Grow Up! Vertical Gardening

by Ken Greene

artful trellis

I love a vigorous variety, especially one that climbs. Vertical gardening is a great way to grow for small spaces, privacy, visual interest, easy picking, and critter control.

Here are some of our favorites with tips on how to grow them.

erin morning glory Erin with her Morning Glory tower.

Morning Glory and Moon Flower: These are both morning glories but one blooms during the day and one blooms in the evening and night. Can you guess which is which? I love growing these together. They have the same habits, same care needs, twine romantically together, the Moon Flower smells heavenly, and you get blooms all day and into the night. I'm experimenting with growing them in a container this year. Here's how I'm doing it.

1. Nick and soak the seeds. These seeds can take a long time to germinate if you don't speed up the process a bit. I rub them in coarse sand paper and then soak them in warm water for 24 hours.

2. Set up supports. It's best to do this first so that you don't have to disturb the plants after they get growing. Fencing, vertical strings, trellising,  stick structures, cages, anything with vertical paths to follow will work great.

3. Plant in moist soil and keep wet. You can do this in a garden, base of a fence, stairs or railing, or in a container. Make sure these seeds don't dry out whole they are still germinating. Follow the spacing info on our packs weather these are planted in the ground or a container. I'm planting a few more than that and will thin out to leave the best looking seedlings.

4. Once they are up water moderately, letting the spoil surface dry out between watering.

5. Give some direction. It they are not finding your supports you can encourage them to climb by gently winding them a few times around the base of the trellising. They won't need any help after that!

6. Let them grow up!

moon_flower_art_print Moonflower by Tona Wilson


balloon vine small Heart Seed by Cal Patch

Balloon Vine: This vigorous vine can also be inter-planted with morning glories. The inflated chartreuse pods are so cool but the flowers themselves are barely visible. Amazingly, the tiny flowers attract native pollinators and honey bees from all around. I also like this vine for some fall interest; the pods fade from green to rust. IN the late fall you can harvest the pods, pop them, and collect the three round seeds inside each balloon. Each ebony seed has an ivory heart on it. Tip: make sure this is growing on something very sturdy. The dense foliage and hearty vines can get heavy. These make a great privacy screen.


cucumber tendril These cukes are natural climbers.

Yamato Sanjaku Cucumber: This Japanese cuke is long and skinny. You'd never know it has seeds when you harvest it at the right stage. Although you can grow this right on the ground, if you want your cucumbers to be long and straight and not curly, then grow it on a trellis. It doesn't need much encouragement to grow tall. If you have critters that like cucurbits, this will keep your developing harvest off the ground and make it easier to pick- no more bending over to find the fruits!

scarlet runner flower Scarlet Runner Beans are both edible and ornamental.

Scarlet Runner Bean and Northeaster Bean: All of our pole beans love to climb. The biggest difference between a bush bean and a pole bean, other than the climbing, is how they ripen. Bush beans have a distinct harvest window of about 10 days. When they're done producing it's time to pull out the plants. Pole beans ripen in succession from bottom to top and provide a longer season of eating.


purple podded pea gardiner library

Peas: A beautiful, edible and great climber. Sow in early spring and provide a good support. We've used plastic webbing, the basket weave, and even old mattress frames to support luscious plants.

mattress trellis