My Trellis Garden: Vertical Urban Gardening in Small Spaces

by heather

The Vertical Trellis Garden

The Vertical Trellis Garden

Have I ever told you I have a miniscule backyard?

It’s true. My backyard is cute, but TINY. Which is why I’ve never really had a garden back there. With two dogs, I needed every square inch for them.

I’m super excited to tell all of you about the trellis I’m going to start building soon. My good friend Renaissance Ronin, who is the McGuyver of urban gardening, designed an amazing vertical garden for me that will take up very little space in my backyard.

Thanks to his design I’ll be able to plant tomatoes, squash, pole beans, carrots, eggplant…all without using more than 2 feet or so of ground space. How? Because I’m going UP instead out OUT like most gardens. And it’s going to be incredibly cheap to build.

The Vertical Trellis Garden

To picture what this is going to look like, just imagine a garden that’s living on the back wall of your house. In all seriousness, it’s going to be a thick wall of produce on my south wall.

Trellising is an ideal way to utilize the often overlooked vertical space in your urban garden. And this one uses fishing line to support the vegetables.

You can find pre-made trellis systems from gardening supply stores or you can build your own.

I’m building a milk crate trellis that Ronin designed, who was in turn inspired by Mel Bartholomew, the guy who pioneered “Square Foot Gardening” way back when PBS was just about the coolest channel on television (and still is).

It seems that Mel and Ronin conspired on a project or two in the past, and then they went on about their business, never to cross paths again. But Ronin paid attention to “Rabbi Mel,” and now, he’s got the market cornered on “space saving gardens” that will help support a family. And he includes them in every ISBU Shipping Container Home that he helps build.

While we’re not using a “steel tubing” trellis like Mel did, we are using a trellis to provide more vertical growing space than off-the-shelf trellis systems, and the bonus is that this system is also far cheaper to construct, stronger, and much higher quality than a store bought system.

A trip to Lowes to figure out how much a basic trellis will cost to construct will make you very excited indeed. I mean, a visit to the home improvement store always makes me excited, but then, I’m easily entertained. 🙂

The trellis systems they have in their garden department starts out at about $15 bucks. And this is for the spindly cheap-o ones. The prices climb astronomically from there.

We’re just gonna walk right past them… and into the lumber department.

A couple (okay… 6) 10′ 2×4’s – 116 5/8th inches long cost $3.59 each.

This means that I can construct a trellis system almost 20′ long, by 9.5 feet high, for under $35 bucks.

How in the world am I going to do this, you ask?

Here’s how…

Building the Vertical Trellis Garden

For the actual trellis materials:

All I need are my 2x4s, some milk crates (the number will depend on your wall size, but count on around 16) some screws (about a dozen), a few bolts and large washers, some screw eyes (about 50), a bunch of black trash bags, some heavy duty fishing line, floral tape, and a helper… so I don’t hit myself on the head with a board.

Assembly Tools:

All I need is a circular saw (to miter the 2x4s to make the corners pretty), a drill, a socket wrench, a screwdriver, and some fingernail clippers to cut the fishing line with.

When we’ve completed the trellis, it’ll hug the south wall of our house, and host hundreds of pounds of produce. And, it’s so narrow (just over 1 foot deep) that it won’t eat up hardly any of our small backyard.

Stay tuned while we build it. You’re going to be amazed at just how easy it is.

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RenaissanceRonin March 19, 2010 at 5:38 pm

All that in 2 feet? Wow! 😉

Now, I know us Jews can “work miracles and stuff”, but that’s pushing it, even for me! 🙂

(What she means is that we’re going to make a “strip trellis garden” that’s X feet long, by 2 feet deep (the depth of two milk crates.)

This is simple, simple, simple, and anybody can do it. And since it doesn’t take up much of your yard, you have more yard to MOW! Yay… um…er… never mind.

Seriously, it’s gonna be cool, and Heather is gonna get besieged by all the produce she’ll grow, if her “peeing dogs” don’t kill it… 😉

Katie March 20, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Can you share with us which veggies you plan on growing vertically? Would love to implement this for a friend of mine and need prioritize the layout.

thank you! great read! looking forward to the next one

Teresa March 20, 2010 at 9:15 pm

I have been reading a lot about this lately. I am looking forward to watching your grow! Very interesting post!

heather March 21, 2010 at 8:37 am

Hi Katie!

I’m going to be growing pole beans, eggplants, squash, and tomatoes vertically. I’m also going to have other root crops like carrots and onions in milk crates at the base as well. And then in containers scattered around my yard I’m going to have plenty of herbs like basil, cilantro, rosemary, and thyme. In the front yard, I have several established lavender plants, and am planning on doing more.

I do have room to go vertical on the side of my house. I *think* I’d get enough sun to do that as well, so I might plant more there as well…I just haven’t decided yet.

Good luck with your friend’s garden!

Katie March 21, 2010 at 8:57 am

Hey Heather! thanks much for the info! I love the idea of going vertical~not only saving some room (if you don’t have it) but bringing some unusual interest to a garden is awesome.
I’m going to grow my own veggies in a vertical, living wall type getup…as soon as I get my husband to build it 🙂

Thanks again for the info! Happy Planting!

Garden Beet March 21, 2010 at 2:49 pm

great – will come back for more trellis updates – tiny gardens need these solutions

Ann March 25, 2010 at 6:37 pm

I would very much like to receive the followup comments via my e-mail.
Building a trellis & having a tiny garden for one person would be great.

heather March 27, 2010 at 6:55 am

Ann, You can receive follow up comments by email by checking the little box on the bottom of the box where you wrote your comment. If you did that, they should come through just fine! 🙂 Thanks for writing in!

Anne MacCracken July 13, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Hi Heather,
Any ideas for a strong and economical trellis that doesn’t need to be attached to a wall? I live in a community with tiny yards and our neighbor’s house is part of our “wall.” Thanks.

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