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Vertical gardening can take a lot of different forms, but one of the oldest examples is the trellis. You can see trellises covered in grapes in artwork from ancient times, a trellis covered with cascading roses as a centerpiece in an estate garden in England, or trellises covered in runner bean vines in a French kitchen garden. These images might make you wonder how you can use one for your vertical garden. There are a multitude of ways to do this, and I am happy to share them with you.
There are several considerations when using a trellis for vertical gardening:
- The plants that you want to grow. The specific kind of plants that you choose will determine if you need a heavy duty support, or if a delicate decorative trellis will be sufficient.
- Type of trellis that you want to use. There are a variety of styles to choose from.
- Location of your trellis garden. You can get pretty creative with how you use a trellis, but you need to keep your plant’s light and water needs in mind.
- Techniques for using a trellis. Some plants will grow the trellis on their own, while others may need a little help.
Using a trellis is the perfect solution for creating a vertical garden. There are many variations on the steps above. Keep reading for more details so you can make the best choices for your garden.
Best Plants for a Trellis
Whether you want flowers, a privacy screen, or to grow your own produce, there are tons of plants that actually need a trellis to thrive, while some others yet can be convinced to grow upwards, instead of out. Any plant that vines can be grown on a trellis. Some send out tendrils that will attach it to the support, while others may need assistance.
Ah, roses. Towering arches loaded with sweet smelling roses are a fixture in romantic cottage gardens everywhere. You can find them in almost any color and bloom type: miniature, tea, or old-fashioned. Roses need full sun and lots of water, as well as regular pruning and fertilizing.
Depending on the variety that you choose, your roses may be more or less pest and disease resistant as well.
The delicate morning glory is actually one of the simplest flowers to grow on a trellis. Simply sow your seeds in fertile soil at the base of your trellis and water periodically. The might morning glory will do the rest. Delicate vines play host to trumpet shaped flowers of pink, purple and white during the morning.
You can also interplant with moonflowers, which are very similar to morning glories, except that the bloom in the evening.
Clematis is also very easy to grow. A healthy clematis plant can grow 10 to 15 feet tall over the growing season. They are bushy vines, with lots of greenery and large star shaped blossoms that will provide color all summer long. Plant them against a trellis in a sunny location.
Bountiful and colorful, bougainvillea are perfect for adding a pizazz to a shady area. They will need to be trained and tied to your trellis as they grow. Some will grow as high as 20 feet tall. They do not like cold temperatures, so are best suited to warmer climates where the winters are not too harsh.
Greenery is ideal for growing up a vertical trellis garden to create a cool shady space in your yard, or so provide a bit of privacy. Be cautious with your choices, as some of the easiest of greenery are so prolific that they can become invasive without proper maintenance.
Perfect in sun or shade, climbing hydrangea will quickly cover a large trellised area with leaves and flowers. It is a wonderful choice for hiding ugly fences in shady spaces as it actually prefers dark, moist wooded areas.
English Ivy is an absolutely gorgeous on a trellis, especially when grown in combination with a bright flowering plant. It has deep, glossy green leaves in the spring and summer that turn a brown-red in the fall. Be aware of where you are planting it though, once in place it can be very difficult to remove.
Another fast-growing vining plant, Virginia Creeper will definitely cover a lot of ground quickly. This plant can be very invasive and can grow on almost any surface. It has tiny suckers that will ‘creep’ into cracks and take root.
Do not plant near your house or garage as it will take over and can actually cause damage to these structures, whether they are built of wood or stone. Frequent pruning will help keep them in line.
Fruit and Vegetables
Growing fruits and vegetables on a trellis is easy when you choose the right plants. Vining plants will produce well so long as they are supported, and you won’t have to spend your days bending over to pick your produce.
For fruit lovers, the hardy kiwi can be a great choice for a backyard trellis. Hardy kiwi does well in colder climates and produces smaller fruit than the traditional kiwi, which is primarily tropical. Plant where it can grow up a trellis in a sunny location and be sure to keep it watered for best results.
Perhaps the easiest of all of the vegetables to grow on a trellis, runner beans can produce as much as 4 to 6 quarts of beans per plant in a season. They will climb up whatever trellis is provided to them all on their own, so all you have to do is water and harvest.
While squash is traditionally grown in hills, it can definitely grow well on a trellis. This will save a lot of garden space since the vines on a squash plant can get pretty long. Using your trellis vertical garden, you will have room for more squash plants, which is wonderful because there are so many different kinds from yellow and green summer squash, to winter types like acorn and spaghetti squash.
These vines are not natural climbers, so you will need to train them to grow up and secure the vines to your trellis with a soft flexible fabric or string. Be sure not to tie them too tightly to the trellis so the vines can continue to grow.
You will also need to create slings for the squash when they come on as the plants will not be able to support the weight of the fruit and they will fall to the ground before they are ready to pick. The best way to do this is to slip pantyhose over the fruit and tie it to the trellis. The pantyhose will stretch as the fruit grows, and keep it from breaking free from the vine too soon.
Cucumbers are another classic vining garden vegetable. Plant the seeds in fertile garden soil at the base of your trellis and secure the vines as they grow. They require a lot of sun and water to thrive, so keep that in mind when choosing your location. Cucumbers do not get as large as squash, so you should not need slings for the fruit.
Types of Trellises
Trellises can be found in all sorts of designs, from purely functional to ornamental. Once you have decided what you want to grow, you can build or pick out a style. Plants that have heavy canes or fruit will need to make a strong material like wood or iron. Plants that have more delicate vines or runners like beans or clematis can be grown on a more delicate ornamental type trellis, or one made from wire. Here are a few of the more popular types of trellises.
A teepee trellis is just what it sounds like. You can purchase these in various sizes, or you can make a teepee trellis using some straight sturdy branches or bamboo canes and twine. Set them in the center of our raised garden beds to add dimension or to provide shade for more delicate cool weather crops.
This type of trellis can be made out of the prefab wooden lattice that you can purchase eat almost any home improvement store. It will need to be attached to post that are secured in the ground, or can be fixed to a fence or wall. It can be painted and comes in a variety of styles which makes it a lovely addition to your home’s architecture.
Wire fencing, like chicken wire or goat fencing, is probably not going to be used as an ornamental piece but is fantastic for adding a cost-effective vertical garden structure to a kitchen garden.
It is generally flexible, so you can maneuver your trellis into whatever shape best suits your garden. It is also reusable, which is perfect for rotating crops from season to season.
These are ideal for growing runner beans, cucumbers, squash and tomatoes.
These are usually used as decorative pieces in one’s garden and are ideal for heavy-limbed plants, like flowers or climbing hydrangea. Wrought iron can support the heaviest of flowing plants without concern for its stability.
This Wrought Iron Trellis by H. Potter is a beautiful example. With its delicate scrollwork, it could be a charming focal point in an old-fashioned flower garden.
Bamboo is a wonderful, sustainable option. You can make a do-it-yourself trellis from bamboo and twine, or you can purchase any number of commercial options that have been crafted from this environmentally friendly material. A bamboo flex fence could be used for creating a green privacy fence, or as an attractive addition to your vegetable garden.
Make Your Plants Soar
If you keep the provided above in mind, you will easily be able to use a trellis for creating a vertical garden. Your trellis will provide more room to grow all the plants that you love, and maybe even a nice side dish for dinner as well!