Growing UP

published on 10 January 2024

Try a vertical garden to boost your garden this year

Guest Contributor: Cassey Anderson, CSU Horticulture Agent

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Are you limited on garden space? Want to increase your yields with the space you have? Just want to try something new? Growing vertically can provide new opportunities. Growing up can also help reduce some insect or disease issues by getting plants off the ground making scouting for starting populations easier and increasing airflow which reduces humidity that can stimulate disease development. Vertical growing can also work for homes without gardens such as an apartment or condo.

In this post, we'll explore some ways to get your garden growing - UP!



Probably the easiest way to start your experiment with vertical gardening is to grow your vining, climbing, or rambling plant onto a trellis of some sort. You can buy one or build one. If you use a trellis that is made of wood be aware that disease pathogens could remain viable from one season to the next, and it may be harder to clean. Metal trellises should be cleaned as well but tend to be easier. Cleaning can be done easily with a bleach or alcohol mixture sprayed or wiped onto the surface. It can also be a good idea to find/build a trellis strong enough to support the mature size of the plant so your structure doesn’t require emergency reinforcement halfway through the growing season, risking the integrity of your vegetable plant crop as delicate stems may snap if the trellis collapses.

If you want to try some plants on a trellis you can try peas, beans, any member of the cucurbit family such as cucumbers, melons, squash etc. For vegetables that climb naturally such as peas and beans you may not need to “train” the plants much, but for some vining crops it could be wise to use some plant-safe materials to secure the plant to the trellis.



If you have a vegetable crop that has a climbing habit or produces tendrils (such as peas or some beans) you can keep the vertical gardening habit simple and grow on a pole. For more support you can place a row of poles and thread a strong twine in between the poles. I’ve even seen poles used to grow summer squash and zucchini, although I have yet to try it. A strong way to attach the plant to the pole would be important for success if you try growing summer squash or zucchini vertically, there are many products you can buy, but cut-up t-shirt material works as well if you don’t want to buy anything. Pole material can be anything sturdy. You can buy poles from nursery or greenhouse supply companies but if they have plastic coatings be aware that it may peel off after several years of use.



If you love the experience of walking inside of a plant, a tunnel or archway with vegetables can be a great, long-term vertical gardening option. This can be as simple as repurposing a garden archway, or you can DIY a larger set up. Cattle panels come in a variety of sizes that allow you to customize your garden tunnel. Be sure to secure the panels well to garden beds or deeply set stakes as anything up higher in the air can become a wind sail.

A cattle panel tunnel/arch can also play double duty in the shoulder seasons if you wanted to turn it into a high or low tunnel, just put UV resistant plastic over the top and boom, instant “greenhouse” that will provide you several degrees of temperature modification.


String trellis

For plants like tomatoes or even peppers that may grow large but don’t climb you can use a string to support them (if toppling tomato cages are getting old). To do this, you attach a string from above the plant once it has grown 3-5 sets of true leaves. You can then wind the plant around the string as it grows, being sure to prune off large side branches, or you can clip/hook the plant to the string. This provides as strong vertical area for the plant to grow up, and easy access to fruit for harvesting. Once again be sure to choose a string that can support a mature tomato plant and fruit, else you may come out to see collapsed plants if the string gives way.


Grow on a wall (*smaller plants are best)

There are so many incredible, and creative ways to make a living wall, you can repurpose soda containers or set up lines of mason jars. A google search will find you numerous plans and approaches. Be sure with any of them to double check how much water they need, as especially here in the arid west, small containers tend to dry out quickly.

Be creative! And as always if you have questions be sure to reach out to your local Extension office for more details and information.

As always, reach out to your local Extension office with additional questions and for further resources. Happy Gardening!

Gardening in Colorado? Check out Grow & Give and in particular our Colorado Vegetable Guide for more crop information on all of the above plants.

What if every gardener shared just a little?

One small donation can have a tremendous impact. Just imagine, if every gardener planted one extra plant to share, or donated just a pound from the garden. Collectively, we would have an abundant source of fresh, healthy produce available to be distributed to families experiencing food insecurity in our own communities! The free Fresh Food Connect mobile app connects you to a local hunger relief program, then manages and tracks your donations of homegrown produce throughout the season.  Download the app today!

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