Vertical Gardening

Vertical Gardening – by Deborah Rankin, J Bar D Ranchvertical gardening
Member, Texas Beekeeper Association

Urban and suburban gardeners are usually “space-challenged” so it just makes sense to look for ways to increase your gardening space and yield by employing plants that can be grown vertically and often do so without the gardener’s permission. The accompanying photo is a testimony to the ease of which some vegetables and fruits can be grown vertically. I planted some watermelon seeds in my garden; the bed happened to be near a cyclone fence. The watermelon vine snaked up the fence, bloomed, and produced watermelons. If you will notice the vines in this picture grew around the melon attempting to support the fruit on the fence; Mother Nature is truly amazing!

My husband has dubbed me an “info-holic” – I am guilty as charged. If attend a seminar or conference and walk away with one new piece of beneficial information I consider the time – and money – well spent. I frequently buy or borrow two or more references on the same subject just to determine if the authors share common ground on a subject or whether any of the authors can provide information or tips that others do not. Sometimes while on an “info-holic” binge I run across a book I consider of significant value – “Vertical Gardening” by Derek Fell is one of those books.

The author presents a variety of methods for growing plants – vegetables, fruit trees and bushes – in limited space, including which vertical methods work best for particular plants. It also contains some great ideas and illustrations using the various methods.

What was really amazing about this book was the variety of vegetables and fruits that can be grown vertically using pergolas, arbors, hanging baskets, tower pots, fences and by espelliar – for example, grapes, cherries, plums, apricots, pears, apples, melons, figs, kiwis, many varieties of berries, cucumbers, tomatoes, pole beans, climbing (Malabar) spinach and Spaghetti squash; the latter two were unknown to me before reading the book.

Since I love squash, I went on another “info-binge” researching Spaghetti squash and as a result obtained some seeds which are at this writing sprouting along my garden fence. For those of you not familiar with Spaghetti squash, the pulp of this vegetable which consists of long strands is an excellent low-fat replacement for its namesake pasta – spaghetti, and it is rich in vitamins and minerals; well worth allotting some space in your garden.

The spaghetti squash ranges between 4 – 8 pounds in weight and can be grown vertically as a winter squash. It stores well after picking. There are many delicious recipes available for spaghetti squash including tossing it with olive oil, herbs and feta cheese or topping it with spaghetti sauce for a low-fat pasta dish, just to name a few.

On one subject the author and I disagree – companion planting. There are many reasons for companion planting, one of which is to attract predator bugs. Without a doubt certain bugs are attracted to certain plants, otherwise, why would you have bugs called squash bugs for example?! Just as squash bugs are attracted to squash, so are predator bugs attracted to certain plants for breeding, shelter, etc. By planting” predator attracting” plants in your garden as is done to attract butterflies and honey bees, an environment is created to bring in the predator or “beneficial” bugs which then feed on the destructive bugs – so in my opinion – companion planting has certain value. But everyone is entitled to their opinions – even the author. Other than that one issue, I found the book an easy read and extremely enlightening; I highly recommend it to novice gardeners!