garden, it is possible to plant varieties that weigh only a few pounds. Unlike some other crops, this fruit needs proper support, care, and maintenance.
While lettuce may not be an obvious vertical plant since it isn’t a vine, lettuce is one of the easiest plants to grow and can grow in very little space. Bonus part? You can also grow lettuce among flowers. To enhance the beauty of your vegetable garden, create a lettuce wall and add a vertical ladder planter to grow this gorgeous leafy plant.
The versatile nature of lettuce makes it an ideal vegetable for vertical gardening. The plant is relatively easy to maintain and thrives well under optimal conditions. Plus, it can be harvested within 3-4 weeks, and you can easily get a continuous supply year-round.
Vertical Gardening FAQ’s
- What is the best potting mix for a vertical garden? This greatly depends on whether you’ll be vertical gardening in a container or in a raised bed or row garden. Have your soil tested and amend accordingly if you’re using existing soil. For containers, get a good quality potting soil made with perlite or vermiculite and compost.
- Are vertical gardens only for small areas? Definitely not! A gardener can grow vertically on long trellises made of cattle panels and posts for a large vertical garden space.
- What’s the best way to water a vertical garden? For garden tower systems, they will come with their own watering set up. For vertical wall units, hand watering may be best to guarantee all plants are being watered well. For other vertical elements in containers or raised beds, use any good quality watering system (except a sprinkler). See my full post of the Best Watering Systems for gardens.
Vertical gardening is a special type of urban gardening that allows you to grow your favorite plants and vegetables no matter your amount of space. I hope the above list of vegetables for vertical gardening will help you grow your dream garden. It’s important that you know which ones can thrive in such conditions and which don’t so that you’ll make a wise choice. Happy gardening!