Q. I am planning on trying a vertical garden (most of the veggies) next Spring. I have heard about “vertical” growing methods, but I am not quite sure what all the details are. Also, when and how do you prune tomato plants? Do all tomato plants need to be pruned?
A. Several of the Mittleider gardening books give good illustrations and instructions for vertical growing. I recommend the Mittleider Gardening Course, Gardening by the Foot, Let’s Grow Tomatoes, and Grow-Bed Gardening. The best place to obtain all of them is by getting the Mittleider Gardening Library CD. All are available at www.growfood.com in the Store section under Books and Software.
Vegetable varieties that can be grown vertically include indeterminate tomatoes, cucumbers (not the bush type), pole beans, smaller varieties of vining squash, small melons, greenhouse varieties of peppers, and eggplant.
Beans don’t need to be pruned, but all others should be pruned regularly, by removing all sucker stems as soon as they begin to grow. Several articles on the website in the FAQ section are devoted to pruning. I recommend you look there for a comprehensive discussion on how to prune – however, the books will be the best, as they include pictures and illustrations.
Q. I connected with your web site after admiring the beautiful garden west of Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City. (my family was admiring the giraffes!) I like the concept of vertical gardening. My question is this: Can you grow stuff like pumpkins, watermelons, squash, etc. up a wire? If you do, how do you support the fruit. Even cucumbers seem like they’d be too heavy. I’m excited to try the drip irrigation system this spring. I feel like I’ve been knocking my head against a wall for 15 years because we water with canal water and fertilize with horse manure. My kids and I could spend our whole lives in the garden and couldn’t begin to keep the weeds out of it. This year we’ll be using well water and trying the Mittleider method. I hope we can manage to kill off all that grass and morning glory. Maybe you’ve got some ideas for that as well.
A. we recommend fruits that are less than 6# each for vertical growing. We grow indeterminate tomatoes and eggplant vertically, guiding them up baling twine strings that are fastened to strong wire strung between T-Frames. Cucumbers are ideal for growing vertically, as well as any of the small indeterminate squashes.
Any of the aforementioned plants need to be pruned, in order to have success growing them vertically. You can expect to increase your yields by 3-4 times in this way. Detailed instructions are included in several of the Mittleider gardening books and CD’s available at www.growfood.com. Articles in this FAQ section also deal with vertical growing and pruning. Look under Tomatoes for several.
Keep your fruits picked as they ripen, to avoid excess weight on the vines, which can sometimes drag the vines down if too many fruits are allowed to remain.
I’ve been “knocking my head against a wall for 15 years” also, telling people to avoid canal water (or filter it) and manure for the reason you cite, as well as the problems many have with pests and diseases. Thanks for the testimonial.
Remembering that “one year’s seeds makes 7 years’ weeds”, I recommend you get a couple of 2-way hoes as shown on the website’s Store pages at www.growfood.com under Tools. Follow the recommendations for “E & O” (early and often) weeding, and by leaving the aisles completely dry, you will get ahead of the weeds quickly.
Q. Some veggies in my Grow-Boxes look pale. These were transplanted on 4/15/ and fertilized with 21-0-0 three days later. Other than that I have been doing the weekly fertilizing. Can you let me know how to help them. One of the cucumbers died already, the rest look pale and wilted.
A. Cucumbers and other melons and squash should not be planted until the weather is warmer – after May 15, in Salt Lake City. They do not do well in early spring. Nitrogen should be applied immediately at the time of transplanting, and three days later Weekly Feed should be applied. 21-0-0 is not nearly as good as 34-0-0, especially in cool weather, because of the composition (NH4 vs NH3). NO3 is immediately available to the plants, while NH4 must be changed to NO3 in the soil before the plant can use it. Did you put the proper Pre-Plant fertilizers in the soil before planting? Fertilizing should begin after the plants come through the soil, however you must be careful not to get the fertilizer on the plant stems or leaves. Fertilizers are salts, and will burn any plant if applied directly. Apply four inches from the stems and then water in thoroughly.