Grow Up! How to Train Vegetables to Grow Vertically

Maybe you’re gardening in a small space and need to think up rather than out, or maybe you understand the importance of training vines to grow up to produce better quality food. In any case, training your plants isn’t that difficult, and it has an awesome payoff. And thankfully, unlike training your kids to do something, plants won’t fuss or talk back!

Training means you’re showing the vines and stems where they should grow and attaching them to supports, like trellises and cages, when necessary. Depending on the type of climbing plant, there are various techniques to train it to grow vertically.

Why You Should Train Vegetables to Grow Up

Training veggies to grow vertically comes in handy when growing vegetables in a small space. But there are many other reasons why this can be an advantage in your yard, no matter its size.

Growing vegetables vertically keeps your produce off the ground, reducing the risk of pests and disease. The veggies will also be exposed to more sunlight and better air circulation, which will lead to higher crop yield. Having the vines grow up also means pollinators will have an easier time going flower to flower. Plus, having plants off the ground is better for your back — instead of having to kneel and bend over to care for and harvest your plants, you can tend away while standing comfortably.

How to Train Vines

Because plants have different characteristics, they also have different training requirements. We can categorize these plants into three categories.

Plants with Long Branches: Plants like tomatoes and raspberries have long, flexible branches that you can support with a cage, stake, or trellis. Loosely tie the main stem every six to eight inches upwards along the structure. Continue securing it as new growth appears. If flowers have formed, tie the plants above the clusters so the stem doesn’t fall over from the weight of the fruit. Use soft material to secure, like twine, reused pieces of pantyhose, or plastic plant tape.

Plants with Tendrils: Peas, cucumbers, and squash have little shoots called tendrils that grow off the main stem. These tendrils wrap around whatever they touch. We find organic, non-metal supports work best for tendrils, or if the supports are metal, they should be wrapped in twine. Untangle the vine, and guide the tendrils along the netting, trellis, or fence, then loosely tie the vine to the support.

Plants with Twines: Pole beans have twining stems, rather than tendrils, that will wrap around supports. They don’t need much help from you, besides making sure a support like a pole, stake, or fine mesh is there for it to latch onto. After untangling the vine from anything it has grabbed onto already, guide the vining stem to the support, carefully wrapping it around a couple of times. As the plant grows, direct the plant if needed to make sure it grows where you want it.

Landscape Design with Climbing Plants

Using structures for climbing plants not only is practical but also adds interest to your yard! To add a pop of color to trellises, interplant some climbing flowers like nasturtiums and morning glories among your veggies. We also love using obelisks as climbing structures in the middle of garden beds. Even before the plants climb their way up, obelisks add beauty with their tall shape alone. 

Tips For Training Climbing Plants

Though training veggies to grow vertically is fairly simple, there are a few important tips to consider.

  • Start training plants when they are young.
  • Be gentle, and not forceful, when guiding the vine so it doesn’t break.
  • When tying the plant to your supports, do so loosely so that the vines and branches don’t cut themselves as they mature.

Growing your own food right in your own backyard is so rewarding — you’ll feel accomplished, plus you’ll have lots of produce to show for it! These tips for training your veggies to grow vertically will make your harvest that much more plentiful and will help keep your garden looking tidy.

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