Plants that benefit from trellising
Sometimes people forget to grow up–or, maybe like Peter Pan, they don't wanna grow up. But with a little extra support, growing up can be a real joy! Take peas, for instance. Peas want something to cling to; with nothing for their little tendrils to grab hold of, peas will sprawl along the ground and be more susceptible to fungi and pests. Same goes with pole beans, cucumbers, flowering vines, and indeterminate tomatoes: all will tend to sprawl over the ground–which is why supports are provided in the form of staking, twining, wooden trellises, trellis netting, tomato cages, and the like.
Done with care, supports can give beautiful shape to a plant, whether it's a privacy screen made from Ruby Moon Hyacinth Bean, a well-supported vine of dangling cukes, or an entire tunnel grown from Heart Seed. Climbing plants bring form and structure, but also an element of wildness to the garden–and they're practical too; their climbing habit frees up space down below, allowing more room for other crops.
Climbing varieties also make for easy picking: no need to constantly bend to the floor when harvesting! They help to create a healthy growing environment, increasing air flow around the plants which can reduce problems such as powdery mildew as well as pests attracted to diseased plant matter. And they provide much-needed afternoon shade for heat-sensitive crops like lettuces!
Most varieties for vertical gardening will need to be trellised. A trellis is a vertical or horizontal latticed structure. A trellis doesn’t just support vertical growth; it also supports horizontal growth, helping to disperse the plant canopy and the fruits. It can be a fence, posts with string stretched across, chicken wire, netting, really anything with vertical paths for plants to follow. Our nylon trellis netting works well for most lightweight climbers. Some of our favorite crops for trellising are:
Red Malabar Spinach: Although not technically a spinach, Basella rubra produces an abundance of edible leaves that taste deliciously similar to spinach. With its heart-shaped leaves and violet cascading blooms, Red Malabar Spinach grows to 7" tall and makes an excellent privacy screen.
Green Skin Bitter Melon: A staple of Chinese cuisine and well-known for its health benefits, these fascinating, warty fruits are excellent in broths, soups, and stir fries. Bitter Melon plants reach 9" tall and prefer full sun, fertile soil, a sturdy trellis, and plenty of room to ramble.
Gourds: Yakteen is a bottle-shaped gourd with a vining habit, reaching 8-12' tall. If trellised, the plants can form a bright green canopy with dangling gourds. Picked young, Yakteen gourds are delicious and mild; allow fruits to fully mature and dry if using for crafts. Birdhouse Gourd is another gourd we love for crafts. Best known for its shapely fruits that can be dried for birdhouses, Birdhouse Gourd will grow to about 6' tall and looks attractive along fences.
Peas – Peas are sown in early spring, so by late April, early May they'll definitely be needing something to grab onto. A trellis with a tighter mesh structure such as chicken wire or netting works best. Taller varieties such as Sugar Snap Pea, Swiss Giant Snow Pea and the Tall Telephone Shelling Pea will all benefit from trellising. For those who want hassle-free peas, no trellising is needed for these shorter varieties: Tom Thumb Pea, Sugar Daddy Snap Pea, and Green Arrow Shell Pea.
Pole Beans – The main difference between pole beans and bush beans, besides the fact that they love to climb, 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. Some of these varieties, such as the Red Noodle Bean, can grow to 8’ plus so trellis with tall, sturdy stakes, posts, or string running up the side of your house or shed.
Cucumbers – Cukes can be grown on the ground but if you’re looking for cleaner, straighter fruits, then consider using a trellis. You may also avoid some hungry pests and will certainly make the picking less back-breaking. Choose a sturdy trellis with some wire or mesh support that can bear the weight of the vines and fruit.
Climbing Flowers – Morning Glories, Hyacinth Bean, Balloon Vine and Moon Flower will all climb tall and look beautiful doing it. Use strings or twine if growing up the side of your house, or plant them near fencing or stakes.
Tomatoes – While tomatoes aren’t natural climbers, most indeterminate varieties do require support. Growing tomatoes vertically will also keep fruit from spoiling on the ground and you will have fewer issues with pests. For best results, use stakes and wire or twine to tie the branches to and keep well pruned.
Vertical gardening adds a whole new dimension to the landscape–and it's a lot of fun. We love seeing pics of your gardening experiments–tag us on Instagram with your vertical creations!