DIY Vertical Gardens

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You don't need a huge plot of land to grow a garden. Since many vines grow upward, they help you get the most from a small space.

Understanding Vines

Vined plants are truly remarkable works of nature in that they not only grow, but also climb up other structures by adhering, curling and wrapping themselves around them. These amazing plants offer many advantages to gardeners including:

  • Economical use of ground space
  • Large harvests for food-producing vines
  • Low maintenance once plants are established.

Although vines don't require high maintenance, be aware that they aren't completely maintenance free. Vines generally require some pruning, and they often require more water than other types of garden plants. Adding mulch to your garden is a great way to help vines retain the water you give them, and lower your maintenance.

Edible DIY Vertical Gardens

If you're new to gardening, you may not be aware that some of your favorite fruits and vegetables grow on vines and are just right for DIY vertical gardens. Here are a few delicious and healthy vined plants you may want to grow:

  • Climbing beans
  • Peas
  • Cucumbers
  • Squash
  • Grapes
  • Passion fruit
  • Melons
  • Tomatoes
diy vertical garden diy vertical garden

Ornamental Vined Plants

If you're looking for an ornamental rather than an edible vertical garden, you've also got lots of options. These beautiful varieties may be just right to bring life and color to your property:

  • Algerian Ivy: With glossy, deep green leaves that can grow to eight inches, Algerian Ivy is able to crawl and climb on just about any surface. Use it for ground cover, privacy or to add some charm to the side of a building.
  • Butterfly pea: This perennial fast climber produces intense purple, blue or pink flowers in mid to late summer.
  • Honeysuckle: If you're looking for something easy to grow with a big reward, consider Honeysuckle. These plants are almost impossible to kill and produce delicate flowers with a sweet, haunting fragrance. Some species of honeysuckle flowers even have edible nectar! And the rewards don't end there. Honeysuckle attracts delicate hummingbirds and butterflies to your yard throughout the summer months.
  • Flame Vine: This evergreen plant offers early gratification for your efforts. It blooms in late winter and early spring, bursting with sunny orange flower clusters.
  • Dutchman's Pipe: If your garden area doesn’t get full sun, partial shade-loving Dutchman's pipe will fill your space with breathtakingly intricate patterned flowers.

How To Plant Vines For A DIY Vertical Garden

Vined gardens grow in all kinds of unlikely areas. Here are just a few:

  • Small corners or neglected areas of your yard
  • Areas adjacent to buildings or other structures
  • In clay pots, barrels baskets or tins.

These planting tips will help you get started with a healthy vertical garden:

  1. Try to plant vines during your rainy season or at least a rainy period.
  2. Dig pits, about 12 inches deep and 12 inches square.
  3. After mixing the dug out area with compost, refill the pit pressing mixture down firmly.
  4. Plant about four seeds in the center of each pit and water gently.
  5. When your seedlings grow to about four inches high, thin each pit so your plants will have room to grow.
  6. Be sure to keep your soil moist until plants are established.

If water usage is an issue in your area, or if you'd just like to conserve water, wastewater that contains no soap or chemicals is fine for watering vines. Cooking wastewater is excellent for this purpose.

Supporting Your Vines

Since vines want to cling, crawl and climb, with a little planning, you may not have to provide any additional support for them. You may want to try supporting your vines by planting them on or near one of these existing structures:

  • Pillars
  • Rooftops
  • The sides of houses and storage sheds
  • Fences
  • Hedges
  • Field bunds
  • Haystacks
  • Manure mounds

If you don't have a good structure on your property for your vines, don't worry. Any home improvement store will have a large selection of trellises to keep your vines supported. Often vines cling to trellises on their own, however, you may have to provide a little extra help and guidance by tying them in place.

How To Care For Vertical Gardens

Once you've invested your time, money and loving care a vertical garden, you'll want to protect that investment. Here are a few of the most common bugs and diseases that effect vined plants, and what you can do to combat them:

  • Cucumber beetle: This beetle may be yellow and black striped or spotted and feeds on all species of cucumber. Adults destroy the leaves while the larvae attack the roots. To combat cucumber beetles, spray adults with pyrethrin or an equivalent product, or protect young plants with a floating row cover.
  • Anthracnose: Cucumbers, watermelons and muskmelons are susceptible to this fungus, which is most prevalent during warm, humid conditions. To protect your plants, rotate crops annually, leave enough space between plants to let leaves dry out as quickly as possible and promptly remove/destroy affected leaves and fruit to prevent spreading.
  • Squash bug: These gray or brown bugs go after squash and pumpkins toward the end of the growing season. Fight back by rotating crops and cleaning up debris in the fall. During growing season, crush any masses of eggs you find stuck on the underside of leaves.
  • Bacterial wilt: If your vines wilt during the day but recover every night, they've probably fallen victim to bacterial wilt. To keep this fatal disease out of your garden, try to purchase disease resistant species and keep cucumber beetles under control to prevent bacterial spread.

So don't worry if you don't have much space for gardening. With a little time and loving care, your vertical, vined garden will be climbing up to bring you delicious food and beautiful flowers.

Last Updated: April 12, 2012
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About Roberta Pescow Roberta Pescow holds a bachelor's degree in communications from City University of New York, Queens College and is a freelance writer and editor in the NJ area. The author of "A Life In The Service" and "A Monster's Tears," she enjoys writing informative articles, personal essays, fiction and music.  Roberta is a proud mother of two. Her other interests include fitness, photography, sculpture and meditation. She is a voracious reader and holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Roberta enjoys decorating her hectic, but happy home and garden in original and affordable ways.  

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