Monday, July 25, 2011

Vertical Gardening

As a baby backyard farmer, I've made my fair share of rookie mistakes.  In fact, here is a brief list of common phrases coming out of my mouth these days:
  • Ooooooohhhh, that's why.
  • Won't do that again.
  • Huh.
  • Is that a weed or did I plant that?
  • Whoops.
Today's mistake is a whoops.  May you learn from it and go on to grow perfectly trellised melons.

I've been reading about a concept called vertical gardening that is a useful approach for those of us with minimal space, wet weather, bug problems, or who are tired of bending over while tending to plants.  Here's how it works.  Instead of allowing your beans, melons, cucumbers, eggplants, peas, etc. to spread their little vines and tendrils all over your well planned garden, send them skyward.  Depending on the type of plant and its growth pattern, you can use wire cages, bamboo poles, or trellises to encourage this upward growth.  It is a solution with some serious benefits for me since I adore a vine ripened melon, but can't afford the square footage needed to grow them.  Once I discovered vertical gardening (again, those of us in our infancy need such things explained), I decided to give it a go with some cantaloupes and petite watermelons.  

Here is the problem I encountered.  I planted the plants.  They sprouted.  They are healthy.  So far so good.  One morning I woke up to find they'd grown arms - many of them - overnight.  I figured it was time to get those little bamboo tepees in place so that the vines could begin their crawl toward the light.  However, it turns out that in the debate "Which comes first: the pole or the plant?" it is most decidedly the poles.  The plant should be planted near the base of each leg (rather than in the middle) of the tepee so that you aren't forced to stretch the runners and tie them to the poles.  Let the tendrils do the work and give the plant an anchor (the pole base) to support the hard work ahead of it.
See mine in the middle?  Experience has been a good teacher, so next year, it is to the corners with those vines!

Once your plants begin to produce their heavy fruit, I've read that items such as socks, panty hose, cheesecloth or some type of netting can be wrapped under the fruit and then tied to the pole to alleviate a little of the weight and give the vine some extra support.  Sounds like a good excuse for control top to me.

If you'd like to read a complete article on the vertical gardening concept, here is a good one.

Have you ever tried to grow anything vertically?  Were you successful?


  1. Remember Sheridan? She and I have tried for two years on growing things! I'm going to love reading your information.

  2. Be sure to pass along any good info! I just love good gardening advice and need all I can get!


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