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Tracy Frank, Published June 21 2012

Growing up: Vertical gardens popular for small spaces, high design

FARGO - When you’re short on space for a garden, there’s a popular solution: Grow up.

Vertical gardens have become a trendy way to beautify apartment balconies or add more growing space to a small yard.

All you need to get started is a good-sized pot, a trellis and some potting soil, says Emma Aavang, nursery department manager at Lowe’s home improvement store in Fargo.

Many types of flowers and a number of vegetables – including cucumbers, beans, peas and smaller squashes – can be grown vertically, she says.

“With our shorter season, people want to get the most out of gardening, and it’s encouraged a lot of people to go toward growing smaller vegetables on trellises,” Aavang says.

The biggest advantage to vertical gardening is it saves a lot of space, she says.

“If you grow things up, they’re not going to trail out. For example, a cucumber that would take up a 10-foot area in most people’s gardens, you can get a trellising cucumber and grow it up on a 4-foot trellis,” Aavang says. “Most of the time, as long as you give it enough sunlight and water it properly, you can get just about anything to grow on a trellis.”

Over the summer, Deb and Tom Hoesley of Fargo sell vegetables they grow in their backyard gardens through their business, Prairie Faith, at area farmers markets.

One of their more popular items is sugar snap peas, but the Hoesleys have limited space in which to grow them. So this year they decided to try vertical gardening in order to maximize their space, Deb Hoesley says.

They planted the peas along the fence lining the outer edges of their garden, as well as along the fence between their yard and their neighbor’s yard, she says.

With vertical gardening, she says, they have tripled the number of peas they will be able to produce this year.

Because they’re climbing, the vegetables are easier to pick and the plants aren’t broken as often when harvested, Deb says.

“One problem we have found though is as far as watering goes, they dry out more quickly,” she says.

In addition to saving space, plants grown vertically can also block wind, absorb sound, and provide privacy and shade, according to the Lowe’s website.

Because the plants are right in front of you, they can also be easier to prune and inspect for insects.

Before planting, Lowe’s suggests determining how much of a trellis or other support structure you will need to make sure you are providing enough space. Make sure to anchor your trellis or support structures before planting.

You will also need to keep your plants fastened to the structure. Some plants, like vines, naturally entwine, but others will need to be tied.

Vines climb three different ways, according to Lowe’s:

• Twining vines, such as morning glory, twist their stems around objects as they grow upward. Most twining vines grow fast so they need sturdy poles, arbors or pergolas as supports.

• Tendril vines, like grapes, use tendrils to reach out and grab trellises, latticework or chain-link fence. Plant them at the base of anything you want to adorn with flowers and foliage.

• Clinging vines, like trumpet vine, have aerial roots that stick to solid objects and can work themselves into small crevices. Clinging vines can drape a wall or side of a garage in lush foliage.

Be careful not to grow clinging vines on a surface that needs regular painting because they’re hard to remove, and avoid planting climbers on brick or stucco because they can cause damage when removed, Lowe’s stated.

Even plants that are not climbing plants can be grown vertically in mounted or suspended pots. Lowe’s has step-by-step instructions for building wire trellis towers or how to build a tower of suspended terra-cotta pots over a concrete base at www.lowescreativeideas.com.

Other ways Lowe’s suggests to grow up instead of out is by building pot shelves onto walls and training shrubs to grow upright by wrapping them with monofilament fishing line or making a cage for it similar to a tomato cage.