The benefits of growing up

No, not that kind of growing up but gardening vertically

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

If you have ever considered growing your garden vertically then do it. If haven't then why not give it a try. Not only can it absolutely stunning visually, but it also provides many benefits as well.

You are able to grow more in less space and thus maximize limited space and especially if you live in town, gardening vertically can provide you a nice and useful privacy screen even though mostly only during the growing season.

It increases accessibility as it is so much easier to harvest your yield, as long as you do not put it up that high – or let the plants grow that tall – that the produce is way too far up. Have done that with beans and know.

It keeps your crop up and off the ground, so it provides great pest prevention and prevents ground rot and it also provides proper air flow to keep diseases, fungi, and powder mildew down which results in healthier plants and can – I did say can – provide a higher crop yield.

Theoretically it also gives the plants more sun exposure. I do theoretically because it all depends also in growing this way from which direction most of your property gets the sun.

Gardening in this way also makes for cleaner and more visually appealing crops because they are not in the dirt, and are able to grow to their true shape with no flat sides or discoloration from sitting in the soil.

And growing vertical is not just trellises and such, as far as I am concerned, but hanging baskets too can be successfully employed in this and I have started growing strawberries in hanging baskets with the result that they are not attacked by slugs – they can't get to them – and not even by birds.

Swiss Chard, for instance, with its more often than not multi-colored foliage looks quite stunning in hanging baskets and if they are hung by, or near, the door you only have to step out to harvest. Same goes for herbs and spices.

Window boxes, and not only used at the windows but fixed to fences, etc., also provide a good growing space. And here you can also improvise, reuse and upcycle for the window box does not have to be a window box nor does it have to be a box at all, or not have been one originally. Thinking out of the box here helps to save money. Also, as far as trellises and other “risers” go, upcycling is very much the way to go.

Any plant that climbs, theoretically, such as cucumbers and other squashes, bean and peas, and those that can be trained to grow that way, should be led up – no, not the garden path – trellises and other such structures.

In Spanish villages one can often observe entire walls of houses with plant pots fixed to them full of all kinds of flowering plants, predominately though geraniums. The same can, however, also be done with edible plants and flowers. And why not mix your pots with crops with pots with flowering plants. Again though, as far as the crops are concerned, do not put them up too high.

I do two things in my approach to gardening. Where I can I use containers, tubs and others, on the ground or, as I am now going over to, seated on old pallets to keep them somewhat off the ground, and I grow upwards, so to speak, in hanging baskets, trellises and wall-“containers” – and that here means anything from pots in holders to window boxes screwed to the wall and the like.

If you, like me, grow beans in a large container, and do not – though I do – have access to bean poles then go the old Victorian kitchen garden way and use one pole in the middle with strings attached that are used for the bean runners to grow up on. (See picture) The Edwardians and Victorians actually, the rich houses, had for their kitchen gardens when growing beans, a special cast iron pole with attachments for the strings but something like that can easily be created by means of upcycling (as in the photo) or by using a wooden pole and attaching the strings. A number of screw in eye hooks could be used to which to attach the strings to the pole.

There are many ways to gardening vertically and this can even be employed if you use the garden itself with raised beds and the like. It gives you additional space and, again, keeps many of the crops off the ground keeping them cleaner and healthier.

For much more information that I could possibly give you in an article check out Mark Ridsdill Smith (no relation) and his Vertical Veg operation at Vertical Veg and in the group that goes with it, Vertical Veg Community on Facebook.

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