Growing squash vertically seemed impossible – until I tried this! This squash growing method is easy and beautiful!
When I began gardening, I loved Square Foot Gardening. My mom used this method when I was growing up. She gave each of us a plot and all I wanted in mine was strawberries. I remember them sending out runners and they completely took over every square inch. I didn’t mind!
As an adult, I still loved Mel Bartholamew’s teaching. I loved his intensive method that keeps weeds down. And I loved his way to utilize vertical space.
One of the most exciting things in gardening is learning new methods of getting lots of amazing produce from a small space. Training squash to grow up instead of taking over the garden is one of the best ways to do this.
How is squash normally grown?
Squash is often grown in hills and then the vines trail all over the ground. While this is great if you have acres and acres of land, most of us have smaller garden areas and don’t want to dedicate multiple square feet to just one plant.
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Why grow squash vertically?
Growing vertically has so many benefits! It takes up less space, you can see to prune, it protects the fruit, and it’s more beautiful.
As we talked about above, it takes so much less space to garden vertically. Most people do it for that sole reason. If you install a trellis of some kind, you can put one squash per foot. In contrast, when it trails on the ground, that same squash will take up multiple square feet of your garden.
You can see to prune
Pruning squash helps it to force nutrients to the fruit on the main vine. This is especially helpful if you live in a climate like mine in Zone 6 – the season is short! We need that fruit to ripen as quickly as possible in a short summer area.
By pruning, you can make the plant focus on growing and ripening the fruit that is already there instead of expending nutrients on setting out new fruit that may not have time to ripen.
Protect the fruit
Usually squash sits on the ground for long periods of time. Growing squash vertically keeps it up off the ground. Bugs and critters can attack your precious fruit when it’s laying on the ground for so long, so this helps to keep it bite free.
Growing squash vertically also produces more beautiful fruit. It is prettier because it doesn’t create variations in color or shape due to sitting in the dirt. This is especially important if you’re using them for fall decorating.
Additionally, your garden looks more beautiful! There’s something about seeing squash suspended from the top of an arch, or dangling from a trellis. It’s intriguing and adds visual interest to your garden.
What squash can I grow vertically?
Just like I have been talking about, many winter squash can be grown vertically. You won’t be able to grow Hubbard squash or large pumpkins this way. That creates too much strain on the stem and it can fall off.
However, pie pumpkins, kabocha, butternut, delicata, buttercup, acorn and lots of other smaller winter squash can be grown this way without worries!
What can I use when growing squash vertically?
You can use a cattle panel that has been staked into the ground with Tposts like you can see here. You can also use the Square Foot Garden method of PVC pipe and nylon netting like this.
My favorite way of growing squash vertically is by building a cattle panel trellis arch. I will show you how to do this in a future post! But here’s a picture of the before and after and I just love how it makes the garden look!
How to get squash to climb vertically:
Squash doesn’t actually climb completely on it’s own. It needs some help, so you’ll need to put just a little effort into it. But, just like keeping your garden thistle free, it really just takes visiting your garden every day for about 10 minutes to maintain it.
The reason you want to keep up on it every few days is because over time, the vines get thicker and firmer. Young vines are really pliable. You can easily weave them into the trellis. But as they get older, they thicken up and when you try to tuck them in, they will often break. So just do a little bit every day and you’ll be able to keep up on it without it becoming a chore.
I go out to my garden each morning with my coffee. When I do, I check out what has grown since the day before, pull a few weeds, and train my vertical vines. It only takes a few minutes and it is so stunning to be in the garden with the early morning sun streaming in and the dew drops still on the plants.
A squash plant can grow so much in a single day. It’s shocking! Once the summer heat hits, you’ll find that every day you’ll have new growth that you can trellis.
Weave it in
Just take those tender new vines and weave them in and out of the trellis. I try to keep them spread out so that they take up the entire space. At this point, you can also see where to prune off a couple shoots while they are small.
Another thing you can do at this point is to take the tiny squash and pull them through the trellis so they are on the inside. I had one on top last year that I forgot to pull through and it was a bear to harvest!
Tendrils take over from there
The squash plants send out tendrils that will hold tight to the trellis and keep them on. It’s really quite amazing! I normally don’t have to use any of my t shirt ties except when I’m first attaching the plant to the trellis at the bottom when it’s little. The tendrils do all the work for me!
What else can I grow vertically?
Summer Squash & Zucchini
I love to grow summer squash vertically! I wrote a whole blog post about how I grow my zucchini this way. It’s so easy! Zucchini has a super thick stem. That makes it almost impossible to trellis the way I do for winter squash. But the method I share in my post shows a great way to grow zucchini vertically.
Melons can also be grown vertically! I probably wouldn’t grow a watermelon this way, because like the large squash, it puts too much strain on the stem.
But personal size melons, as well as regular melons can be grown this way. Since the stems on melon are a little skinnier than winter squash, you can make a sling to hold it if you feel that it is in danger of falling before it’s ripe.
We absolutely love to grow pole beans vertically! Not only is it so fun to look at, but it takes up way less space! In this photo, we had 25 plants growing on a teepee. It gave us SO much food!
Cucumbers can also be grown on a cattle panel trellis, or a PVC pipe and nylon netting trellis. They could also be worked into the cattle panel arch between your squash!
How close do I plant them?
When growing vertically, you can plant much closer than when you plant them and have the vines trail along the ground. I grow mine about one foot apart on each side of the trellis and I’ve had no problems. They seem to be able to get plenty of nutrients with that spacing.
I hope you try growing squash vertically! If you do, let me know how it goes!