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Vertical gardening helps maximize your yield in limited space ... and time

Cold weather gardeners can learn a lot from the Urban Gardening movement. "Vertical gardening" was born out of the urban gardener's need to maximize the use of scarce soil spaces. As a cold weather gardener you might not have space constraints, but you do have is a time shortage until harvest, and that requires intensive gardening techniques like vertical gardening, or trellising.

With trellising of vining fruits and vegetables, like tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers and squash, you can pack a lot more planting in a small amount of dirt space, and bring more of it to a ripe harvest in the short growing season you have in colder zones. And, you also get these other benefits of lifting your plants off the ground:

  • You avoid some of the fungi that can develop in plants like tomatoes when they come in contact with the ground.
  • You can monitor pests easier because they are at eye level.
  • You don't have to stoop as far to prune or harvest your crops and, because they are more visible, you don't end up with ripened fruit rotting because they are hiding behind foliage cover. You can work on your trellised plants from the comfort of a chair or bench.

Metal "cages" are a popular tool for tomato trellising, but they can be difficult to work with, if you don't set them in when the plant's in seedling stage. And, let's face it, they're ugggg-lee, but they do work well if you're planting in pots. If you're setting your tomatoes out in a raised bed, you have other options. Here's a video of one do-it-yourselfer's solution, using cheap scrap material:

If you want something more elegant, you might want to try a bamboo teepee. These have become quite popular in recent years, because they use a renewable material, are not subject to rot, are very stable in wind (if you build it properly) and most people think they look quite nice. Martha Stewart recommends them! The hardest part of assembling a bamboo teepee so it doesn't collapse is lashing the pieces together. This video does a nice job of showing you how to do just that:

If you don't want to spend time building your own trellising system, you'll find a lot of pre-made devices you can buy online or at a garden center, like this one from Cook's Garden.

Whatever style of trellis you choose, be sure to place your vining plants on the north side of your beds, so you don't shade other plants. And, make sure you sink the base of your plant supports securely in the ground to keep them from collapsing in a stiff wind.

Posted: March 31, 2012