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Vertical Gardening!
Make the Most of Your Space With a Vegetable Cage

4 months ago I gave birth. To this …

A plant. I’m sure you read all about it in the medical journals. It was a natural delivery. No epidural or drugs or anything. I’m a champ.

Along with all the seedlings I grew, I also bought an acorn squash plant from a nursery. It was teeny, tiny when I bought it. It is not teeny, tiny anymore.

I plant acorn squash every year in the same spot for the same reason with the same consequences. Much like people, plants have places they’re happy in. And they all have their own individual happy places. Where your happy place might be a Sound of Music inspired drag show at midnight, a basil plant’s happy place is a large pot in the sun.

My squash plant’s happy place is right in front of my porch by the front door. It grows like crazy there, and I always have squash to eat right into February.

The consequence to this, is every year the plant outgrows its tiny space and takes over the grass with such a vengeance the letter carrier needs to give it a wide berth and occasionally beats it with a stick. She often swears at it. The squash plant swears back.

The grass dies, it looks gross and the vine is messy looking. Every year I swear I’m going to do something about my sprawling squash plant other than swear at it. See? The stupid plant has everyone swearing. I’ve tried to run the plant up on the porch railing, I’ve tried tomato cages (clearly not thinking clearly) and lattice work behind the plant to tie it to. None of this stuff worked.

So this year I decided while I was making a comfortable home for the chickens, I’d also make a comfortable home for the squash plant. George. George the squash plant. In a related story, I think I might need more human friends.

The purpose of the vegetable cage is to increase your growing space by allowing the plant to grow up as opposed to out. And they are very easy to build.

Materials

Hardware Cloth (available at your local hardware store)

Tin snips or heavy duty scissors

Rebar (or whatever other strong stick like things you have handy … bamboo … broom poles ..)

Wire

Hammer

Measure out how much hardware cloth you need. I measured my plant and ascertained I would need a square that was around 2’6″ all on all sides.

You can use this same method of building a vegetable cage for any climbing, rambling vegetable by the way.

Cut your hardware cloth to the size you need. Mine is 3′ high (which is the width of the hardware cloth) by 10′.

When you’re cutting your hardware cloth, make sure you leave one end with the tails on. You’ll see what I mean later on.

To fold the hardware cloth into a square, run it along a length of wood and fold up, or if you have a good eye and hands, just bend it by hand.

Shape your cloth into a box, then weave the tails of the one end of hardware cloth through the holes in the other end. Fold the ends over and your box will be secure.

Place your hardware cloth box over your vegetable and then hammer your rebar into the corners to give the box strength and help it keep its shape.

Wire the rebar to the hardware cloth.

If you’re fancy like I am, cause only fancy people have acorn squash growing in their front yard, you can cut the rebar level with the hardware cloth.

To do this you’ll need a zip cut. It’s a tool that has a dangerous revolving sharp thing that’ll cut through metal. But it makes sparks and you’ll feel pretty cool using it. Be very careful though.

And there you have it. The Vegetable Cage. Took about an hour.

Give it a few more weeks and this plant will have crawled up and will be spilling over the top of the hardware cloth. I suspect it’ll crawl all the way up and then all the way back down again, but it’ll keep the plant off my grass and contained. If it weren’t right in front of my porch I could have made the Vegetable Cage higher. But it is, so I didn’t.

Other Plants for a Vegetable Cage

Cucumbers

Pumpkins

All squash varieties

Zucchini

Beans

In closing, I’d like to remind you all that it is not normal to name your plants. It is, however, normal to find your happy place at a Sound of Music inspired drag show.


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46 Comments | Filed Under: Outdoor | Tags: , ,

46 Responses to Vertical Gardening!
Make the Most of Your Space With a Vegetable Cage

  1. Kris says:

    Oh, filing this one away for next year for the pumpkin gone wild. Maybe the cucumbers, too.

    Cecil the cucumber may not like it but I’m sure Percival the pumpkin will. It will definitely be better than getting snarled at when it tries to take over the green beans.

    Thanks for a great idea.

  2. Amy says:

    Well, shoot, now it’s official. I’m not normal. I have already named my potted palm plant “Petey” and we refer to him as another member of our family. Oh well. :)

  3. cred says:

    Just to clarify for anyone who may have to borrow the tools for this job- that there is whatcha call an angle grinder- in this case with a zip cut wheel but any metal cutting disc meant for an angle grinder will do the trick for cutting rebar. But I guess if one didn’t know what an angle grinder was chances are they probably shouldn’t be wielding such a weapon…er… tool- so I suppose my point is moot.

  4. SK Farm Girl says:

    My dearest Karen: Normal is highly over-rated!!! Besides, those of us who are special enough to be weird, strange, eccentric or whatever label you choose to give us are waaaaaaayyyyy more fun!
    What a great idea, this vegetable cage of yours. I decided to forego traditional row-style gardening and am trying the square foot garden this year. Needless to say, squash and the like need just a tad bit more room than a square foot! This will work great to contain my collection of Georges. Chicken wire would just as well as hardware cloth? I have lots of it!
    PS – I happen to think it’s great you name your plants and I’m intrigued to find that your happly place is at a Sound of Music inspired drag show – must check into this! Cheers my friend!

  5. Emily Moore says:

    How do you harvest the fruit/veges that are below the cage? I’m just concerned over the mental visual of you reaching in, falling, and becoming one with the squash plant.

    • Karen says:

      Emily – I half gave that some thought, LOL. But only half. I can either untwist the wire holding the cage to the posts and lift it up a little, or I can get my BF who is 6’4″ to reach in and get them for me. I hope! ~ karen

      • Karen says:

        That was my concern also. I usually only half think things out also and then end up with a dilemma. I used cattle panels staked up at the ends to make a half hoop for my sprawling veges to climb up thru and over. I hate to admit it but it was my husband’s idea. He is not the gardener in our family but he is a farmer so he come up with some unique ways to solve problems. So far the cattle panels are doing what we intended.

  6. mimi says:

    Your porch is beautiful!

    • Karen says:

      Mimi – Thank you! I’m partial to my porch too. Never get time to sit out there, but I do like it. :) ~ karen

  7. Brenda Watts says:

    Way cool !! LOVE this !!..going out to the shed to find wire and rebar…..

  8. Uh, Karen,??

    HOw are you suppose to get the squash out of the cage when the fruit needs picking? Did you leave yourself a little back door, or are you going to dig a hole lie on your belly and to belly crawl to get it out? just wondering.

    • Karen says:

      Amy … I can untwist the cage and lift it, or have the very large fella who lurks around the house get them for me. LIfting the cage is easy. Just untwist the wire at the top and lift her up, then set her back down. ~ karen!

  9. shawna says:

    Thanks for your website & the encouragement to use scary tools! I used a metal cutter the other day & the sparks were scary, but I did it!

    I will need to do this next year for my squash, as they are taking over everything!!

  10. Rebecca says:

    First off, Congratulations on a successful birth. Second, I once named a plant Gertrude. She was an ugly one, we called her “Dirty Gerty” for short.

  11. Celia says:

    Great idea. May I copy?
    Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Celia – No. No you may not. No copying allowed. I was only showing you so you could be jealous and stay up at night because you’re not allowed to copy this great idea. No copying allowed. No. ~ karen

  12. Sara says:

    I love this idea! I have the same issue with my squash plant. We put a chicken wire fence around the garden to keep the dog out and apparently little wooden stakes aren’t strong enough to hold squash plants because that dang plant pushed it over and spread right over it into the yard. I like your idea of a cage for each plant, much better. Rebar is a much better idea too. Did you just make sure and keep the cage short enough so you can reach over and pick veggies? I was just wondering how you’d go about picking them if the cage is too high.
    Love the website, I read it everyday!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Sara – I should be able to lift the cage, or get the fella to reach over. The cage had to be pretty high because I know how HUGE the squash plant gets every year. If it turns out it doesn’t need to be this high, at the end of the season, I’ll just cut it down to make it shorter. This season is the experimentation phase of the project. :) ~ karen

  13. Kristen says:

    Your home for the squash is much prettier than my cage for my cucumber plants. For them I do leave one end of the cage open so that I can get in and out. Instead of cutting the wire panel, I curved it around electrical fence posts (cheap!) for more of an oval. Mine isn’t beside my front door either–you’re brave!

  14. magali says:

    I would like to request an undated photo once George has crawled all the way up and around. please.

    On another note, I wanted to let you know that I think it’s great that you posted and re-posted about the monarch butterflies and that it inspired others to do the same. I work at the Montreal Insectarium and at the beginning of September we start a program called Monarchs Without Borders. We hand out kits to classrooms and kids so they can raise their monarch. They then tag them and release them so that they can be identified by researchers in Mexico.

    Thanks for making people see just how fascinating those little creatures are! It’s the first step to liking insects and then protecting them.

  15. Emily Tebbetts says:

    is it bad that this reminded me of invasion of the body snatchers? be ware. i’d be miserable if i didn’t have your blog to look forward to every morning… and it would be worse if i knew it was because you got eaten by a plant.

  16. Karen O. says:

    Who needs normal? The first time I hosted Thanksgiving, I named the turkey Barry while I was washing it a few days before. On Thanksgiving, I proceeded to tell all my family members to enjoy Barry. They proceeded to stare at me like I had three heads. That’s ok though, because Barry was delicious.

    The moral of this story is, it’s fun to name your food. :)

  17. Julianna says:

    Ummm… I’m worried. Which means that I’m about to say something… Once George has become his fully realized self, and he’s begging you to relieve him of his lovelies, I’m afraid you won’t be able to a.) lift and wiggle the cage because he’s grown his tendrils and bits into the hardware cloth, or b.) resettle the cage without damaging George. So…. Ummm… I’d make a swing up door on at least one side of the cage? Maybe? I hope this works though, because my postage stamp of a yard could use some more cucumbers.

    • Karen says:

      Julianna – My boyfriend will easily be able to reach into the cage. In fact, I can almost reach to the bottom. So no worries. And you don’t need to build your cage as high or as big because a cucumber doesn’t get nearly as huge as an acorn squash plant. Instead of 3′ high, just build it 2 1/2 feet high and you’ll easily be able to reach into it. :) Honestly. I just went and checked and with it 3′ high, I can reach in to 6″ from the bottom. And I’m only teeny, tiny, small. Miniscule. Almost like a bug. ~ karen!

    • Karen says:

      Oh! And there isn’t any way to do a swing up door really. If you wanted instead of securing the one long edge of the cage by folding all the ends into itself, you could just tie it with twine or wire at the top and bottom and then you could open it whenever you wanted. :) ~ karen

  18. christine hilton says:

    Back to the Monarchs.I am a murderer.My stupid caterpillars went for the predicted walk and never found the milkweed again.If I try again and fail will I be a mass murderer or serial killer?

  19. Great idea, I love it. Looks like I have a new project.

  20. christine hilton says:

    Jeffrey Dahmer,Ted Bundy,Christine Hilton.

  21. Aimy says:

    Very cute vegetable jail ;)
    This looks easier than I thought it would be- thanks, i think I’ll try to make one now ^_^

  22. Diane says:

    I hope you keep us posted with pics once george gets a little bigger this season :) Great job!

  23. Korrine says:

    I purchased a meyer lemon tree and decided I should name her so that it would be more personal and MAYBE I wouldn’t kill her. 4 years later Lolita is still alive and kicking and making delicious lemons for me.

  24. Kate S. says:

    I once tried a very similar cage style and found it virtually impossible to remove the squash from the plant without also destroying the plant and cage. You may have better luck because your cage is shorter, but prepared to lose a few squash.

    We vertical garden to save space, too, but use wire trellises in horizontal rows. The plants grow up one side and we still have access to all the produce.

    • Karen says:

      HI Kate S! – I can actually reach in the cage to nearly the bottom (about 6″ from it) so i should be O.K. It’s only 3 feet high. ~ karen!

  25. Tickled red says:

    Now why didn’t I think of this? oh yeah, because I have you to do my brillant thinking for me. Love this!! {{hugs}}

  26. Patti says:

    Oh. My. God. Awesome.

    Because my cucumbers and zucchinis are side by side and they are TAKING OVER THE WORLD. My neighbours don’t even have a walkway to their house anymore. They have to get down on the ground and crawl under the vines in order to get in their front door.

    Crazy!

  27. Anemone says:

    Can anyone tell me what is the name of the tree next to the the acorn squash plant?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Anemone – If you’re talking about the plant to the left of the squash cage, it’s a Globe Blue Spruce. ~ karen

  28. Melissa says:

    Karen, how did this work out? Do you have photos to show the growth of the plant? We are newbie gardeners and are in love with the idea of vertical gardening, but in spite of the claims and contraptions, I have yet to see photos of it working (all the garden mags have illustrations…) So, I just wanted to see if you have a coveted photo of trellising veggies… and find out if you would do it again. Thx, Melissa

    • Karen says:

      Hi Melissa. In theory it worked out perfectly, however, I planted my squash in the same place for 3 years in a row and it ended up getting powdery mildew and dying just as it was starting to form squash! ~ karen

  29. Melissa says:

    We just found this resource, which might work for you also — crop rotation from Penn State: http://resources.cas.psu.edu/ipm/POP/croprotat.pdf Good luck – can’t wait to see you final front yard. Woot!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Melissa! That’s a good straight forward printout for me. I knew how important crop rotation was but literally had nowhere else to plant my squash. Now of course, I *do*! :) ~ karen

  30. Kristen S says:

    So, I made a pseudo cage for my squashes. I found these heavy duty triangular 4′ cages. Its great, except now my Buttercup squash has climbed out of the top of the cage, and up an extra bamboo pole, and is now threatening to dive over my fence and make a run for it.
    Here’s a pic http://instagr.am/p/MbN7BMACKm/

    • Karen says:

      Ooo! They look good. You’re lucky they seem to climb. A lot of squash are really bushy and want nothing to do with travelling upwards. ~ karen!

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