Squash is well known as one of the easiest and most prolific plants you can grow in your garden. They are also known for their sprawling nature and the amount of real estate the plant can cover. But what if you are limited on space, or just want to maximize what you have? This might leave you wondering how you can grow squash in a vertical garden. I am happy to be able to share with you how to make this possible.
Growing squash in a vertical garden is simple as can be so long as you follow these nine easy steps:
- Choose your location- Squash thrives in full sun.
- Amend your soil as squash are heavy feeders.
- Build your vertical structure. This could be a sturdy trellis, teepee, or even a tomato cage.
- Choose your plants or seeds. Do you want summer squash or winter squash?
- Water frequently. Squash are heavy feeders and need a lot of water.
- Train your plants to grow up the structure.
- Maintain your plants by fertilizing and providing pest control as needed.
- Provide additional support for the fruit if necessary. Large or heavy squash, especially some types of winter squash, may need support for the gourds as they grow.
- Harvest and enjoy the fruits of your labor!
There are several options when it comes to choosing a structure type, and when deciding what to plant. Below are more in-depth details so you can harvest a bumper crop of squash this summer!
Choose Your Location
Squash love sun, and needs to be planted in full sun, which is any area that gets 6 or more hours of direct sunlight per day. They also are heavy feeders that need a lot of water. You will want to take of these requirements into consideration when choosing a location to plant in. Up against a sunny fence is a great spot, as the fence can provide additional support for your vertical structure.
Amend Your Soil
Once you have chosen the location, you need to build your garden bed. You can plant directly into the ground, or build a raised bed. Either way, you will want to incorporate a good garden soil with a slow-release fertilizer or mix in decomposed manure and compost to provide plenty of nutrition for your plants.
Squash is traditionally planted in hills, and as they grow,they put down roots along their tendrils which absorb water and nutrients. Since they will not have that option when they are growing up a trellis, it is extra important that you are providing them what they are missing.
Build Your Vertical Structure
There are a lot of options for a vertical structure that can support squash. The best options are a strong trellis, a teepee style support, or a metal tomato cage. The main thing to remember is that a healthy squash plant can grow extremely large, and when it sets fruit, that fruit will be heavy. If proper support is not provided, the fruit might fall off before it has time to grow, or the vines could snap.
You can craft a trellis or teepee style support yourself from wood or fencing. Alternatively, there are some simple commercial options available, such as these:
Any of these or similar styles will work great, depending on the design of your garden and the type of squash you want to grow.
Choose Your Squash
Next, you will need to decide what kind of squash you want to grow. There are summer types and winter types - and so many varieties to choose from! Check out our post about the 54 types of squash before choosing one. No need to click through now - we'll link to that again at the end of the post!
Summer squash is thinner skinned and is grown, harvested and eaten fresh. The most common types of summer squash are:
Yellow Straight or Crookneck Squash is probably what you are thinking when you imagine a squash. They are bulbous at the bottom and thin at the top, or neck. They are typically bright yellow and are smooth-skinned.
Zucchini squash is similar in shape to the yellow squash, but are typically green in color. These squash have found mass popularity due to their versatility in cooking. They frequently substitute pasta in low-carb dishes, or are grated and used to make bread or muffins.
Round zucchini is essentially the same as regular zucchini, but round. They are great to use for stuffing, or you can even use them as a substitute for a bread bowl for soup.
Patty Pan Squash are shaped like small flying saucers with scalloped edges. They are tougher than yellow squash or zucchini which makes them a great addition to stews. They can be either green or yellow in color.
Winter Squash has a thicker rind and can be stored for use later in the winter, hence the name. These type of squash tend to be larger and heavier, you the fruit will need additional support so they don’t break off as they grow.
There are several types of winter squash commonly grown.
Spaghetti Squash can get quite large, so it is not necessarily the best choice for a vertical garden. It can be done, however, so long as each fruit is provided with support as it grows. Spaghetti squash is called that because once cooked, the inside peel into spaghetti-like pieces. Served with pasta sauce, it is a great substitute for low-carb dieter.
Acorn Squash is shaped like an acorn and weighs between one to two lbs. It is yellowish-orange in color and has a mild sweet flavor. It is very versatile and can be cooked in several ways.
Butternut Squash is a fairly large squash so will benefit from the same support as spaghetti squash. It is the sweetest variety of winter squash. It is wonderful in soup, roasted, or sautéed.
Water Frequently and Well
Squash needs a lot of water so you will need to water it often. If you are pressed for time, or forgetful, you might consider installing an irrigation system on a timer. This will ensure that your plants get plenty of water without you having to worry if you get busy and forget.
Train Your Plants to Grow up the Structure
Squash plants naturally spread outwards so you will need to train them to go up to your support system. This is easy to do. As your plants grow, loosely secure the vines to the structure with twine. As it continues to grow, the tendrils will start to wrap and grow around the support.
Move and add more twine as needed to support the weight of the plant and the fruit, just make sure that it is too tied too lightly to the structure as this could damage your plant.
As previously mentioned, squash are heavy feeders so you will need to make sure that your plants are receiving the appropriate nutrition. Fertilize monthly, using a 5-10-10 fertilizer such as Lilly Miller Morcrop Fertilizer.
The worst and most common pest to afflict squash is the squash vine borer. This small, cream-colored caterpillar bores and inserts itself into the cine of the plant. This will ultimately result in the wilting and death of your squash plant. The best solution is to apply pesticide to the soil at the time of planting so you can kill any of them that might be living in the soil. They are difficult to detect until it is too late so it is best to take a proactive approach.
The Cucumber Beetle and Squash bugs are also common pests. These need to be removed by hand. Make sure that you are wearing gloves when you do so. You can also control them with pesticide. It is best to use an organic pesticide so you are not spraying chemicals on the fruit.
Provide Support for Your Fruit
The fruit from some squash plants, especially winter squash can grow fairly large and heavy. To keep the fruit from breaking off before it is ripe, or snapping the limbs of the plant under the weight, you will need to provide additional support for the individual fruits.
You can do this by slipping the fruit inside a sling of pantyhose that is secured to the structure. It will keep the squash from falling to the ground, and expand as the fruit grows.
Harvest and Enjoy the Fruit of Your Labors!
Squash will produce an abundance of fruit throughout the growing season. Be prepared to share with family and friends, as there will be so many squashes that you won’t know what to do with them all!
As promised, here's the link again -
And once you finish reading that, head over to our mega-post about the top online stores for buying pumpkin and squash seeds too. And just in case you'll be choosing this, here are our guides for growing certain types of squash -
And don't forget to leave us a comment and let us know how growing squash in a vertical garden worked for you!