Vertical Gardening Using Trellises, Stakes, and Cages

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Vertical gardening is the practice of “gardening up,” in which a variety of structures are used to elevate plant growth to take advantage of vertical space. Vertical gardening is well-suited to urban areas where space is limited and gardeners are interested in using space most efficiently. Balconies, decks, patios, windowsills, fence lines, and backyard gardens are excellent places to practice vertical gardening. This publication will describe the use of vertical gardening techniques to get the most out of growing vegetables and other plants in these small spaces.

Plants that produce long sprawling vines perform well when trained to vertical support structures. Pole beans, peas, cucumbers, melons, and tomatoes are excellent candidates. Trellises, stakes, and cages allow for climbing plants that would normally take over a garden to be grown and contained in a smaller area, allowing for more space to be used for other crops. It doesn’t have to be expensive; various repurposed materials can be used to build these simple structures (Figure 1). Vertical gardening provides many other benefits beyond maximizing the use of available space. Vertically-trained plants can be easier to harvest from and bare cleaner, higher-quality fruit. Additionally, training plants upright can facilitate better air movement through the foliage, which reduces disease pressure.

Katie Settlage
Alex Hessler
Virginia Cooperative Extension