Do you love vegetables, but are short on growing space? No problem. We’ve rounded up some of the best and most delicious climbing vegetables out there, so you can grow them vertically instead! Now you can grow oodles of veg up your garden walls, over trellises and tipis, and even along wire supports.
Many people mistakenly believe that in order to grow their own food, they need a large garden or allotment space. This mindset may prevent them from even trying to grow anything! In truth, you can successfully grow your own vegetables in a very small backyard, on a patio, or even a balcony. All it takes is some clever planting solutions, such as raised beds or trellising, and the right assortment of climbing plants.
With the right choice of climbing and vining crops ,the sky really is the limit. Here are some of the best climbing vegetables that will provide you with bountiful crops, without taking up too much valuable space.
Nasturtiums aren’t just pretty to look at: they’re also edible (and quite delicious). In addition to the peppery petals, the young leaves of the plant are also edible.
These quick-growing plants can flower within just four weeks of planting. The climbing nasturtium is a vining variety that can reach up to 6ft. Similar to other varieties, it produces brightly colored, edible flowers that are ideal for decorating salads, soups and desserts. Train them up trellises or poles, and allow them to spill over balcony railings.
In my opinion, nothing can beat the taste of a fresh, home-grown tomato. These are some of the most popular varieties of climbing vegetables, and you can grow both bush and vining tomato varieties in a small space. Both varieties can also be trained to grow up a wall or trellis. Just make sure that they have enough support as they grow. If you’re really short on space, aim for cherry or grape tomatoes instead of full-sized ones.
Some of the best tomato varieties for a vertical garden are:
- Early Girl Bush: A heavy-cropping variety that is ideal for areas with a short growing season. Tomatoes can mature within 62 days in the right conditions.
- Big Boy: An aromatic, heavy-cropping bush variety that is happy to grow in a cage or along a trellis.
- Tomato Burgess Climbing: a vine tomato that can reach 20ft. It produces large, deep-red tomatoes.
- Honey Grape: A high-yielding cherry tomato. This plant produces clusters of sweet, red tomatoes.
3. Malabar Spinach
Classified as a tropical perennial Malabar spinach plants thrive in milder climates. Red Stemmed Malabar is a particularly productive variety. An easy to grow, cut-and-come again vine grows quickly, reaching up to 4ft in height, producing attractive glossy green leaves with red stems.
4. Loofah (Luffa)
This might be an unusual choice for vegetable gardeners, since the loofah is better known as a natural sponge. However, loofah gourds yield edible, versatile vegetables that can be eaten raw, like a cucumber, or cooked, like squash.
Best grown in warmer climates, loofah (luffa) is an interesting addition to any large container. Just make sure that the plant is in well-draining soil and has enough support.
Another unusual addition to your garden, the vining chayote plant produces pear shaped, pale green fruits that resemble pumpkins. Chayote thrives when grown up fencing or trellising.
You can grow this variety in subtropical to moderately cool climates without too much trouble. If you live in a cooler climate, however, it’ll need a bit more care. Plant your chayote in a large pot and bring it indoors in autumn, or offer some form of warm winter protection.
6. Pole Beans
These reliable, productive climbing vegetables are incredibly easy to grow. As a result, pole beans are a common part of most vertical gardens. Also known as runner beans, they’re happiest in a mild climate. Just make sure to provide a sturdy support, lots of light, and plenty of water. The last is particularly true in a vertical garden, since small-scale planting can cause plants to dry out quickly.
Some of the best pole bean varieties to train up a garden wall are:
- Scarlet Runner: A reliable variety that reaches up to 12ft. The crimson red flowers are also edible if you can’t wait for the beans to develop.
- Black-seeded Blue Lake: Reaching 8ft in height, this stringless, vigorous variety is grown for its excellent flavor.
7. Lablab Beans
Following on from pole beans, the lesser known lablab bean originates in South East Asia. This short-living perennial will thrive in containers, and it’s particularly fond of warmer growing conditions. Also known as the Hyacinth bean, Seim bean and Australian bean, this crop is noted for its flavor. In addition to its rich purple or pink flowers, the leaves of the plant are also edible.
Perennial favorites, peas are easy-to-care-for, heavy-cropping, plant. These prolific climbing vegetables grow very happily along trellising, wires, or any other support structure.
All kinds of climbing pea varieties will thrive in a vertical garden. That said, some of the most popular are:
- California Black-Eyed Peas: A vigorous vine that doesn’t require too much attention. Its crop doesn’t take long to mature—about 75 days. If you can’t wait, however, the pods can be picked young and eaten like snap beans.
- Sugar Snap: A sweet, early variety that can grow up to 5ft.
- English “Blue Pod Capuciners”: A true deep-purple heirloom pea that produces sweet-smelling flowers. This variety can grow up to 6ft in height, and its pods can either be picked young, as snow peas, or allowed to develop.
All cucumber varieties are climbing vegetables, meaning that they will thrive in a vertical garden. Just make sure that the plants have enough support as their fruits develop. If you only have limited space, dwarf varieties are the way to go.
Some of the the best cucumber varieties for a vertical garden are:
- Marketmore 76: Produces dark green, uniform cucumbers up to 9 inches in length.
- Mexican Sour Gherkin (Melothria Scabra): A small, prolific variety. Its lemon-flavored fruit resembles mini watermelons in shape. These are excellent for pickling.
- Long English “Tasty Green”: A burpless variety, this vigorous vining plant produces sweet, and mil-tasting cucumbers.
Squash may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you are thinking of climbing vegetables. That said, if you you provide enough sturdy support, for them, they’ll produce more than you can imagine. Just note that they do need a fair bit of support, which is why some people like to set their trellising into concrete.
In addition to being prolific climbing vegetables, squash can also be attractive additions to your garden. Pick their blossoms early, stuff them with cheese, and fry them for a delicious summer treat.
As the vines grow, you’ll need to support each squash fruit with a stretch sling that’s also attached to the trellis.
One of the best options is the summer squash zucchini, also known as courgette. These are best harvested when they’re small, as you’ll get to enjoy their sweet, tender flesh. Growing zucchini vertically not only makes the fruits more noticeable among the foliage, but also allows you to easily gauge when they are the perfect size to pick.
11. Melons and Watermelons
Like squash, melons and watermelons aren’t generally thought of as climbing vegetables. There are, however, many vining melon varieties. In addition, most other cultivarss will happily grow upwards as long as you provide enough sturdy support.
Amongst the best options for a vertical garden are:
- Red-Seeded Citron: A lush vining variety that’s an attractive addition to any garden. Similar in growth to a watermelon, it can be eaten fresh or pickled.
- Cantaloupe “Earlychamp”: A sweet, orange variety with heavy netting.
- Moon and Stars Watermelon: A distinctive watermelon that produces dark pink fruit that can weigh up to 30lbs. Needless to say, sturdy support is absolutely vital for this variety.
- Blenheim Orange Muskmelon: An early maturing variety, with fragrant, orange fruit that usually weighs around 2lb.
A fast-growing vine, hops (Humulus lupulus) are best grown in containers to prevent them from overtaking the garden. You can use hop flowers to make beer, or steep them to make sleep-inducing tea. You can also steam young hop leaves: in fact, many people eat them as vegetables.
Training climbing vegetables up garden walls and trellising is a simple and effective solution if you only have a limited amount of space. Taking your crops off the ground not only helps you to make the most of your space but, by allowing the air to circulate around your crop, can prevent pests and disease from striking.
With all these benefits in mind, why not start planning your own vertical vegetable garden?