Maddy experiments with using the vertical as well as the horizontal to grow small pumpkins and squash up, stacking more plants in garden beds.

Some years ago I visited Rebecca Hosking and Tim Green on the farm and saw their raised bed veggie garden. Tim had woven hazel domes over the beds to grow squashes upwards rather than have them trailing on the ground.

There are definite advantages to this idea. Firstly, the young squashes have a better chance of getting away as they climb a structure away from slugs and snails. You can also stack more plants if you use vertical as well as horizontal space. Useful in a smaller garden. When the plants crop, the squashes are suspended above the ground and less vulnerable to slugs.

Last year one of my squashes climbed up a sweetcorn in perfect Native American style. So this year I wanted to work with this idea. I thought of weaving hazel domes like Tim's but I went for a simpler, quicker design. The Sustainability Centre had fenced a pond with stock wire (to stop our young visitors from falling in) and had some of a roll left over. Not really enough to be useful for fencing. I asked 'The Management' if I might have it and was kindly given permission to take it away.

My squash and mini pumpkin patch was to be on an area I had mulched with cardboard and black plastic. First of all I removed the plastic and checked how the bindweed was doing. I also inadvertently disturbed some very valuable visitors.

 A slowworm hiding below the tile that secured the black plastic

A slowworm hiding below the tile that secured the black plastic

Two toads are not pleased to be disturbed!

Two toads are not pleased to be disturbed!

With wire cutters in hand I unrolled the wire roll and cut a strip 17 squares long to fit the space.

Bluey the Dog was a great help holding down the wire.

I then rolled the wire into a circle and secured it by banging a hazel stake into the ground and secured it with plastic ties. I also used garden wire on one circle. Then I used the excess wire on one end of the fencing and wrapped it around the other end to hold it together.

Here's the 4 circles in a row. Sorry about the lack of light - it was raining.

I have planted two plants on each circle, a greater density than I would plant if I was only growing squash on the horizontal but I think it will work. The varieties are mini pumpkins (I am not sure bigger varieties of pumpkin would be supported), and butternut, spaghetti and sucrine du berry squashes.

Mirabelle the Dog became very fascinated with the whole project and spent hours gazing with admiration at my work. In fact they both did.

Mirabelle watching

Mirabelle watching

I think they were after a sight of the toads...

I will mulch this area with straw once the pumpkins have got away or if we get a sunny spell. I won't risk creating a slug habitat before then. If I can get some woodchip though I will mulch now. To protect the young plants Tim placed some crushed charcoal around them and added crushed egg shells on top. Slugs don't like traversing either of these.

I will post a photograph later in the year and let you know how successful this project is. If you grow squash on structures please let me know how you get on too.

Further resources

Make the most of your unused space amd grow vertically

How to make vertical raised beds for urban green spaces

5 ways to grow edibles vertically

Edible Cities: Urban Permaculture for Gardens, Yards, Balconies, Rooftops and Beyond for a special price of £11.21 from our Green Shopping site (also available as a pdf)

Permaculture in Pots: How to Grow Food in Small Urban Spaces for a special price of £9.70 from our Green Shopping site (also available as an eBook)

Edible Perennial Gardening: Growing Successful Polycultures in Small Spaces for a special price of £11.21 from our Green Shopping site

Maddy Harland is the co-founder and editor of Permaculture - practical solutions for self reliance established in 1992. You can read a free copy online by clicking HERE. You can subscribe to our digital issue for just £2.75 ($2.99) a quarter. A digital subscription also enables you to read and search our back issues but if you like the lovely paper edition please see SUBSCRIBE.


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