Save Space and Increase Garden Yields by Growing Crops Vertically

Growing crops vertically can double or triple your yield of better produce, in less space, with less work, using trellises, bins, and tepees.

| April/May 1996

Growing crops vertically can make improvements on garden space and increase yields, all with less work involved. (See the gardening illustrations in the image gallery.)

"To Jack's amazement, the magic beans he got in trade for his mother's cow had sprouted. And, a giant beanstalk was growing up . . . and up . . . and up some more . . . till it vanished ht the bright blue sky."
—Jack the Giant Killer . . . old tale

Save Space and Increase Garden Yields by Growing Crops Vertically

I don't know if vegetables experience contentment; they don't express it in an animate, warm-blooded way... can't smile or wag their tails or gallop around the pasture. But I do know from over a quarter century of garden experimentation that such natural climbers as Kentucky Wonder pole beans and Heavenly Blue morning glories will act as close to happy as I can perceive—will grow vigorously, offering double or triple the production—if simply allowed to climb as high as they want. The flower vines will go 25 feet or more, and the beans do best if planted at the base of 12-feet strings.

In Nature, plants have help in growing up. They can scale established vegetation, top hills and rocks, or twine up dead and downed trees and brush piles. But the typical garden is dinner-plate flat. There is no natural up to be had, so gardeners must fashion poles, cages, tents, and garden structures to guide plants in claiming the air rights over the garden plot.

In my trials, identical varieties grown without support wandered aimlessly, twisting their stems into futile knots. The morning glories produced no more than a half dozen flowers and seed pods—while each string-supported vine made a delightful new garland of heavenly blue flowers each day from June till frost. The unsupported bean vines baled up on themselves the same way, maturing only two or three twisted, rust-blighted seedpods. But, given support to grow as they preferred—straight up—the bean vines produced clusters of succulent pods from about 60 days after planting till frost.

Bean production continued only so long as vines were kept picked . . . as if grazing animals were harvesting the lower pods, as must happen in Nature. But as soon as several pods were permitted to mature (in Nature presumably, the first that developed well above standing-graze level for such browsers as deer or goats) the vine quit climbing and flowering. Picking partly mature pods restored growth to a degree, but the vine never regained its original vigor.

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