A Complete Guide to Vertical Gardening (On a Budget!)

Vertical gardening can be affordable, relatively easy to set up, and it expands your home garden space while making gardening so much easier.

A woman holding up a melon in a mesh bag hanging from the vine.

Harvesting plants is much less work when the fruits and vegetables are hanging down within reach; no kneeling and no digging through the leaves on the ground to find the fruits.

I'll share with you from my experience the many benefits of vertical gardening, which plants can grow vertically, and how to do it inexpensively with DIY ideas! Because who doesn’t want a better system of gardening?

Be sure to check out my DIY arched garden trellises as well as how and what to grow vertically in your garden.

What Is Vertical Gardening

Vertical gardening is basically growing plants upwards instead of allowing them to ramble around on the ground.

While there are a lot of different vertical gardening systems out there, all of them reduce the footprint of the plants and expand the number of plants that can be grown in a particularly small space.

Fruits, vegetables, and fresh herbs grown vertically are usually healthier and highly productive too. I’m a huge fan of vertical gardening because it expands my garden space and it makes my gardening much more successful.

What Are the Advantages of Vertical Gardening

Increased Space

The benefits of growing vertically are many. As I mentioned before, the first reason is space. For instance, the footprint of a squash plant growing on the ground is about 20 square feet.

However, by growing it up and over an arched trellis, the footprint is reduced to just a few square feet. It can share a raised garden bed with many other plants because most of the growth goes up and over a walkway.

A younger and older woman picking beans off a climbing trellis.

Ease in Harvesting

The next benefit is easier harvesting. Vertical gardening brings the plants up so you don’t have to crawl around on the ground looking for your fruit underneath the leaves.

Picking vegetables when you’re standing upright saves your back and knees. Plus, when the food is up and right in front of you, you’re less likely to miss it when you’re harvesting.

I don’t know about you, but when I was growing things on the ground, I would frequently be surprised by what I’d missed under the foliage.

Healthier Plants

Vertical gardening even improves the health of your plants. When plants are trained up a trellis, they aren’t lying in the dirt where they can get splashback from rain and watering which keeps the leaves moist.

Moist and dirty foliage is a recipe for bacterial and fungal infections, blight, and wilt. When your fruit is up off the ground, it is out of the reach of little critters that would like to come along and eat it before you get a chance to.

A woman picking beans from a trellis in the garden.

Growing Something Beautiful

Finally, vertical gardening is stunningly beautiful. It adds line and structure to the design of your garden while being completely functional.

It puts your food on display and makes for spaces that are interesting and engaging. Arched trellises can create truly magical gardening spaces that you will want to spend time in.

I believe the best medicine for the garden is the gardener. That’s why making your garden into a place where you want to spend time is definitely better for the plants that are growing there.

Cherry tomatoes growing on a trellis.

Is Vertical Gardening Economical

If you do a quick search online for vertical gardening, you will come up with a lot of really cute ideas like hanging baskets, pots suspended on empty wall space, or gutters arranged in a stair-step structure. However, if you have vertical gardening in mind for food production, cute little pots aren't what you need.

Avoiding Costly Pitfalls

The cost of purchasing trellises adds up really quickly if you are growing much of anything at all. For example, an 80-inch trellis will handle one cucumber plant and cost about $35.

So if you are doing any canning or trying to feed a family from your garden, it will be cost-prohibitive to buy enough trellises.

Now, some people may have a completely different goal than me. They may prioritize an aesthetic garden with an intentional focal point, living walls, expensive irrigation systems, hanging planters, or hanging baskets where everything is fancy. So, it would make sense they may want to buy trellises specifically purposed to add extra beauty.

A woman putting on zip ties to a cattle panel attached to a t-post.

Keeping Costs Down

In the case of my garden, the goal was to make it as functional and productive as possible while keeping the price point as low as possible and then, within that, making it aesthetically pleasing.

If vertical gardening affordably is your goal, be resourceful! I encourage you to consider other items that work well for creating a vertical trellis but aren’t necessarily marketed specifically for that purpose.

Inexpensive Vertical Gardening Ideas

I priced some new options at Home Depot because these prices should be available to most of you, but I definitely recommend you shop around and find the best price.

  • Welded wire – You can buy about 600 inches (3’ x 50’) of welded wire for around $35. That is the same price as the 80-inch vertical gardening trellis I mentioned before. With welded wire, you will have to unroll it, cut it, and attach it to something to hold it upright, but a little more work, in the beginning, can save you a lot of money. We usually use T-posts as support.
  • T-posts – T-posts are about $4 each and work really well for holding up all kinds of vertical growing trellises.
  • Cattle panels – (or hog panels, the only difference is the size of the holes) We use cattle panels a lot. One of our most requested tutorials is how to build large arched trellises out of cattle panels for around $30. It has easy step-by-step instructions so you can build our favorite arched trellises at home.
  • Chicken wire – 25’ of coated poultry netting costs about $20. Attach the chicken wire to some kind of sturdy framework. Chicken wire will not be as durable and long-lasting as the other options, but it does work. Some cheap and easy ideas for trellis frames are old bed frames, old window frames, and pallets with some of the center boards removed.
  • Recycled fencing – You might not even have to buy new materials. For instance, we used two pieces of a broken dog kennel and formed an A-frame trellis. You might have something lying around that could be repurposed. Maybe you know someone who is getting rid of fencing that they will give to you, especially if you are willing to haul it off. A little extra labor might save you a lot of money in the long run.
  • Gate – A gate with a metal T-post holding it up can make a really cute trellis.

All of these ideas are easy and affordable. It doesn’t take any grand carpentry skills to drive a T-post into the ground and attach fencing with zip ties.

If you find yourself in a position where you don’t have a truck to haul fencing or the ability to maneuver panels by yourself, you can simply run clotheslines back and forth between posts.

You just need something that the plants can grab hold of and climb. When I used this method it worked wonderfully for peas and beans. At the end of the season, I just had to take them down and put them back up again in the spring.

Long red beans growing on an arched trellis.

What Plants Grow Well in Vertical Gardening

A surprising amount of plants grow well on trellises! My favorite plants to grow vertical are any kind of climbing beans or peas, cucumbers, melons, squashes and tomatoes.

My post on how to plant and grow on arched trellises has a more comprehensive explanation of plants that can be grown vertically. It also has other information about plant spacing and growing tips.

I often get asked, “Can I grow different types of plants on each side of the trellis?”

Yes, you can absolutely mix it up! Just keep in consideration that, if you want the aesthetically beautiful look, you should at least grow things from the same family.

Additionally, different plants will have different water needs so it may be easier to keep with the same plants.

How Do You Make a Vertical Garden

Don't have an existing wall or fence to build your own vertical garden? No problem! Building a vertical garden structure from scratch couldn't be easier. Learn how to build your own affordable arched trellis here, complete with step by step tutorial and video!

A boy holding an armful of produce standing between multiple raised garden beds.

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I want to share this beautiful life with others and teach them the lessons we've learned along the way. Welcome to Roots and Refuge, friend. I am so glad you're here.

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