How to Build a Vertical Garden

Three Methods:Choosing a Vertical Garden StructureChoosing the Right PlantsStarting the Garden

If your horizontal garden space is limited, or you're interested in adding a new level of texture and beauty to your yard, consider building a vertical garden. Many plants naturally grow, vine-like, up trees and walls, and these can easily be trained to grow upward on the structure of your choice. Read on to find out how to start your vertical garden.

Method 1
Choosing a Vertical Garden Structure

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    Buy a garden structure from a garden store. Since vertical gardens are growing in popularity, home and garden stores increasingly carry a variety of structures suitable for building a vertical garden. Choose from among these options:
    • Buy simple poles you can set into the ground. These are a good choice if you want just a few vertical elements in your garden.
    • Buy a trellis. Trellises are often made of wood. They are built in the shape of a box with a cross-hatched top and sides, allowing vines and plants to weave themselves through the gaps in the wood.
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    Use vertical features you already have. There's no need to go out of your way to buy a structure if you don't want to spend the money. You probably already have items you can use to grow a vertical garden. Consider the following:
    • A tree. That's right, you can train a plant to grow around a tree. The best type of tree for this is one with branches that begin more than 6 feet (1.8 m) up the tree.
    • Bamboo poles. Is there a stand of bamboo located near your home? Bamboo provides a sturdy base for a vertical garden, and it's often easy to get it for free. If you don't have bamboo, another strong, tall stick of some kind will do.
    • Your deck. If you have a deck that extends several feet or yards above the ground, you can train plants to grow up the sides.
    • A fence. Most any fence provides suitable structure for a vertical garden - the taller, the better!
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    Build your own vertical trellis. For a completely customized vertical garden structure, build your own out of wood. Building your own structure allows you to create a garden with the right dimensions for your yard. Here's a step-by-step guide for building a 6-foot high garden structure:
    • Build a 2 foot (0.6 m) square by 11 inch (27.9 cm) high box from redwood, cedar, or pressure-treated 2 x 6s. Screw 8-foot pressure-treated 2 x 2s at the center and one corner in back, and 6-foot 2 x 2s at the other corner and 18 inches (45.7 cm) from the back on both sides.
    • Pre-drill, glue and screw 1 x 2s every 6 inches (15.2 cm), starting at the top of the box. Extend the 1 x 2s at least an inch beyond each 2 x 2 to minimize the danger of splitting.
    • Add platforms by screwing on 3-foot 1 x 2s, then screwing on 1 x 2s laid flat to create a miniature deck.
    • Add one more 6-foot long 2 x 2 in the center at the front, and screw it to the crosspieces.
    • Add a 1 x 4 crosspiece at the top of the two longest 2 x 2s. Attach a bird house to the crosspiece.
    • Fill the box with good soil, then plant climbing plants and train them up the lattice. Add other plants in pots and hanging baskets.

Method 2
Choosing the Right Plants

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    Grow vegetables vertically. Many types of vegetables and legumes grow on vines, making them great candidates for a vertical garden. Peas and beans naturally twist and curl over stakes and trellises, and many of them also produce pretty flowers in the spring. Here are a few ideas:
    • Grow scarlet runner beans, which attract hummingbirds and have red and white blossoms.[1]
    • Go with tomatoes, which must grow vertically in order to stay healthy and produce a lot of fruit. Your summer will be filled with juicy red goodness.
    • Some varieties of squash grow vertically, too. Try trombetta squash, which produces pretty flowers.[2]
    • Hops, which are the essential ingredient in beer, grow at least 6 feet (1.8 m) into the sky.
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    Create a vertical flower and vine garden. If you're keen on building a whimsical vertical garden - the kind you can stroll underneath with your sweetheart while you enjoy the fragrance of its flowers - look for flower and ivy varieties that prefer to grow toward the sky. Be sure to choose plants that do well in your particular region.
    • Morning glories grow fast and strong, and they produce gorgeous flowers in many different hues.
    • Wisteria, which blooms purple and produces a lovely scent, is a popular choice for vertical gardens.
    • English ivy provides a pleasing green backdrop for more colorful flowers.
    • Climbing roses will give your vertical garden a romantic touch.
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    Plant the three sisters.[3] For a completely natural vertical garden, you can't go wrong with the three sisters: beans, squash and corn. Native Americans planted these three vegetables together because they coexist so well with one another. They also make for a gorgeous natural vertical garden; the corn provides a "pole" for the beans and squash, which twist up its stalk as they grow.

Method 3
Starting the Garden

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    Pick a good spot.[4] A vertical garden, like any other type of garden, needs to be planted in an area with good soil drainage and the right combination of shade and sunlight. Figure out what conditions the plants you're growing need to thrive, then choose a suitable area in your yard or on your patio.
    • Most vertical gardens do well with a lot of sunlight.
    • Pick a spot close to a wall if you want your garden to eventually climb the walls of your house.
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    Make sure the garden structure is stable. If you're using a trellis, a stake or a pole, be sure to bury it deep in the ground so that it doesn't wobble or fall over. Remember that the garden will get heavier as it grows, and it will need a solid foundation that can stand up to wind and rain.
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    Plant around the base of the structure. Taking into account the individual needs of the plants you are using, plant seeds or seedlings in holes spaced around the base of the trellis, pole or other structure you are using. Make sure they aren't too close to each other or the structure so that they'll have room to root and grow.
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    Care for the plants according to their needs. Make sure they get adequate water and that you fertilize them, protect them with mulch, and take other measure they need to grow healthy and strong.
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    Train the plants. When the seedlings get a few inches high, it's time to train them to wrap around the structure you erected. Gently wrap the stems of the plants around the base of the structure, taking care not to bend or break them. Use ties to hold the stems in place as they grow.
    • Don't tie the stems too tightly. This prevents them from growing properly and may actually damage the plant.
    • As the stems begin to grow and wind around the structure, continue using ties to train them to grow in the direction you want them to grow.


  • Change dimensions of the homemade trellis as needed to fit your space or make multiple smaller beds with space in between for easy access.
  • Try training peas, beans, cucumbers, eggplants, melons, or okra up this structure. You can intersperse decorative plants, such as marigolds, or lower plants, such as strawberries, to make this an interesting and tasty planting. Don't use treated lumber if you're growing food.

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Categories: Theme and Feature Gardens