Over the years, we’ve experimented with a number of vertical vegetable garden ideas. While we live on 4.5 acres, most of that isn’t farmable, plus we’re in the woods, where adequate sunny areas are limited.
In order to get the most growing in the least amount of space we’re using several types of vertical vegetable garden ideas. Vertical gardening not only saves space, but it makes harvesting and tending plants easier throughout the season.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in much less space with careful planning and creative use of space and materials. Naturally some vegetables need more space than others, such as the spreading and vining plants like squash, cucumbers and tomatoes (which apart from the determinate type will need vertical training of some sort).
Grow Up and Save Space
Vertical gardening can be as simple as pounding a stake in the ground and tying off to it. Or it can be as elaborate as a commercial string and wire system.
It can certainly be a DIY as we discovered with the “Florida System” using a weave of string and staking. And there are cages, and other wire configurations which serve the purpose. Except for the commercial string and wire set-up, we’ve deployed many of these methods and they all have their good points and disadvantages.
Growing vertically can be as simple as pounding a stake in the ground and tying off to it.
Creative and frugal gardening is about using whatever you have on hand to do the job. For instance we have a patch of bamboo in our yard and it needs thinning each year. We love the practicality of growing our own support systems.
Simplest Vertical Vegetable Garden
Just Stake and Tie
You can buy a bundle of stakes for relatively cheap. Use plastic ties (we avoid the twist ties with wire), or jute (tied loosely to allow for expansion).
We will start with our latest structural venture–a cattle panel garden tunnel. We’ve seen these first hand and really like their simplicity and (yes) the way they look. My wife says I’m making a man cave-not so! All pole bean and cuke pickers are invited. Some of our FB fans have sent us photos of their garden tunnels, so we’re pretty excited about seeing squash, cucumbers and pole beans forming an arbor.
Our farmer friend Harvey Moser has them all over his garden plots, says he enjoys picking in the shade.
Our 3, 16 feet x 50 inch panels cost @ $20 each at Tractor Supply and are stout enough to hold a load of squash, cukes, or beans. Cattle panels will last numerous seasons, so this is an investment that, divided over the years, will cost very little.
IMPORTANT: You can also buy cattle panels on Amazon, with free shipping with Prime, delivered to your door, or from Lowes or Home Depot. However, these are not a sturdy enough grade for grow tunnels.
Cattle panels that come in rolls will be too flimsy for vertical vegetable garden tunnels.
If the cattle panels come in rolls rather than flat, then it will be too flimsy for cattle panel tunnels in your garden. Those might be okay for tomato cages, but they’re not sturdy enough for a tunnel garden.
Best to buy from your local Tractor Supply store. You can order ahead and pick it up from your local store.
Tie Down and Anchor Cattle Panel Garden Tunnels
For anchorage, we’ve used what we have laying around:
- 12″ cinder blocks
- recycled T-posts
- heavy-duty UV-resistant zip ties
We’ll also tie off the lower grids to the strings of the straw bales which should help keep them from leaning. As the bales get water logged, the increased weight will add to anchoring of the frame.
With the 16 ft x 50 inch cattle panels, we can achieve over 6 feet of head clearance and about a 7 foot width at the base.
Here’s a video clip on our latest panel last spring for squash, cucumbers and scarlet runner beans.
We also grew loofah gourds on this cattle panel tunnel and they did great! Also, you may be interested in our article on making soap with homegrown luffas.1)https://www.gardensall.com/growing-loofah/2)https://www.gardensall.com/luffa-soap/
An Amazing Gourd Tunnel
Apparently, there are many ways to construct these garden tunnels, AKA “Squash Tunnels” or “Gourd Tunnels”. This image is a dream tunnel of squash and gourds. Maybe our next project will be something like this. It sure is beautiful! Please let us know if you know the origin of this photo so we may give proper credit to whoever created this masterpiece.
This gourd tunnel is not ours but we love this photo, so had to include it.
Cattle Panel Structure Converts to a Cold Frame Tunnel
A bonus feature of this cattle panel style of a vertical garden can easily be covered with UV grade poly sheeting to serve as a cold frame tunnel.
This can really extend the growing season. In fact, there are a number of plans accessible on-line that demonstrate how to construct a cattle panel greenhouse or tunnel cold frame. Here’s one we like from Chris Martensen’s group at Peak Prosperity.3)https://www.peakprosperity.com/wsidblog/81753/building-cattle-panel-pallet-greenhouse
Apart from a vertical vegetable garden, these 16 ft cattle panels can also be used to make chicken trucks and other kinds of poultry shelters. You’ll find plans for these here.4)http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/ASC/ASC189/ASC189.pdf
If you want some smaller vertical garden ideas for now, you might enjoy this article on gutter gardens, this one on a how to build a cold frame greenhouse, or this article on straw bale gardens, where we talk the benefits and how to’s on SBGs.
Many people are concerned about the possibility of pesticides in the straw bales. We touch on this in the straw bale gardens article as well.
Depending on your capabilities and available time, you can either make your own, or buy something ready made, such as in these examples from Amazon with free shipping with Prime. Please keep us posted on what you end up doing. You can comment below, email us, or post over on the Gardens All Facebook page.
G. Coleman Alderson is an entrepreneur, land manager, investor, gardener, and author of the novel, Mountain Whispers: Days Without Sun. Coleman holds an MS from Penn State where his thesis centered on horticulture, park planning, design, and maintenance. He’s a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and a licensed building contractor for 27 years. “But nothing surpasses my 40 years of lessons from the field and garden. And in the garden, as in life, it’s always interesting because those lessons never end!” Coleman Alderson
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