Grow a Vertical Vegetable Garden to Save Space

Updated: Jul. 13, 2023

Small space? No problem! Give edibles a little support and watch your vertical vegetable garden grow up, up and away.

Holt 989 356.tifSaxon Holt
Let scarlet runner beans climb with the aid of a teepee.

Things are looking up for those who crave farm-fresh veggies but have little to no acreage. A vertical vegetable garden is the ultimate solution for your small-space backyard. It’s easy to do, and your favorite veggies—tomatoes, green beans and cucumbers, to name a few—are up for the job.

Container-grown or vertical veggies are perfect for condo or apartment dwellers, or anyone who deals with difficult terrain or soil conditions. That’s because vertical gardens can be placed almost anywhere— a balcony, patio, front porch or along a fence. And you can grow more veggies per square foot this way than in a more traditional garden.

Plus harvesting is a breeze with the fruits of your labor right in front of you. No more stooping!

Vertical options also offer people living in close confines a little privacy. A partition covered in edible greenery works wonders to separate you from prying neighbors. The same goes for eyesores like air-conditioning units and compost bins. Hide them from view with a screen of green beans or a teepee of tomatoes.

Vertical Vegetable Garden Growing Tips

As you start planning the vertical garden of your dreams, keep these tips in mind.

  • For the best yield, find a location that enjoys full sun and is sheltered from high winds.
  • If planting on a balcony, consider anchoring or weighing your vertical structures down so they don’t topple over during inclement weather.
  • • Plant along the north side of your garden bed so you don’t shade other plants.
  • Anything not directly planted into the ground dries out quicker. Check the soil moisture of your raised beds and containers regularly, especially in warmer months. Make frequent watering easier by planting near a water source, whether it’s a spot your hose reaches or a place where you can carry a watering can.

Discover 6 genius ways to use up extra tomatoes and veggies.

Creative Containers and Structures

Peas On Pretty Wicker Trellis In GardenJudyWhite/
Grow vining veggies, like peas, on a wicker trellis for support.

From lattice panels to ladders, almost anything can be used or repurposed to reap a bounty of fresh rewards. “Vertical garden containers are limitless,” says Chris McLaughlin, author of Vertical Vegetable Gardening. “Use anything you find that holds soil and has drainage. Supports for climbing plants can be woven fencing, ladders, gates, chicken wire, netting or trellises.”

Shelves are also an excellent way to support an array of containers packed with anything from parsley to potatoes. Keep in mind that a little elbow room goes a long way in terms of adequate air circulation.

If you’re a renter, something a little less permanent may be more appealing. Perch and anchor containers on the steps of a ladder, or fix chicken wire or a repurposed shutter to a wall and hang pots of produce from it. Stack some growing boxes or even cinderblocks to create a base for a living wall.

Learn how to make a vertical pallet garden.

Go Vertical in Raised Beds

Maybe you already have a raised garden bed but want to try your hand at growing up. Consider using tall, slender structures like bamboo poles, teepees and tomato cages, or even make-a-statement architectural elements like arbors, trellises and fencing.

“One of my favorite vertical designs is a cattle panel ‘arch’ that connects one raised garden bed to another,” Chris says. “T-posts support the panels, and climbing plants at each end are trained to grow overhead. This is a great way to take advantage of the space lost between beds, while still maintaining a viable walkway. The hanging produce offers visual appeal and is easy to harvest.”

Vining and trailing crops that can be coaxed to climb or grow gracefully toward the ground are best bets when it comes to selecting the right produce for your plot. Most can be secured to supports with ties and clips.

However, some heavier edibles, like melons, may need slings to keep them from slipping off the vine. That’s when old pantyhose really come in handy! Simply use them or other bits of scrap material to make hammocks that you can attach to the support.

Grow a vertical herb garden in a shoe organizer.

Fill in With Leafy Greens

Yet another good use of space is to plant salad greens, such as spinach, arugula and lettuce, at the foot of your vertical vegetable garden. Leafy greens generally tolerate more shade from the plants suspended above, and the cooler surroundings may actually allow you to grow them well into the hot summer months. Bonus!

Top 10 Vertical Fruits and Vegetables

Holt 287 6754.cr2Saxon Holt
An A-frame trellis helps to maximize space in small backyards.

Raise the roof with these edible contenders.

  1. Pole beans
  2. Sugar snap and snow peas (vining varieties)
  3. Squash (summer and dwarf winter varieties)
  4. Tomatoes (vining varieties)
  5. Melons like cantaloupes or mini watermelons
  6. Cucumbers (vining varieties)
  7. Climbing spinach
  8. Grapes
  9. Climbing nasturtiums (both leaves and flowers are edible)
  10. Kiwi