There are many good reasons to garden vertically. If space is at a premium going vertical is a great solution while at the same time the volume of produce harvested can be dramatically increased in a small space. Growing upwards can offer greater accessibility for physically challenged gardeners. Plant health is enhanced and maintenance chores can be reduced or almost eliminated. There are many approaches that work well to grow upwards. This month we share our experiences with vertical gardening.

Over the last two gardening seasons we have converted the majority of our gardening to a vertical format to achieve several objectives. We wished to down-size our garden space and move it closer to the house near our high tunnel. This consolidated the lion’s share of our work effort while allowing us to produce our favorite crops in adequate amounts.

We utilize grow bags to elevate the plants off of the ground. The bags are filled with a quality compost and soilless planting mix that we produce. The majority of the bags used are 7-gallons, 10-gallons and 15-gallons in size. Landscape fabric is laid over the ground to eliminate any weeding maintenance. The bags sit on plastic pallets that were placed over the fabric to provide air circulation, good drainage and a little more elevation.

The grow bags are used for herbs, peppers, eggplants, potatoes, okra and tomatoes. Five-foot tall concrete reinforcing mesh cages are placed over the tomatoes and okra. To provide needed support bamboo stakes are used to secure plants in all the grow bags. We utilize drip irrigation emitters in the bags to make watering and fertilization an easy task. By using this method there is very little bending required to harvest crops. There is no weeding required and good air circulation is easy to achieve with adequate spacing between the grow bags.

In 2017 we trialed, with great success, a vertical roller hook system in our high tunnel to grow vining tomatoes and cucumbers. The plant is pruned to a single stem which is attached with clips to a cord that is moved vertically as the plant grows. We harvested tomatoes and cucumbers into December. The 2018 plan is to implement this system outside the high tunnel and compare the results. The tomato plants grown in the high tunnel using this method remained disease free during the growing season.

The majority of the effort for our vertical approach is in the set-up and dismantling. We find this system to be much less demanding physically and it reduces wear and tear on the knees and back. Contact us with your gardening questions. sdeberg@ marengo-uniontimes.com

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