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Over the years, we’ve experimented with numerous types of vertical garden ideas.

Vertical Vegetable Garden

We’re on the cusp of a new season and given our small garden footprint, we absolutely need to maximize our space. Space is needed particularly for the spreading and vining plants like squash, cukes, and tomatoes (which apart from the determinate type will need vertical training of some sort).

Growing vertically can be as simple as pounding a stake in the ground and tying off to it.

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.


Commercial hothouse tomatoes
Commercial hothouse tomatoes

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).


Tomato stake
Tomato stake

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.

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Harvey Moser walking us through his farm

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. For anchorage, we’ve used what we have laying around: 12″ cinder blocks , recycled T-posts, wire, and some heavy-duty UV-resistant zip ties.

IMPORTANT: You can also buy cattle panels on Amazon, delivered to your door, or from Lowes or Home Depot. However, these are not a sturdy enough grade for grow 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.


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.

Here’s a video clip on our latest panel this spring for squash, cucumbers and scarlet runner beans.


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.

An incredibly beautiful gourd tunnel! (Image source unknown. If you know the origin, please send us a message so we can list proper tribute).

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.

A bonus feature of this structure is that it 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.1)

This plan utilizes recycled pallets as a foundation.

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.2)

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.

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