Vertical Space

Pipian From Tuxpan squash, from Baker Creek    Heirloom Organic Seeds.

Pipian From Tuxpan squash, from Baker Creek Heirloom Organic Seeds.

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.

A Canada Crookneck climbs over a plum tree.

A Canada Crookneck climbs over a plum tree.

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.

Passionfruit vines work beautifully on overhead trellises.  Wire is strung the length of the trellis, with shade cloth over the top.  The vines don't need any help to fill up the gaps.

Passionfruit vines work beautifully on overhead trellises. Wire is strung the length of the trellis, with shade cloth over the top. The vines don’t need any help to fill up the gaps.

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.

This curly willow trellis we put up in late spring and planted squash along both sides.  The squash love the trellis, and the trellis adds a nice touch to the pathway.

This curly willow trellis we put up in late spring and planted squash along both sides. The squash love the trellis, and the trellis adds a nice touch to the pathway.

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).

Strange fruit in this lime tree?

Strange fruit in this lime tree?

Yes! Its a zuchino rampicante vine.  This heirloom zucchini can be eaten green, or if allowed to age will harden into a uniquely-shaped winter squash.

Yes! Its a zuchino rampicante vine. This heirloom zucchini can be eaten green, or if allowed to age will harden into a uniquely-shaped winter squash.

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.

A Canada Crookneck climbs over a plum tree.

A Canada Crookneck climbs over a plum tree.

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.

Um... that is definately a pepper tree.  But what is hanging in it?

Um… that is definately a pepper tree. But what is hanging in it?

Strange fruit, indeed!

Strange fruit, indeed!

A small fence around your kitchen garden is inexpensive, recyclable, keeps nibbling critters out, and can double the size of your growing space.

T-posts and hardware cloth around the kitchen garden adds so much more growing space, and keeps critters out.  Delicata squash is enjoying the late summer sun.

T-posts and hardware cloth around the kitchen garden adds so much more growing space, and keeps critters out. Delicata squash is enjoying the late summer sun.

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!).

More squash helping shade the trunks and the soil around a nectarine.

More squash helping shade the trunks and the soil around a nectarine.

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!

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