A vertical vegetable garden is a simple way to boost growing space, reduce insect and disease problems, and beautify decks and patios. In my veggie plot, I use structures like trellises, stakes, and obelisks. These support vining tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, gourds, peas, and pole beans. But, I also have a vertical vegetable garden on my back deck and patio. With a little creative thinking, you can grow edibles on walls and fences, or create your own vertical space with hanging baskets or pallets.
There are several great books on growing food vertically. Three of my favourites include Vertical Vegetables & Fruit by Rhonda Massingham Hart, Grow a Living Wall by Shawna Coronado, and Vertical Gardening by Derek Fell.
5 fun vertical vegetable garden ideas:
1) Salad tower – With a salad tower, you’ll never run out of homegrown greens! Easy to make, this is a cylinder built from a sturdy wire mesh, lined in plastic, and filled with soil. To build, bend a 6 foot tall section of metal mesh (like concrete reinforcing wire or a chicken wire-like mesh with holes at least 4 inches square) into a two-foot diameter cylinder. Line with a garbage bag or a large plastic sheet. Fill with moist potting soil. Poke holes or cut an X through the plastic and slip a seedling into the cylinder, making sure the roots are pushed into the potting soil. Continue to plant seedlings all around the cylinder. Water well and feed every two weeks with a liquid organic food. Mix and match lettuce, arugula, spinach, chard, Asian greens, and kale for a tapestry of greens.
Related post: Grow a living wall
2) Hanging garden – A hanging basket takes up no ground space, but can offer a bumper crop of sweet strawberries or tumbling tomatoes. Look for everbearing or day neutral types of strawberries for the longest harvest. Hang the basket in a sheltered sunny spot, and water and feed often.
3) Pallet garden – Pioneered by Fern Richardson, author of Small Space Container Gardening (Timber Press, 2012), pallet gardens have become a huge garden trend in recent years. A pallet garden is an easy and effective way to grow compact vegetables and herbs like salad greens, baby kale, dwarf peas, bush beans, parsley, thyme, basil, and rosemary as well as edible flowers like pansies and calendula. No pallet? No problem! You can also buy cool pallet-like planters like this Gronomics vertical garden. Perfect for salad greens, strawberries, herbs and more.
Related post: Growing cucumbers vertically
4) Gutter garden – I was first inspired by Jayme Jenkins, who contributed her unique gutter garden design to my book Groundbreaking Food Gardens. But any crafty gardener can create a vertical gutter garden. It can be attached directly to walls and fences or hung with chains. Don’t forget about drainage – use a drill to make drainage holes on the bottom of your gutters, add end caps, and then fill with potting soil. Best bets for plants include curly parsley, alpine strawberries, lettuce, spinach, ‘Tiny Tim’ tomatoes, and nasturtiums.
5) Windowbox wall – One of the easiest ways to grow food vertically is to secure window boxes or individual pots to fences and walls. To really stand out, paint the containers in bright colours before they are hung. Plant with compact herbs, vegetables, and strawberries.
Do you have a vertical vegetable garden?
Helen Opie says
I have always done some trellising, and with old age (83) am doing more and more growing vertically to save space and help protect veggies from ground level predators like slugs & earwigs, as well as just plain rot from sitting on wet mulch or bare soil. I definitely need this new book of yours!
Niki Jabbour says
Thanks for your comment Helen – sounds like you love growing veggies as much as I do! I too found that growing crops like cucumbers vertically reduced the number of pests – like the slugs and earwigs you mention.. wishing you a bountiful growing season! – Niki
Hi Nikki, this question is completely off the vertical garden topic. I’ve recently seen Pink Lemonade Blueberries advertised for sale, saying they are hardiness zones 4-8. I am interested in growing them but have never heard of them being grown in Nova Scotia, is this something that would grow in the Halifax area?
Niki Jabbour says
Hi Lloyd, great question! And yes they can.. I know a handful of gardeners in the Halifax area that are growing Pink Lemonade blueberries.. you should also be able to source them quite easily – Bloom Greenhouse, for example. I talked to a gardener last spring who had planted a hedge of them.. they didn’t find them as productive as other highbush varieties, but enjoyed the unique coloured berries.. and the shrubs themselves are also very ornamental. They fruit best with another pollinator, so be sure to pick another mid to late bearing highbush variety. Hope this helps – keep us posted! – Niki
Thanks Niki, I am definitely going to plant them!
I love the idea of using pallets to grow veggies. I have several heat treated wood pallets, that I will now use to make a vertical garden. Great idea!
Be cautious of Pallets which have been chemically treated for pests, as that can adversely affect your plants.
I also had issues with using a pallet to support soil and plants. Not as easy as it sounds. Once the soil is watered – it can pull away from the pallet.
seems to me if you were to line the pallet with burlap or landscape fabric, the soil would be easier to keep in place.
Dave C says
Using trellises for peas, Scarlett runner beans, cukes, and tomatoes. Next year I’m gonna try something new, but I’m not sure what!
I am moving soon and plan to use vertical gardens for my new balcony – there were some very interesting ideas presented here which I definitely need to check out. Thank you!