Using Your Fence for Growing Vertical Vegetables

comments (6) March 7th, 2012

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ChrisMcLaughlin Chris McLaughlin, contributor
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Photo by Craigsypoo under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
Photo by Ken Mayer under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
Photo by PermaCultured under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
Photo by Craigsypoo under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.Click To Enlarge

Photo by Craigsypoo under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

If you aren't doing this with your veggies already, you're missing out. Growing vegetables vertically saves space, time, and money. As an added perk, it also minimizes pests and disease for food crops such as cucumbers, pole beans, peas, squash, tomatoes, melons, and pumpkins. What should your veggies be climbing? You can break out your tools, some directions and begin construction.

But I'm always looking for the easiest route and think that the most logical structures to start with are the foundation or permanent (or semi-permanent) fencing in your yard or garden. Fencing that you already have on your property, is fair game as a support for vertical vegetables. For that matter, so are trellises, or arbors that were previously used for roses, clematis, or other ornamental plants.

The fencing that separates your property from your neighbor's is a logical place to start when planning on gardening up. One way to utilize solid, wood-paneled fencing is by attaching hanging baskets, pots, and other growing containers to it. With this type of vertical garden, you wouldn't be worrying about vegetable plants that climb, it would be about veggies and fruit that grow well in containers such as lettuce, radishes, strawberries, herbs, and the like.

Wood fencing made with flat boards doesn't offer anything for climbing veggies to "grab" in order to hoist themselves up, but attaching a trellis or other grid-type material is a game-changer. Now, the tendrils and twiners have all the support they need. Some yards are surrounded by low, picket-type fencing. Fences that are constructed with both vertical or horizontal materials can be used as a home for climbing veggies. Hanging planters can also be secured to the top of this type of fence and still be within the gardener's reach.

Chain-link fencing, while technically ugly, turns out to be undeniably useful as a vertical garden structure. It's a climbing plant's dream. Not to mention that when something with full foliage is planted against it, it's transformed into an attractive "solid" wall. I've grown grape vines along our short, chain-link fence and I loved the look.

But heed my warning here: Most vegetable plants are going to be of the annual sort. Which means that the plant is going to die at the end of every season. Which means that you'll be picking the dead, brittle, twining vines off and out of that chain link. Capische? Now, this information never stopped me, but I felt it was only fair to offer up the dirty details. By the way, the grape vines weren't nearly as bad as the dead green bean vines.

Solid cement wall fences have an additional perk that most don't; a flat, secure top. Rectangular planter boxes can be placed along the top of the wall for an instant vertical garden. Plant those boxes or troughs with peas and harvest the pods as they grow down instead of up.

This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, my gardening friends, by thinking vertically, you'll find a surprising amount of gardening space where there was none before.

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posted in: trellis, fencing

Comments (6)

Badener writes: I use the 4ft X 8ft metal grids with approx. 4" spacing, meant for reinforcing concrete and available at building supply yards. Rusting quickly, they become virtually invisible, held upright with lengths of rebar (cut at same yard, length depending on whether the grid will be used vertical for pole beans, or horizontal, for tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, climbing squash). The grids can stay in the ground for years. Can also be bent into tomato and cuke cages.

Have seen them attached, with 3-inch wooden spacers, to a solid-wood fence, as an attractive blackberry trellis. Within a strengthening wooden frame, these grids also make attractive overhead trellising (wisteria) - but because of rust drips, best not over paving stones.
Posted: 10:23 am on April 11th
yardener writes: I thought it was a waste to buy stakes for toamtoes every year so I've use left over fence and built 3 areas where I can rotate beans, tomatoes and cukes. The fences are permanent so I don't have to worry about setting them up every spring.
I keep them 6 to 8 inches off the ground for easier cultivation
Posted: 8:50 am on March 9th
Veeta writes: I'm lucky to have a tall wooden fence to help support my thornless blackberry, but my neighbor--though quite tolerant of my gardening along the fence--trims the vines that come through when I neglect to do so. This is not necessarily where I want the vines trimmed, and who knows what's on his pruners. So, while this works out for us, remember to keep your neighbor in mind when using a shared fence. I am just fortunate that all of my newbie mistakes don't result in bad neighbor relations!

Posted: 11:55 am on March 8th
ChrisMcLaughlin writes: Ruth ~ I love how you think! That's an excellent idea.
Mike ~ Bless you! :D
Posted: 10:50 am on March 8th
Ruth writes: Much to the chagrin of the local wildlife, I have to fence most of my edible plants, and I often use the odd leftover fence sections inside the gardens to support peas, cukes, pole beans, and even tomatoes. These impromptu trellises can easily be moved from season to season by relocating the posts.
Posted: 9:51 am on March 8th
MikeTheGardener writes: As always, Chris is the voice of great gardening tips for your home!
Posted: 8:08 am on March 8th
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