On gardening up

It is true that some architects have…skyscraper complexes.  I wouldn’t necessarily say that I have one, but I do appreciate structures of all kinds.  And garden trellises are one functional structure that I love, skyscraper complex be damned.

I suppose I crowd my plants more than wide-row gardeners do.  Admittedly, crowded plants can reduce yields because the poor plants are stressed, thus game for predation from all manner of bugs or fungi (crowding leads to less air movement, thus creating a happier growing medium for certain wilts, etc.)  But I am a succession planter, and my soil is pretty darned good…I say this fully admitting it’s more the fact that clay is a fertile medium, and that my judicious compost, manure and mulch applications only replace what the plants suck out.  So I don’t worry much about crowding.


Pathetic first-pick of strawberries on Tuesday.  You have to know I find this picture hilarious because she never looks like this and has only just put two berries in her mouth while I was adjusting the camera, thinking I wouldn’t notice.   But the photo other than providing humor for her mother shows a couple of the trellises behind her.

But back to trellises.  I have seven permanent trellised bed areas in the garden.  There are also a few teepees of sticks, etc. that are scattered around for effect.  Lots of verticality, in other words, mostly to support the wonderment that is the Pole Bean.  Pole beans, cucumbers, certain members of the winter squash family, peas…all these lovelies appreciate something vertical to clamber up.  And I am here to accommodate them.

I succession plant them, too:  on beds that are staked east-west, I plant peas on the north half, and once bean season starts, I plant pole beans on the south half.  Same trellis, different plants; the peas dying back gracefully when the beans go into full-production mode.  I do the same thing on the north-south staked beds, though I plant first in the east, as the west sun works better at that second planting of beans or cucumbers.  And I do succession-plant the cucumbers.  I start two batches about a month apart, one in the end of May and one late June:  two weeks after each of these plantings, I get the dill going for pickles.

Good golly that sounds like a lot of work.  It’s more work to type it up, I swear, than it is to plant these things!  All I am saying is that if you have a small garden and want more stuff, then go vertical, and share that trellis.  Happy building.

17 responses to “On gardening up

  1. I told someone that I was building a trellis for the shop using bent copper; his reply was that someone would probably steal the copper. We’ll see. If he’s right, I hope they leave my beans.

  2. p.s. That kid gets cuter and cuter.

  3. I like the idea of succession trellising. I’m going to have to think about that. There will be plenty of room for N-S trellises when I finally get the garden expanding (again).

  4. I love the idea of using the same trellis for peas and beans. However, I didn’t get my peas in early enough this year for that to work. There’s always next year….

    Also, I too have the tenancy to crowd. It’s getting better, though as I have graduated from 36 square feet of raised bed at my old house to a full 350 square feet of in-ground garden this year. Yay!

  5. You daughter is darling! I just love the look on her face! I most diffently agree with her, fresh picked strawberries are THE best!


  6. where do you buy your trellis netting? i’ve got loads of trellises to make (first year, and all; boy it’s a lot of work) and buying the netting is looking more appealing than weaving my own.

    • Hi Serinat: Johnny’s Selected Seeds has woven netting that is great; I bought something like 50′ of 5′ wide netting that’s big enough for birds to fly through years ago and it’s held up well. I have also seen the same netting in 15′ sections sold at Family Farm and Home in Benton Harbor. I really hate weaving my own too!

  7. Happy building indeed! ^.^
    As a structural engineer (in training) by day and a new gardener by evening, I simply must post up to say that I adore your blog. I live on the ground floor in an apartment and most of my self-grown produce is rooted in a container. I’ve considered growing vine veggies to climb up the posts that support my upstairs neighbor’s balcony, but I haven’t been able to time peas correctly.

  8. The harvest is only beginning! Your hard work at gardening will pay off. I’m sure your trellis will be the pinnacle of the neighborhood!

  9. I’m on my second year of succession trellis, and so far, so good. I put peas to the north and tomatoes to the south; last year the peas never did quit. It was a cool, wet summer, but I wonder if the tomatoes also helped keep the peas and their soil a little cooler than they would have been on their own.

    I’ve been slow getting cucurbits in–it’s good to see the reassurance that July cucumbers are worth planting!

  10. El,
    Does it work the other way? Can you plant fall peas on pole bean trellises? p.s. you inspired me to get chicks. Two weeks old and they are a delight. J

  11. Funny thing, I’ve sold myself on the value of growing vertically this year also. I’m using large, straight tree branches that have fallen off our huge maples & chicken wire (from my old coops) to accomplish this. I’m using the trellises for pole beans, cukes, peas, & tomatillos — and I may put one in for my tomatoes as well. The down side of chicken wire is that you can only pick from one side at a time. Oh well. At least I’m recycling!

  12. I am interested in “gardening up” in part because of the limited space I have, and it just seems to make sense to have the plants that can be trellised up go that way. I don’t know much, though (e.g. how high they climb v. horizontally, if there is anything needed to keep them from growing into each other etc). What materials do you use for the trellis itself?

  13. Pamela, I think folks who’re hard up enough to recycle metals probably work under a code of ethics (just abandoned buildings, etc.) and would leave your trellis alone. Many people respect gardens and green growing things unless they’re really hard up or stupid. But thanks! She’s quite the “charactah” as my Boston friends would say.

    Stef, there’s the right attitude: Land Grab! But yeah doing things in succession just makes some sense if you try to max things out like I do.

    Sarah, great on the move and the bigger garden! And I always say my best gardens are the ones I have still in my mind. (No weeds in there either!) But yeah I do know crowding is one of the most common gardening sins. Even if you “know” how big things get with experience, it really is hard to imagine a tiny seed getting to be as big as it does. Me, I just like to push the envelope here and there. But definitely, get those peas in early, and you should try some this fall (start them in early/mid August).

    Linda, this farm used to grow strawberries (and practically any other fruit you can name) and we’ve only had the wild ones grown here…having our own “real” patch in the garden has been a bit of a treat, as you can see!

    Serinat I also meant to say that the first year indeed is a lot of work. I need to give a progress report on the school garden: things are going great there!

    Swingjingle, I adore structural engineers, even though they tell me “no” more often than I would like! You know, it’s late for peas but not late for beans. There are a ton of lovely ones out there that are itching to grow for you, and do double-time as pretty things: runner beans, lab-lab (hyacinth bean), and limas all are just gorgeous. Purple podded pole beans are a great “green” bean as well.

    Aw Betty thank you. I am sure my neighbors don’t know about them though; they’re all no-nonsense farming types not prone to the fey contrivances of my teepee trellises.

    Diane, actually, I was also going to post about how trellises provide some much-needed shade for cool-loving things. I take advantage of them and grow lettuce and arugula in their shade! But yeah I do tend to plant a 2nd batch of cucumbers around July 4th. Don’t forget though!

    Jen, of course! See how easy this is? I do swear succession planting is less work than it sounds: it appeals to the time-crunched and lazy side of myself. GREAT NEWS on chickville! As you see with my post today I do approve of chicks, chickens, poults, keets, goslings, ducklings…etc. Love them all. peeppeep

    Yeah Laurene just don’t make the mistake of making something your hand can’t get through. I have done that before and of course the biggest cuke or pea is where I can’t reach it! But thumb’s up on the recycling. And the trellising.

    MC, each plant is different. Some instantly grab the trellis and shoot up (beans) other things need some training (peas, cucumbers) and some things need complete babying (winter squash). The woven netting I use is in something like 6×6 squares. The teepees have no netting but I will use some sisal twine once the beans get to be about 6″ tall to give them the right idea about where to grow. And as far as the trellises go, the overhead poles are about 8′ in the air and are buried or staked in the earth down below. I have to hand-weed, a bummer. But if you’re limited with space then taking advantage of growing up is a great way to increase your yield. Hope that helps!

  14. Pingback: Sugar snap peas: 2m high and still growing « Lewisham House

  15. Very inspirational! My peas are growing very well, even if they are limited by available space:


    I’ll see if I can manage succession planning next year…

    Cheers, James

  16. Hi James! Wow, what variety of peas grow to two meters tall??? Granted I usually just grow a shell pea that doesn’t get terribly tall (a meter at best) but seeing something like your pic makes me think “what a pretty screen,” then I remembered that sweet peas do grow tall AND pretty like that. So yeah, one day, I will stop and grow some sweet peas! Do give succession planting a try next spring. Heck, you’re probably able to sow them nearly year-round, it’s so mild in Sydney, right? (Ah, in my next life, I will try to live in a place where I can really garden all year long!)

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