When planning a garden for lots of any size, be especially aware of vertical spaces. Have an unsightly fence? A wall that needs protection from the sun? A hot, bright patio? All of these areas are perfect for growing vertically.
For an existing wooden fence, string wires vertically or in a crossed pattern, depending upon what you will be growing. For a chain link fence… just plant! You can certainly grow annuals such as beans, squash and peas, but for perimeter fences I’d advise long-term plants that fill other functions as well. Heirloom climbing roses can cover a fence, create a barrier for trespassers, provide habitat, be ascetically pleasing, and provide edible flowers and vitamin C-rich hips. Remember that in permaculture everything should serve at least three purposes.
Passionvines are evergreen perennials with rampant growth and provide good crops of heavenly-smelling nutritious fruit, as well as being the host plant to the Gulf Fritillary caterpillar. Even the perennial scarlet or golden runner bean would provide you with food and flowers for about six years.
Do you have a cement porch or patio where the sun reflects heat and brightness into your house in the summer? Cover it with a simple trellis, sturdy enough to hold vines. There are many ornamentals that would work (wisteria, trumpet vine, virgin’s bower, morning glory, etc.), but think about passionfruit, kiwi or grapes. Outside a west-facing wall is a perfect place for a planted trellis, that will help cool that side of the house during the summer. The sides of sheds can be used vertically, either with simple wire that can be removed later or with wooden lath (preferably recycled).
If you have existing trees, use them as vertical space. One faction of a plant guild is a vine. Vines act as groundcover, shading the soil and retaining moisture while producing mulch. Vines also can grow up trees and help shade their trunks from weather extremes.
Meanwhile the fruit and vegetables are off the ground and won’t suffer the predation by animals or ground insects that it may normally receive. Plus, it is fun to see squash up in a tree.
A small fence around your kitchen garden is inexpensive, recyclable, keeps nibbling critters out, and can double the size of your growing space.
One project that I’d like to do this winter (just one? Ha!) is to nail up old rain guttering on the outside of my little shed and make a small natural pond at the base. I’d plant the gutters heavily with strawberries, and maybe greens, and then install a pump that circulated water from the pond up to and through the gutters. The water would then empty back into the pond. The fish and plants in the pond would be fed and happy, the plants in the gutters would be watered and fertilized, and I’d have unnibbled strawberries that were easy to pick, as well as repurposing the old gutters.
Please choose only organic, and if possible, heirloom seeds. It is so important to not poison the wildlife and ourselves with chemicals and plants whose DNAs have been tampered with to withstand more chemicals. I buy from Baker Creek (the catalog is to die for.), Seeds of Change, organics from Botanical Interests , from organic seed savers and from Peaceful Valley Organics (which have terrific prices on high-quality bare root plants such as strawberries!).
So when planning your next season’s garden, don’t just think outside of the box, but think of growing up the sides as well!