vertical garden

Do you have a chain-link fence or an arbor in your yard that could use a face lift? Consider a vertical gardening approach. Adding foliage to structures is a simple way transform your yard while boosting shade, beauty, and privacy.

Benefits of Vertical Gardens

Encouraging vertical growth is especially helpful in small yards or even balconies, because it provides solutions to space limitations while encouraging air movement to limit foliage disease. It also minimizes the need to bend over while gardening, which your back will appreciate. In larger yards, vertical growth can provide privacy and beautiful backdrops for landscaping.

Vertical Garden Structures

There are several vertical gardening options to consider if your humble abode is space challenged. Trellises, arbors, teepees, and fences can provide the support needed for flowering vines, peas, grapes, cucumbers, tomatoes, and gourds to thrive. These supports also provide an opportunity to get creative.

Carports can be covered in vines or wood pallets repurposed for maximizing the utility of small spaces with vertical gardening. Whenever possible, place support structures on the north side of garden beds to reduce shading.

hanging vertical garden
Image courtesy of Jimmy Flink

Vertical Garden Perennials

The following perennials work well in a vertical garden, but they need lots of support and room for vertical growth over the years.

Grapes: This juicy fruit is one of the most widely cultivated in the world. Although it may take a few years to establish your vine, grapes can produce large amounts of food, making good use of vertical space.

First, decide if you want table or wine grapes, and select an appropriate variety for your location, considering cold-hardiness, ripeness date, and pest tolerance. The Old Farmer’s Almanac has a useful guide to picking the right vine.

Hardy kiwi: Unlike its commercially available cousin, the kiwi, the hardy kiwi grows further north and tolerates colder temperatures.

A hardy kiwi fruit is the size of a large grape. It isn’t covered with the familiar kiwi fuzz and you can eat it without peeling. The taste varies significantly by the variety. Oregon State University has tips for growing kiwis.

Hops. Image courtesy of Paul Miller

Hops: The female flowers of this plant have been used for centuries to give beer its aroma and flavor.

For the largest hop cones, plant with a southern exposure. Also, hop plants need lots of room for vertical growth. You will need to do some work each year to contain the plant so it does not take over your yard. Check out Modern Farmer’s guide to growing hops.

Vegetable Planting Guide

If you’re in need of a few more tips on when to plant your vegetables, check out the infographic below from Anglian Home.

This vegetable growing cheat sheet is amazing! Just what I needed to kick off my spring planting.

Feature image courtesy of Stephanie Booth

Editor’s note: Originally published on October 13, 2015, this article was updated in May 2019.

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.