Because our garden’s footprint is small we need to get the best use out of our limited space. The solution is to grow vertically. This can be something as simple as “the three sisters” of corn, beans and squash used by Native Americans, or as complicated as a permanent trellis and netting system that can be used year round. Even growing tomatoes using stakes is a form of vertical growing.
The Benefits of Vertical Gardening
Many crops are affected by disease and fungus problems that are exacerbated by moisture on the leaves. Trellises and stakes increase air circulation, allowing plants to dry out more quickly after a rain. This often eliminates the problems completely.
Plants have greater access to sunlight. When you run your garden east to west and put the trellis and the taller plants in the back, everything gets an even wash of sunlight, whether your sunlight is primarily in the morning or the afternoon.
Raising crops off the ground means less exposure to soil pathogens. Raindrops can splash on the ground and move diseases onto the leaves of your plants. Fruit laying on the ground can be easily contaminated as well and is more easily attacked by bugs and critters. Raising the plants also means that beneficial predators have better access to the bugs bothering your garden.
Climbing varieties often taste better! In order to allow for mechanical harvesting, many bush bean and pea varieties were bred to mature at the same time. Taste was not as important as timing. Your harvest period will be longer, too! This also applies to bush tomatoes and cucumbers.
Trellises make crops easier to harvest. No one likes bending down to pick peas or beans. Picking peas, beans or cucumbers at eye level is a pleasure! And having your crops where you can see them means it’s a lot easier to tell if something’s crawling on them.
Increased leaf surface. Finally, it’s not the footprint of your garden that matters, but the amount of leaf surface you can expose to sunlight. A trellis that’s seven feet tall and nine feet wide will add 63 square feet of growing surface to a 3’ x 9’ garden bed.