Growing Vertical–How to Support Your Plants

You may also like...

44 Responses

  1. Emily MySFG says:


    I suggest going through the steps on my site and/or purchasing my e-book!

  2. Cindy Kimmer says:

    I have an 18×24′ garden in east central Iowa. I pretty much at Where to plant everything. All my peas and beans were eaten, and I had no idea that lettuce needed shade although it’s doing quite well. My indeterminate tomatoes are caged but getting stuck coming up. My suddenly large canteloup plants are not caged and getting ready to overgrown my spinach. Any advise on how to correct my current crisis? Guessed * where to plant everything. Also like to add …. this is the largest garden I’ve ever had and am used to having very little space. I still like the idea of using the space to its utmost potential so the techniques for SFG could still apply. I also gave too much space to tiny peppers not knowing how small they would stay, a good friend gave me her extra seedlings. Feel free to combine both of my messages into one coherent thought before posting if you like 🙂 thanks in advance for any input. Cindy

  3. Emily says:

    The fabric is great, but in the end it will degrade. The only problem I have with weeds coming in is grass, and it’s a pain! So the biggest thing you can do is REMOVE AND KILL all grass around the boxes. Other than that, I would not hesitate to puncture the fabric with stakes or cages.

  4. In my SFG, I have landscape fabric under the boxes. If I use stakes or the tomato cages (which I have from previous incarnations of my garden), I’ll go through that fabric at the bottom of my box. Won’t that be bad in terms of letting my soil out and perhaps weeds in? Or is it really not that much of a big deal?

  5. Emily says:

    I don’t recommend two trellises running parallel, because I find it’s important to get to the veggies from both sides. However you can position them to get to all sides, that’s it!

    Put tall plants on the north, unless you want the shade for things like lettuce.

  6. Donna Bentkowski says:

    I have a ?, Is it ok to put 2 trellises parallel to each other.I am wondering if i did this correctly last yr. ,because all of my cucumbers grew on both A and B trellises.I only got a few Pole Beans on the outside bottom trellis B, didn’t get any pea pods. Did get 2 small watermelons on the outside of trellis A.

    Note for the Watermelon plants (One plant /Square so i just put the seeds on one side of the trellis.
    Should one only put their TRELLISES SIDE BY SIDE, not back to back or parallel ?
    Cucumbers I Cucumber I Watermelon I Watermelon
    # I # I $ I $
    outside of trellis
    — — — — — — –Trellis A — — — — — — — — — —
    Cucumbers I Cucumbers I I
    # I #
    ___________________________________________________________________THIS IS THE TOP OF THE BOTTOM SQUARE

    Pole beans I Pole beans I I Pea pods I Pea pods
    X X X X I X X X X I O O O O lO O O O
    — — — — — — –Trellis B– — — — — — — — — —
    outside of trellis
    Pole beans I Pole-beans I Pea pods I Pea pods
    X X X X I X X X X I O O O O l O O O O

    Would appreciate any ones input. Which way r u suppose to put your taller plants on N ,S W or E?

  7. Emily says:

    This sounds like a great idea–if you do it this year, send me a picture!

  8. Wes Morrow says:

    Years ago I remember using a large mesh wire panel mounted horizontally (on stakes) above my tomato plants that worked really well. The plants (indeterminate) grew up through the openings,and then laid on top of the panel, with most of the tomatoes hanging under the panel. I’m ont sure, but I think the panel was only about 18″ above the ground. I think I am going to try this for this year’s crop. Any comments would be helpful.

  9. Godzeal says:

    I am now inspired to try vertical farming with tomatoes as i can now support them with trellis or cages.
    Thanks so much.

  10. Becky says:

    Thanks so much – this is exactly the information I needed!!

  11. Mark says:

    Thanks for all of the ideas on how to go vertical with the SFG. I’m debating on just using the cages I have for the tomatoes and perhaps try them out for the cucumbers and winter squash. I have a few different kinds that worked reasonably well for indeterminate tomatoes in my raised bed in the past. The cages are about 5′ tall and fairly wimpy. Thoughts?

  12. Emily says:

    Susan–I think that’s too many plants to put them on both sides. But, I’m also very into trying new things! One thing that’s good, peas will grow until July or so in my area, while tomatoes are just getting going. The peas will die by the time the tomatoes are large. So it might work.

  13. Susan says:

    Hi Emily, I love the information about the experimentation you’ve done, and your site is lovely! We just got a community garden plot and are following the method in Mel’s book, but because of this post I decided to try a couple tomatoes in cages as well. We want to grow a lot of things that need to be supported, and I had planned (according to the spacing in Mel’s book) to alternate tomato plants, pole beans, snap peas, watermelon, cucumber, and butternut squash — and to plant them on BOTH sides of the trellis.
    Will it be possible to support plants on both sides of a trellis?

    For example, in one of my beds I have the plan

    Tomato | Bean | Bean | Tomato
    Peas | Peas | Peas | Peas

    Would this spacing work, or do the plants overwhelm the trellis even when planted on only one side (kinda my impression from your pics above!)? I was hoping the tomatoes and beans planted on the south side would shade peas a bit so that we could still harvest some peas even though we are late planting them in our climate (coastal Southern California).

  14. mickey says:

    I use 6 and a half foot half inch rebar spaced 8 ft apart to support my white half runner green beens. I pound the bars down with a one inch pipe nipple one foot long with a cap on it. The rebar hold a string nicely at six inch spacing which the beans seem to appreciate.The end bars are supported by 5 foot electric fence steel supports at a 45 degree angle which stay in place by tension. Works like a charm!

  15. Gloria Treis says:

    For all of my vertical supports, I am going to try the concrete remesh attached to metal posts (the same wire mesh that you use to make tomato cages). You can also get the concrete remesh in sheets (42″ by 7′) that are nice and flat for this purpose.

  16. Emily says:

    The methods I’ve tried and researched are outlined here.

  17. okocha inya says:

    I need materials on staking methods as regards fluted pumpkin.

  18. Emily says:

    Yes, that’s what I used it for. It worked great, but I didn’t feel I could fit as many plants as I can with the cage.

  19. doug hicken says:

    have you used a horizontal trellis with indeterminite tomatoes?

  20. Emily says:

    It probably won’t work to move it, though you can try. You’d want to dig wide and deep to not disturb the root, just take the whole plot of dirt and turn it. Or, just guide it the right direction. Don’t bend it, but turn it until it goes the way you want.

  21. Heather says:

    Hi Emily,
    First, congratulations on adopting!!! Being a mama is so wonderful! Secondly, thanks for this nice site, you have done an excellent job. Now for my question, I planted a ‘small sugar’ pumpkin in a hill that takes up 2 squares on the north end by the trellis. Only one of the seeds has come up, but looks beautiful. One problem though, it is growing the wrong direction! It is heading straight into the carrot squares. Do I dig it up and do a 180*? It looks to tender to bend.
    Thank you so much!

  22. Christi says:

    I’m not sure if this would help with your spaghetti squash, but I sent this link to my mother-in-law about her zucchini. They use an upside down tomato cage to keep them more contained. I thought that was an awesome idea!

  23. Emily says:

    You might try a trellis, or a teepee support. I wouldn’t hesitate to stake them, just do it 6″ from the roots/stem. Unlike tomatoes or peppers, squash tend to have one large root, so as long as you’re a short distance from the stem, you’re not likely to damage it.

  24. Sarah says:

    This is my first year doing SFG. I have spagetti squash that is getting quite large and I don’t want it to crowd out the plants next to it. Can I use something to support the spagetti squash vertically? If so, what’s the best thing to use? Since the plants are already big, I don’t want to damage any roots by placing a stake.

  25. Emily says:

    Check out these images–a picture is worth a thousand words!

  26. Teresa says:

    Hey Kirk,
    What is the Florida weave method you mention for tomatoes?

  27. Adele Milano says:

    Thank you for the video. I am a visual learner and it helped to see it.

  28. Emily says:

    If you read around the site (especially the comments) you’ll see that I’ve talked about this in a bunch of places. Yes, you can grow in 1 square foot–I did it (with a trellis) and was not satisfied with my harvest. To keep it manageable, you have to prune the tomatoes diligently. So I’ve tried giving them more and less space, with different types of support. Now I grow them in these tomatoes cages, in 4 squares each.

  29. Jane says:

    I just read the New Square Foot Gardening book (almost cover-to-cover) and am a little confused that you allot more than one square per tomato plant. It’s my understanding that each tomato plant can grow in one square foot…as long as you stagger similar plants. This is my first time to try my hand at square foot gardening, but to allot 8 or 9 squares for one tomato plant is actually giving each plant way more space than in the old traditional row-type garden, and counteracts the entire premise of a square foot garden. Have you tried to plant tomatoes in one square each and just not had good luck?

  30. Turk says:

    I’m using the Florida Weave method for my tomatoes in the SFG this year…. I’ll keep you posted how it works out. My beds are all 4×8, so we’ll have a couple “rows” to weave.

  31. Emily says:

    Dina–go to /color and figure out your color planting group, then sign up for my newsletter. It will give you a great idea of when to plant. You always want to adjust it–with common sense and advice from neighbors who have gardened in your area. But it’s a great starting point.

  32. Dina says:

    I am in Rigby Idaho…the ground is still frozen here and we are not really safe from the first frost until July 4th…so I am told… So, I am really confused about what I should plant and not plant…I grew up tending a garden, but really did not have a lot of experience gardening…I need and want a garden badly and have NO idea where to go for help…
    Thanks for this great site!!!

  33. emilyrhp says:

    Working on it! 🙂

  34. Jane says:

    Has anyone tried The Tomato Stake product?

    I think its wonderful and so easy… wish I would have thought of it first!

  35. Emily says:

    I’ve never grown squash horizontally, but I’ve heard you can do it sort of a mix of both–put remesh over your garden like a covered wagon, and grow them up and over. Plus, that will give shade to the plants underneath (lettuce) and extend the growing season for those.

    I’m not familiar with patty pan squash–if it grows like zucchini, there’s no way to really trellis it and you have to use 9 squares. If it vines like pumpkins or butternut squash, 2 squares is enough IF you trellis it.

  36. Courtney says:

    This is amazing information – thank you!

    I was mulling over summer squash and pattyy pan squash and how to grow them – maybe a mixture of both horizontally and vertically?

    If I do the horizontal method – are you recommending 1 plant per 9 squares? I am growing them from seed but when I’ve purchased squash seedlings from the nursery – it comes in a set of two – would it be the set of 2 per 9 squares?

    If I do it vertically – is it 3 squares per plant? I hope this is not a silly question. I am new to this – thank you!

  37. Emily says:

    You can save tons of space by trellising those indeterminate tomatoes, but you HAVE TO prune, which is hard to keep up on. And I did feel like I didn’t get as many tomatoes. If you only want them for fresh salsa and cooking, it was plenty. But my goal is “I want more tomatoes than I know what to do with.” That means, salsa, canning tomatoes, fresh and cooking. Last year I met that goal, but I also adopted a baby in the middle of the harvest, so I sort of ran out of time and energy for canning. 🙂 Trial and error is a great way to learn–all my helpful hints can’t make up for experience!

  38. Jennifer says:

    Emily-Thanks for the advice. I just finished planting half of the tomatoes today. I might have to cover them to keep them safe for a couple more nights. We’ll see. All of my indeterminate tomatoes will grow on a trellis. You didn’t like doing that? It saves room. Maybe that will cut down on the # of tomatoes I have??? We’ll see. I did plant my 2 Romas in the center of 4 squares as well as the other determinates. I’ll give 1 square per indeterminte since they’ll be growing on a trellis. Does that sound right? The trellis will be on the North West side of my most northern box. Any suggestions of what to plant in the box to the south of each tomatoe ona trellis? I’m new to SFG so, trial and error here I come!

  39. Kylee says:

    I am starting my VERY first SFG this year.. and your blog/website has been JUST as helpful and informative as the SFG book! Thanks so much for all your time and effort you put into your posts to help the new people like me!
    This post especially is helpful as i staked my tomatoes/ cucumbers and peppers last year and it didnt work out so well! but this pvc trellis is AMAZING!

  40. Emily says:

    Jennifer–Okay, I think with determinate tomatoes like Celebrity, you can easily plan 4 squares per plant. That would allow 8 in one of your garden beds. For semi-determinate tomatoes like Roma, they need a little more room than that, more like 6 squares each. In your garden beds you could fit 5 Roma plants. They do need some support, but nothing huge–maybe a cage that is 3′ tall. If you used a horizontal trellis, I think you can fit more (4 squares each, fitting 8 per bed).

    For indeterminate plants like Better Boy and Early Girl, I typically recommend 8-9 squares, so you could put 3 or 5 per garden bed. These really need a lot of support! With good support like a horizontal trellis, you may only need 6 squares each, and would be able to grow 5 per bed. With the huge tomato cages you are supposed to be able to fit them in only 4 squares. I haven’t tried this yet (coming this year!), but I think even though you can fit 8 per bed I would not fill a whole bed with them. I might plant 4 per bed, and grow other veggies in between them. That way if they get big and bushy, they don’t grow into each other and you can still have good access to them.

    Hands down, you have enough space. If you only grew indeterminate and gave each plant 9 squares, you would fill 5 garden beds, and still have 3 to spare. Get ready to sweat it out in the fall, because you’re going to be canning until the cows come home! 🙂

  41. Jennifer says:

    I was planning on growing about 15 tomatoes plants. I have 8, 8’x4′ boxes. About 9 of them are inderminate. I was going to try to trellis them. Is it worth it? How much space do I need for the determinate types such as Roma? Do I need a 5ft tall cage for determinate types? They don’t get that big do they? I’m just trying to figure out my spacing for all those tomatoes to can yummy salsa this year. Oh, I live up here in Kaysville, UT.

  42. Summer Wilda says:

    Emily – I am looking for an easy way to ‘share’ some of your posts! Have you considered putting sharing buttons at the bottom of your posts or starting an FB page to which your posts are directly ‘posted’?
    Site looks great! congrats on everything!

  43. Emily says:

    I am going to make changes by adding more emitters and possibly more lines. I prefer to water every 6″ instead of every 12″.

  44. Cameron says:

    Hi Emily,

    This is completely unrelated to the post, but I wanted to follow up on your drip irrigation post from several months ago to see if you’ve made any changes. Your plants look like they’re doing quite well, so they must be getting enough water, at least 🙂