Every year, my biggest garden anguish comes in that moment after I have narrowed down my list for the fourteenth or fifteenth time, when I realize that I still can't possibly fit everything I would like to grow into my raised beds. No matter how many times I rearrange my plans, or try to fit an extra plant here or there, there are just too many things on my list for the space I have. Sadly, it's always back to the list for another round of eliminations.
Double sadly, the vine crops are always the first to go. I love cucumbers and melons and squash, but I know that in the space the vines will take up, I can grow so much more if I just take them out of the plan. For the past couple of years, I've played around with the idea of getting my hands on some kind of trellis to grow at least one cucumber plant, but this winter, I finally got serious about maximizing my space and started to do a little research on vertical gardening.
My initial plan
was to hang a cattle panel on the fence, but after some more thought and consultation with some fellow gardeners, I decided to use chicken wire instead. It seemed like a better choice, seeing as it's lighter and easier to work with. I also liked that the mesh is pretty tight (one inch), giving the vines the ability to "grab on" securely.
With my plan set, I got to work last weekend installing my vertical garden. I started by measuring out lengths of chicken wire to run from the corner fence post to just past the end of the garden (12' 4"). Lining it up with the top of the fence post, I used a power stapler to attach each length of chicken wire to the fence, from the top down. The very last row was only a half row, so I trimmed it so the chicken wire rests just above the soil in the garden
To avoid having sharp edges to deal with, I wrapped the extra four inches of chicken wire around the fence post and bent the sharp ends behind the post. It ended up looking much nicer and I'm sure I'll appreciate this decision when I start spending more time in the garden (i.e. when I'll be more likely to just grab on to the fence post without thinking).
The first order of business was to plant my sugar snap peas along the entire length of the fence. When we get a little later in the season, I'll start some cucumber and melon seeds at the base of the fence as well and start training the vines to spread up. In theory, the peas should be slowing down as the vines need the extra room. As always, timing will be everything, but hopefully this plan will work to get two separate uses out of the wall in one season.
I'm going back and forth on possibly adding an acorn squash to the vertical garden as well, but I'm just not sure how much space each vine will take up, so I'm still undecided. This will definitely be a learning year, but if it is successful, I'm excited about the possibilities for future growing seasons!
Now please excuse me, I need to go check if any of those peas have spouted yet...