FYN logoUF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service

458 Highway 98 North

Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578

Phone: (863) 763-6469

E- mail:  asachson@ifas.ufl.edu

December 18 , 2008

Quick Links:  Hanging Around    Costs & Benefits   Holiday Columns   References 

Feature Article - for release the week of  December 21, 2008

Angela Sachson – Florida Yards & Neighborhoods

Make Room for Vertical Vegetable Gardening   

You may be experiencing sticker shock in the produce department these days.  It costs a lot to bring vegetables all the way from Colorado (the origin of my bag of carrots) and Peru (the onions).  If you have a couple of tomato plants and think that’s all you have room for think again.   It is possible to ramp up your veggie production without taking over the entire yard.  This article is about container gardening, but using containers in a major way.  Containers are great for controlling nematodes and weeds and providing a controlled environment for your produce---and many containers in a small space will give you lots more great edibles.

Just follow the example of Mr. M. T. Alden a local gardener who grows 36 full-size plants in a vertical wall just ten feet by three feet and about six feet tall.  Mr. Alden, a kind of container-gardening guru, has thousands of plants in hundreds of pots.  But just one of his ten foot segments should grow enough for a family.  This wall of vegetables is an attractive way to block an unattractive view too.


Hanging Around 

Here is his method.  M. T. places three 8-foot landscape timbers in a row five feet apart.  He buries the posts 18 inches in the ground after putting a notch in the top.  The notch holds one-inch pipe at the top of the structure.  This is the pipe that holds the 18 ten-inch pots in each section.   That's saying 18 pots are hanging, but since he puts six pots on the ground, that would make 24 pots per 8 feet row.


Pots are suspended, one under the one above, for three layers.  The pots are filled with a lightweight artificial mixture of manure, perlite and vermiculite.  Our garden guru uses composted horse manure obtained from a friend but you can also purchase composted manure at most garden centers.  The other two ingredients for this mix are easy to find too.


Mr. Alden grows just about all popular garden crops in his intensive container gardens.  The ten-inch pots can accommodate one large tomato plant.  The tomatoes are not staked and they have plenty of room to produce.  One pepper plant can produce lots of fruit also. Other alternatives in a container are three strawberry plants, three of beans and peas, several large onions or many, many scallions that can fit in these pots.  At the lower levels, three sweet corn stalks can grow upright from one pot or several potatoes can be harvested in this small size container. 


Add up costs and benefits

In addition to saving space, this gardening method gets fungus-susceptible plants up where air circulation is available – reducing the need for fungicides.  Note that this is also a good way to grow cukes and melons too, although you may need to support heavy melons.   Mr. Alden places them near a fence to provide horizontal supports for the vines.


There is an initial start-up cost for this method—timbers, pipe, pots and potting mix, but the cost is pretty low.  There are wholesale suppliers for pots and timbers are not expensive.  It may be possible to ask friends and neighbors or see if growers may have lightly used materials that they can give you.  Mr. Alden uses a drip irrigation system but a watering can would suffice for a small garden.


If  you are interested in learning more about this gardening method, please contact the Extension office.  We are thinking about a series of vertical gardening workshops if there are some takers.  There is still time this season to grow some cool-season crops and warm-season crops like tomatoes can be planted up to March.  That will help fill up your table and leave you plenty of produce for that Blue ribbon exhibit for the Okeechobee County Fair!


Holiday Plant Columns

If you would like to read up on holiday plants, please check our home page on the internet: http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu .  It now has an index to some of the holiday plant articles I’ve written over the years.  If you don’t have a computer, stop by or call and we can print and send or fax you these holiday treats!

If you need additional information on container gardening, please email us at okeechobee@ifas.ufl.edu or call us at 863-763-6469. In Highlands County call 863-402-6540 and in Glades County call 863-946-0244.  Okeechobee residents can stop by our office at 458 Hwy 98 North in Okeechobee, and visit our Okeechobee County Master Gardeners from 1 to 3 PM on Tuesday afternoons. Merry Christmas, and GO GATORS!


Trade  names, where used, are given for the purpose of providing specific information. They do not constitute an endorsement or guarantee of products named, nor does it imply criticism of products not named. The Florida Cooperative Extension Service - Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin.  Florida Cooperative Extension Service / IFAS / University of Florida.  Larry A.  Arrington, Dean. Last update: 01/31/2011.  This page is maintained by Dan Culbert  


Ayen, Ed.  "Vegetable Gardening in South Central Florida". Okeechobee: UF/IFAS Extension Service,  August 15, 2006.     http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu/News%20columns/FYN.vege.garden.htm  

UF/IFAS Websites on Container Gardening: