Out of space? How about growing fruits and vegetables vertically? Sheena Adams shows you how
Recently I have been glancing around gardens with one thing on my mind—vertical growing space. Growing up allows us to dress up narrow walkways, camouflage unattractive fencing, provide shade and windbreaks, and screen balconies and patios to provide privacy. If support is lacking, you can do the same thing by growing down—install a hanging basket or raised planter overflowing with long lush foliage.
Traditional plants for vertical growing include beautiful ornamentals such as clematis, honeysuckle and wisteria, but a less traditional approach uses attractive edible annuals. They can perform the same function in the garden and have the practical advantage of providing food for our tables.
Deciding on support for climbing and rambling veggies is just as much fun as choosing the vegetables themselves. Garden recycling allows you to challenge your creative side. Old wagon and bicycle wheels, for instance, offer whimsical support for vining gourds. You may not be able to sit on that wobbly chair, but it can be strong enough for English cucumbers to climb up. In Italy, old bedsprings are often bound together for fencing and covered with rambling broad beans.
20 INCREDIBLE CLIMBING EDIBLES
AMARANTH ‘GARNET RED’: This beauty will tower to 1.8 m (6 ft.). It produces deep-red, long weeping blooms and tasty greens to enjoy raw or steamed. Easy to grow from seed; ready in 60 days.
FAVA BEAN ‘BROAD WINDSOR’: Vines reaching 1.2 m (4 ft.) produce traditional gourmet broad beans, 12 cm (5 in.) long. Sow in very early spring, or late fall in milder climates, as this plant takes 150 days to mature.
BEAN ‘PURPLE PODDED POLE’: A delicious, heirloom purple stringless bean. Heavy-yielding plants reach 2 m (6 ft.). Beans turn green when cooked, but look and taste wonderful served fresh. Ready in 55 days.
RED-SEEDED ASPARAGUS BEAN: These red stringless beans can be picked at 30 cm (1 ft.) or left to mature to 60 cm (2 ft.) They are best stir-fried. The vine towers to 3 m (10 ft.). Amazingly, ready in 75 days.
RUNNER BEAN ‘WHITE EMERGO’: A stunning vine with red and white blooms producing 25-cm-long (10-in.) juicy pods. Ready in 80 days; enjoy when young and tender, or allow seed to ripen for next year.
SOYBEAN ‘SAYAMUSUME’: Small vine to 90 cm (3 ft.) with abundant production of tender, lime-green soybeans. Enjoy steamed in the pod, salted and served as edamame. Ready in 90 days.
CUCUMBER ‘MEXICAN SOUR GHERKIN’: (Melothria scabra) Small, lemon-flavoured cucumbers resemble mini watermelons. Very prolific. Serve fresh in salads or pickle. Ready in 60 days.
LONG ENGLISH CUCUMBER ‘TASTY GREEN’: Sweet and mild, these burpless cucumbers grow on a vigorous and productive vine. Ready in 60 days.
CUCUZZI GOURD: (Lagenaria siceraria) These are best enjoyed when 30 cm (1 ft.) long; however, they can reach 90 cm (3 ft.). Prepare as you would summer squash. Disease and pest resistant, the long vines have excellent yields. Ready in 75 days.
HOPS: (Humulus lupulus) This fast-growing vine can be invasive, so plant in a container. The hops (flowers) are used as a sleep-inducing tea and to make beer; young hop leaves can also be steamed as a vegetable. Ready in 100 days. CANTALOUPE MELON ‘EARLYCHAMP’: Sweet orange flesh with heavy netting. Disease resistant and ready in 78 days.
RED-SEEDED CITRON MELON: (Citrullus lanatus) This lush, pretty vine is aggressive, with growth similar to a watermelon. The thick fruit can be used for pickling. Ready in 85 days.
CLIMBING NASTURTIUM: Vine growing to 1.8 m (6 ft.) produces spicy, edible, colourful blooms of yellow, orange and red. Use to decorate salads, soups or desserts. Blooms in 55 days. ENGLISH PEA ‘BLUE POD CAPUCIJNERS’: A true deep-purple heirloom pea, on vines reaching 1.8 m (6 ft.) and boasting mauve and purple blossoms that are sweetly fragrant. Enjoy young as snow peas or allow to develop into a true pod pea.
CALIFORNIA BLACK-EYED PEA: This vigorous 90-cm (3-ft.) vine is easy to grow, colourful and tasty. Young, the pods can be prepared and enjoyed like snap beans. Serve as podded peas when mature. Ready in 75 days.
KING TUT PEA: A 1.8-m (6-ft.) vine with purple pods and pink and purple blooms. Excellent for pea soup. Ready in 75 days.
RED-STEMMED MALABAR: (Basella alba ‘Rubra’) This is a decorative cut-and-come-again vine with delicious, glossy-green leaves and red stems. A rapid grower, reaching heights of 4 m (14 ft.)
SQUASH ‘FORDHOOK ACORN’: An heirloom vining squash with yellow fruit. Can be harvested between 60 and 80 days; the younger the more tender. Stores well.
TATUME: (Cocozella pepo) Fruit can be eaten young (about 45 days) as a summer-type squash or left to mature as a winter squash.
TOMATO ‘BURGESS CLIMBING’: This vine tomato can reach up to 6 m (20 ft.). Large, 15-cm (5-in.), deep-red, meaty tomatoes are ready in 85 days.