by Cayce Hill, Guest Author

It’s mid-August, and for avid gardeners this means tiptoeing over tangled watermelon and winter squash vines and arms stained green up to the elbows from reaching into crowded tomato cages. As the temperature rises, it seems like there’s just no stopping the veggies. Even gardeners with ample growing space are starting to feel the squeeze around this time of year. If only I had one more garden plot…one more patio pot. So much food to grow, never enough space. Boo hoo. I think it’s time to grow up.

No, wait, I didn’t mean it like that. Well, yes it’s true that I’m not a big fan of complaining. But I’m all about being resourceful. Say your patio isn’t big enough. Or maybe you just overplanted your spacious veggie beds just before snap pea season. Either way, there’s still hope.

Beyond saving space, growing veggies vertically has many advantages. In addition to using less square footage, plants grown vertically benefit from much better air circulation, which can result in fewer pests and less disease.

I saw you look over at your big blank fence. Nothing going on there. You’re thinking about it, aren’t you? With sturdy 8 or 10 gauge wire and some eye hooks, you can get anything from grapes to blackberries to transform that otherwise blank space. Pick a wire size that is strong but flexible enough for your own hand strength. Feeling like putting down roots? That arbor over your back deck looks pretty bare.

If wrangling with rolls of wire is not your thing, try hog panels, also known as cattle panels or feedlot panels. No matter what you call them, don’t let the uninspiring names dissuade you. Attach a few of these 5 x 7-foot wire sections to your fence and watch the skyward-climbing plant of your choosing take off. If properly secured, these panels will provide plenty of support for just about any plant.

Or perhaps you’re not looking for a permanent installation. In that case, a roll of garden twine will come in handy. Lightly tap in a few nails at the top and bottom of the fence, spaced 6 to 12 inches apart, then run regular old garden twine up and down between the two rows of nails. Beans, peas and cucumbers will grow skyward for easy harvesting.

If you garden in containers, there is no shortage of compact trellis options that will fit perfectly inside a pot. From fancy wrought iron to practical, inexpensive wooden lattice, your local nursery will have something for all your vertically-growing veggies.

Or you can go minimalist with a few bamboo stakes and some twine.

From lightweight beans and peas to the heavyweight class (sorry, the Olympics are on after all)—wisteria, grapes, kiwi and climbing roses—growing plants vertically is a sure way to add height, color and even privacy to your garden.

So no more whining about your lack of space. Grow up already!

Cayce Hill is a Santa Clara County Master Gardener. Call the group’s hotline at (408) 282-3105, Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., or visit for help with your garden problems.


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