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You Need to GROW UP: Vertical Gardening at the 'Stead (+ 3 Easy Garden DIYs)

Hey y’all!

Welcome, or welcome back to ‘Stead in the City! Hope you are doing well today! It might shock some of you but sometimes I like to describe myself as a “city-country kinda gal”. Like I have a strong kinship to the Earth that longs for acres and acres of country living, but I also thoroughly enjoy the comforts of the city. I don’t shy away from chores around the ‘Stead either – I just prefer to do them with a fresh manicure. Get the gist? Since I live and garden/homestead in the city, I don’t have a ton of land. In total, the current ‘Stead (lot size) is about 5000sqft and for context, I live in “America’s Fruit Basket” or, the California Central Valley. The former ‘Stead in Central Arkansas was about double the size – at a little under 10,000sqft (still not an acre), and to be fair that home was a bit more suburban. In order to reach my Garden Goals (shameless plug for ‘Stead in the City’s Garden Goals garden organization tool)I have to maximize the space I have in a way that makes sense and works within the ecological system of the garden: companion planting, using traditional growing methods such as the 3 sisters, incorporating pollinator friendly plants throughout the property, and most importantly – VERTICAL GARDENING.

Vertical gardening means growing up instead of out and can be achieved by using garden towers such as Greenstalk, DIY or store bought hanging planters , and/or trellising.

I've used and still use a mix off of all 3 three methods, but this blog is going to focus on trellising: HOW TO, WHAT TO GROW, and DIY PROJECTS that are both functional and add that extra PIZAZZ to the garden!

CLIMBING CROPS such as pole beans, peas, gherkins, and malabar spinach require trellising, or something to grow and climb on in order to thrive and produce. Other crops such as cucumber, some varieties of squash, melons, and other VINING CROPS benefit from trellising because it keeps the fruit (the part we eat) off of the ground, lessening the chances of rot, disease, pest infestation, or growing to massive proportions because it was hiding behind a leaf. (I’m looking at you zucchini!) Other crops such as tomatoes, okra, and peppers also benefit from trellising, but that is mostly for support because as they grow and produce fruit they can get really heavy and you don’t want to risk damage to the plant because it snapped or fell over from too much weight. Trellising also improves circulation which lessens the possibility of disease and rot.

Climbing and vining flowers also benefit from trellising. Wisteria, jasmine, several varieties of ivy, climbing nasturtiums, morning glory, and climbing varieties of roses do well and look great with trellising! THE ULTIMATE SELFIE SPOT!

You can buy garden trellises at your local nursery or big box store but they tend to be expensive, not long lasting (exception: tomato cages), and can actually stunt your plants growth (especially tomato cages). My first DIY trellis was the infamous CATTLE PANEL arch made from 16ft cattle panel, t-posts, and zipties. I only had space (well planned space) for one trellis, but I was able to trellis cucumbers, cucamelons, peas, and malabar spinach pretty successfully. For pole beans, I relied on the 3 Sisters Method and allowed the plants to trellis on tall crops such as corn, callaloo (green amaranth), and sunflowers. Watermelons and patty pan squash acted as living mulch in the 3 Sisters beds.

Following the wise words, “If it aint broke, don’t fix it”, I am utilizing the same vertical growing methods in the new garden. However, because I am working in a new gardenscape and microclimate I am incorporating each trellis in ways that are beneficial to the overall garden i.e. sunblockers for lower crops when we get deep into the summer season, and striking visuals at varying levels. I also plan on incorporating two 3 Sisters plots where the tall crops (okra and callaloo) will serve as trellises for my Black Eyed Peas and Ideal market beans which in turn draw nitrogen back into soil.

Trellis choices are kind of endless and can be really fun if you use a little bit of creativity. The cattle panel arch at the old ‘Stead was such a focal point in the garden – it was truly one of my favorite parts (insert picture). This year’s trellis choices are all different but serve vital functions within the garden. Here’s how I am trellising this year and what I am growing on them!

  1. 2”x2” Welded Wire and T-Posts

  • In lieu of cattle panel I opted for 2”x2” welded wire cut into 4.5’x4’ sections propped up on 2 t-posts (painted for added flair) and held together by several zip ties. I built 3 trellises andI placed one at the front of each bed. Like I mentioned before, as the crops grow they will form a natural wall that will provide the lower crops (peppers, tomatoes, herbs, etc) some shade and relief from the hot California Valley sun come midsummer.

  • What I am growing: cucamelon (Mexican sour gherkin) and nasturitium – not a climbing variety but will make up the lower portion of the shade wall, lemon cucumber, and blue podded peas. More than likely I will replace the peas with a bean or another cucumber once it warms up.

  1. Bamboo TeePee

  • I’ve been dying to add a teepee to garden! When I first got the idea (probably from Pinterest), I wanted to grow beans on it and have a big enough space on the inside for the kids to hang out in. Unfortunately I never made that happen at the old ‘Stead but was DETERMINED to make it happen at our new place.. When we moved from Arkansas to California I made sure to pack my bamboo stalks(I was using them as pepper supports). Thankfully the previous owners left a few stalks behind, and my parents had tons of bamboo which they happily let me have.. Overall this build was super simple. I arranged the bamboo sticks (5) in a wide enough teepee or tent structure and secured them at the top with garden twine

  • What I am Growing: Red Malabar Spinach – this is going to add so much beauty to the garden, I literally can’t wait!

  1. Wooden Garden Cages

  • I did not build these – well I did put them together, but they were crafted by a small, woman owned business in New Jersey. Unfortunately she is no longer in business otherwise I would definitely share her link.

  • While the structure of these cages make them super useful in the garden for any vining or climbing crop, I am using them as tomato cages. Tomatoes, peppers, and other bush type crops that produce a lot of fruit benefit from added support as the plant sets fruit and becomes top heavy. This type of trellising is less about containment, but rather general plant care.

I love the practicality and beauty of GROWING UP! I extra love that you can DIY trellises and make them fit the EXACT needs of your garden (i.e. shade for lower crops) Do you utilize vertical gardening? What do you grow on? What are you growing?

Ciao & Cheers!

Happy Planting!!

- Tiffe at the 'Stead

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