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GARDEN TIP: Growing Vertical • Southern Rural Route

Last winter, I spent some time looking over the book, Vertical Gardening: Grow Up, Not Out, For More Vegetables And Flowers In Much Less Space by Derek Fell (2011). Admittedly, I looked at the photos more than I read the book. I liked Mr. Fell’s idea of growing vertical for more production using less garden space. However, it was obvious, from the cover of the book, that his vertical gardening poles were for a small garden.

I gave up on small gardens in 2011 when I went to a 12 x 28 garden with traditional rows. At that time, my solution for vertical gardening was two plumbing pipes at either end of the garden. I consulted Poppie about the purchase of the plumbing pipes and I guess he forgot you’ve always got to prop up the middle. That sort of thing never occurs to me. After driving home looking like a Beverly Hillbilly with those pipes sticking out the back of my car’s trunk, Poppie installed the pipes for me and propped up the middle of the wire with a rickety piece of wood.

I took the Vertical Gardening book to Poppie and told him I wanted vertical garden poles. In late November, we went supply shopping for Poppie’s version of Mr. Fell’s vertical garden poles. I absolutely hate shopping at big box hardware stores because I always have a list, and I want only what is on that list. The last thing I want to do is walk a cavernous warehouse on the hunt. Nor am I impressed with a greeter. I want my very own personal shopping helper! Poppie knew where to look and picked out what I needed. Three 4x4s would become the poles to stretch the length of the row. A 2×4 would become the three T-braces at the top of each pole. Chain link fencing top rails that Poppie already had hanging around the plantation would become the last component.

I don’t recall how Poppie arrived at 20.5 inches for the T-braces. As usual, he didn’t discuss it with me. You can see that we installed the vertical garden poles to the right of my 2011 attempt at vertical gardening. Here are the 2012 vertical garden poles during installation:

For the new vertical garden poles, I ordered a 5-foot x 30 foot Dalen Garden Trellis Net. Mr. Fell’s design would allow anyone to easily slip the metal poles out of their sockets for threading the trellis netting onto the metal poles. Alas, my chain link top rails are too long to slide out of the holes. Way too long. I had to tie the netting to the top rails causing the netting to wompyjaw. I was not happy. I ultimately decided against a garden trellis net for the other side because, as you can see here, at 5 feet, it did not reach the soil and had to be tied/staked:

The garden netting not reaching the soil was an issue. After some serious mulling and muttering about not wanting to put string on my agenda, I succumbed to the inevitability of string. String is still relatively cheap but I’d almost rather take a beating than do all that stringing. Here’s the end result with garden netting on the west side and string on the east side:

Here is an angle view of both the original rickety vertical poles and the new vertical garden poles. I’ll bet even a spider gets confused looking at this.

On the east side, I have a 28-foot row of pole beans. On the west side, I have Thai Melon, red onions leftover from the winter, cucumbers, Birdhouse Gourd and Charantais Melon. All in a row that is, more or less, 20.5 inches wide.

I am now a tad worried about Poppie’s choice of 20.5 inches for the T-braces. It’s starting to look a little crowded in there for good air circulation.

Looking inside the 20.5 inches of vertical garden

In mid-February I expanded my garden to 28 x 28. I also have an additional two rows on the other side of the property that I refer to as my Tater Garden. However, other things seem to slip in over there – onions, carrots, watermelon, even a pineapple.

Update: The fence rails at the top are only 15 inches apart making all plantings only 15 inches apart unless I angle the strings/netting outward. See what happened to me the very first season.  I now wish the fence rails were much further apart. In hindsight, I should have cut the 30 foot Dalen Garden Trellis Net into five 6-foot lengths. This would have allowed the netting to hang all the way to the ground offering support to baby seedlings.    

Update 10/20/16:  For another idea on vertical gardening see my article on More Vertical Gardening.