Growing Up: A Review of Vertical Vegetable Gardening

I have a tiny garden. While I’m rather proud that it contains 57 plant species, mostly edible (yes, I’ve counted), it’s still really small. It’s somewhat shady, too. All of this means that I need to be very creative when I’m gardening, and Chris McLaughlin’s latest book on vertical gardening will help me do just that.

What is vertical gardening? Vertical Vegetable Gardening’s subtitle explains it:  Vertical gardening is when you grow up instead of out. Doing so can help you find more space in your garden as you liberate the ground from leaves and help those plants grow up into the sunshine.

Why Grow Plants Vertically?

Why would you use a vertical garden? The most immediate reason is space: it’s just so much more efficient to grow up, especially if you’re thinking of growing something like squash, zucchini, or cucumber. These plants like to take over your garden, and they may do so while producing a limited amount of food. Growing them vertically takes them off the ground, leaving valuable soil open for growing more crops.

If you have limited light, you need to maximize all of the light that you have. Growing vertically in the light spots in my garden allows me to maximize my light, saving the ground for other, more shade-tolerant crops.

In an interview with Untrained Housewife (not yet published), McLaughlin also pointed out that sometimes it’s more efficient to grow vertically because it allows you to keep a close eye on your crops. While she has a much larger space than I do, she finds herself gardening close to her home so that she can keep a watchful eye on the deer who’d like to eat her vegetables as well.

Vegetables and Fruits That Can Grow Vertically

While you might think that sunflowers, peas, and scarlet runner beans are the logical choices for a vertical garden, McLaughlin’s book encourages you to think outside the traditional vertical vegetables and expand into what she calls the “vertically challenged vegetables”. Vertical Vegetable Gardening moves way beyond the beans, and includes chapters on growing traditionally vertical veggies and other plants like fruit, herbs, and non-traditional container plants. Some of my favorites? How about growing Baby Bear pumpkins vertically for Halloween, or trellising some blackberries?

Creative Containers

I love creative reuse, and I’m really quite cheap. If you’re of that bent as well, you’ll especially enjoy all of Vertical Gardening’s idea for creative containers and sneaky gardening techniques. They include:

  • Using vining vegetables to cover an unattractive fence
  • Sneaking lettuce plants into your seasonal hanging baskets
  • Using an old shoe bag as a wall planter for smaller plants
  • Creating a trellis for your walkway, and covering it with food plants

My favorite chapter? McLaughlin’s chapter on DIY structures covers so many creative variations on the trellis, and it has given this novice builder many ideas for simple ways to grow more vertical vegetables.

Care and Feeding

How do you water vegetables that grow in pots? What sorts of soil do they need? And what’s that bug on my beans? While it’s easy to get carried away by the cool containers, Vertical Gardening has chapters that focus on the care and feeding of your fruit and vegetable crops, honing in on the needs of container vegetables.

If you’re looking for a primer on how to build a vertical garden and choose and care for traditional vertical veggies and their more vertically challenged counterparts, Vertical Gardening is a great introduction to the world of the vertical. Now excuse me: I’m off to repurpose our old baby gate and get ready to grow some peas on it this spring….


Photo: (Feature Image): Peas on a trellis. Briannaorg / CC by 2.0


About Tricia

Tricia Edgar has written 50 posts in this blog.

I love gardens and forests. I'm a mama of one.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *