Vertical gardening lets gardeners with small plots take it up a notch

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Trish Gedon
| OSU extension

STILLWATER – Things are looking up for garden lovers who want to think outside the box – literally – and those with limited space for traditional gardens to grow fruits, vegetables and flowers.

Growing plants vertically expands the possibilities for garden spaces, said David Hillock, consumer gardener with the Oklahoma State University Extension. Although plants naturally reach vertically towards sunlight, in this case vertical refers to the surfaces on which they grow.

“Vertical gardening is a great way to use empty vertical spaces like walls or fences, or even free-standing structures. This is a unique way to generate visual interest, ”said Hillock. “In addition, vertical gardening has potential benefits for seniors or those who live in apartments with only one balcony for the outside area or in a house with a small garden.”

Vertical gardens are often referred to as green walls, but they are different from facades like ivy walls. When gardeners think about support surfaces for vertical gardens, they need to think about what to grow – flowers, vegetables, or a combination of both – and then let their imaginations run wild.

Hillock said obvious choices include fences, trellises, pergolas, posts, trees and cages.

“If you really want visual interest, consider things like old ladders, bicycles, old wagon wheels, wooden pallets, or containers attached to an existing fence,” he said. “The possibilities are endless and are only limited by the look you go for in this room.”

While there are many plants that can grow vertically, not every plant is a good choice for every surface.

Plants that thrive by crawling or hanging down – including runner beans, some peas, tomatoes, and most cucumbers – can easily be grown vertically with the necessary support.

The same goes for melons, squashes, squashes, and gourds, but they need even more stable surfaces. Other plants may need to be tied up.

“Another thing to consider is that plants grown in a vertical garden will be exposed to more sun and air, so they will dry out faster,” Hillock said. “Frequent watering is important. In some cases, drip and micro-irrigation alternatives can be combined very effectively to provide adequate moisture. “

For those who enjoy traditional gardening along with their vertical projects, make sure the structures are positioned so that they don’t cast unwanted shade on sun-loving plants.

“We know how damaging the wind can be in Oklahoma, so it’s a good idea to have some sort of windbreak if possible,” said Hillock. “Also, like traditional gardening, vertical garden containers should drain well to encourage good development of the root system. Good drainage also prevents root rot. “

Vertical growing vegetables has the potential to significantly increase a gardener’s food production by increasing yields per square foot. While it can take a little longer to set everything up, growing vertically can reduce fruiting problems and make watering, harvesting, and spraying easier. Depending on the placement of these structures, vertical gardens can act as a cooling barrier between sunlight and the home, which has the potential to lower utility bills.

Hillock said there are great benefits for seniors or other people with limited mobility.

“You can just walk into your garden and harvest your vegetables and herbs much easier than you can with a traditional vegetable or herb patch,” he said. “Gardening can be such a creative outlet for many people, and vertical gardening is just another way to be creative in the landscape and get the most out of your outdoor space.”