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To construct a vertical frame, you need: two 6-foot electrical conduit pipes 0/2-inch diameter); one 4-foot conduit pipe (l¡2-inch diameter); two 18-inch long rehar supports of 1/2-inch diameter; power drill; hammer; two elhoiv connectors; and trellis netting.

Picture This

Can you just picture a wall of green in your garden filled with vine crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans, even melons and squash. All the colorful fruit just hanging there waiting to be picked. No sprawling plants all over the ground with their fruit lying on the soil getting all dirty and eaten by slugs. These walls of green can even be located so they hide any unsightly areas of the yard or garage. They can even give you some privacy to keep neighbor from peering over the fence to look at your SFG. Its not only a spectacular sight, but those plants will be up in the air getting better sunshine and air movement. They'll produce a more useable harvest for you with nothing wasted. To top all that off, each plant will only take 1 or 2 square feet of garden space and grow perfectly well in your 6 inches of Mels Mix. Another big advantage is you can do all this standing up—no bending, kneeling, or squatting down to tend your plants.

Vertical Gardening

Constructing Supports

I experimented through the years with all different types of materials and frames, and 1 finally settled upon one that was so simple, easy, and inexpensive to use that it was almost ridiculous.

I found that electrical conduit is the cheapest, strongest, and best material to use for the vertical supports. I do not like PVC pipe or wood because it eventually will bend and break and destroy your whole vertical garden. When you first build and plant a vertical frame out of just about anything, it looks sturdy and strong. But, near the end of the growing season, when your plants have grown to the top and filled up all the open spaces, that frame acts like a sail on a boat. Just when your tomatoes are getting ripe and ready to pick, along comes a late summer storm with lots of wind and water and rain, and the next thing you know the whole thing is flat on the ground.

Using electrical conduit and a steel ground rod (rebar) will prevent this from happening. And the two posts and top are simple and inexpensive to buy and install.

The conduit itself costs a few dollars for a 10-foot length, so you can see were not talking about big bucks here, and you should be able to talk the clerk at the store into cutting it in half. For the corners you can buy elbows, pre-bent rounded corners or bend your own if you have a conduit bender (about twenty bucks at the same store). Its kind of fun to bend the conduit, and once you get the knack of it, it comes out nice and smooth with good curves. The bent pipes are connected with a simple metal coupling that has two set screws that tighten each pipe together, and they both usually cost less than a dollar.

Placement of Vertical Supports in the SFG Garden

When you're deciding where to place your vertical frames, keep in mind that you don't want the vines to shade the rest of the garden. So, the frames work best when placed on the north side of each box. If you want more vertical crops than one frame per box, you can make double or triple boxes and turn them east and west so the frames can go all along the north side. You could also devote a special-sized box just for vertical crops. Make a 2Xl2-foot or any length box with a vertical frame continuously on the north side. This could stand against a wall or fence. You could even plant the front squares with pretty flowers or any low-growing crop like peppers or eggplant that will look great and will hide the bottom stems of the vertical vines.

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