Category Archives: Vertical Gardening

Geothermal Greenhouse in NW Missouri

A look inside a geothermal greenhouse

We know the owners of this geothermal greenhouse located in NW  Missouri and I get to go over and poke my head inside from time.  It seemed like a terrific idea and I was excited to even go watch it going up.

Yesterday we went by while we in the area to peek inside the geothermal greenhouse.  I was amazed with the progress of the plants inside.   These tomatoes, 5 different varieties if I remember correctly, were planted back in the first week of April.  They’re easily 3 times the size of my own tomatoes that are growing outdoors.

Tomatoes growing in a geothermal greenhouse in NW Missouri
Tomatoes growing in a geothermal greenhouse in NW Missouri
tomatoes grown vertically in a geothermal greenhouse
Tomatoes grown vertically using the Mittleider method in a geothermal greenhouse

About this greenhouse

This greenhouse is a Mittleider design as seen in the Mittleider Gardening Course book.

grow spaghetti squash vertically

Grow spaghetti squash vertically

Growing spaghetti squash vertically is easy.  Going vertical reduces the likelihood of tripping on or breaking vines while maximizing the use of space in our gardens.  Here in our NW Missouri Mittleider garden we grow vertically whenever possible.  This system allows us to grow more plants in a smaller space by going vertically.

One of our favorite vegetables has become spaghetti squash over the last year.  The children are very picky eaters and I was amazed when I gave them a sample of spaghetti squash and they asked for more.

This year we are going to grow two crops of the spaghetti squash with the second one being inside the in the garden green house.  The first crop is out in the soil and many of the plants are already over 8 feet tall.  Our best plant went over 17 feet long this year. Here is just one of the many squash growing in our garden.

Grow spaghetti squash vertically in a Mittleider garden
Grow spaghetti squash vertically in a Mittleider garden

Why grow spaghetti squash vertically?

Going vertical with all the crops in our garden has made our garden more productive and has put more food in our pantry and on the table.  Getting the squash off the ground makes it so much easier to control the weeds.  Those days of stepping on vines while trying to pull weeds from under it are long gone.

Having the plants growing vertically makes it easy to access the plants for pruning, spotting insects, inspecting for insect eggs and it makes harvest so much easier.

What string or twine will you need to grow spaghetti squash vertically

We use a baling twine rated at 170 pound test that has UV stabilizers added.  Twine like the Tytan International wont deteriorate out in the sun and will last you several seasons.

Growing tomatoes vertically in a Mittleider garden

Growing tomatoes vertically in a Mittleider garden

We’ve got half a bed of tomatoes in the garden that needed twine to train them to grow vertically.  The tomatoes are planted 9 inches apart and alternate which direction they will be trained to grow.  Growing them this way ensures they will get adequate light and space when pruned properly.

Growing tomatoes vertically with 170 pound bailing twine in a Mittleider garden
Growing tomatoes vertically with 170 pound bailing twine in a Mittleider garden

We will also be growing other things vertically in this manner such as cucumbers, squash, pole beans and melons.

Growing tomatoes vertically with either t-posts or a-frames

So what do you need to grow those tomatoes vertically?  First of all, you are going to need a structure that is capable of supporting the weight of the plants and the fruit that they will eventually bare.  It is built from treated lumber comprised to 2x4s and 4x4s.

For the gardener who decides to grow a single row of vertical crops you will need to build a t-frame.  The Mittleider Gardening Course book discusses building t-frames on page 132 and has illustrations of them on page 278.

Growing tomatoes vertically under a-frames in a Mittleider garden grow box
Growing tomatoes vertically under a-frames in a Mittleider garden grow box

You can see the A-frames we built over our 18 inch grow boxes in this video:

What twine do I need?

The twine you need for growing tomatoes vertically needs to be rated at 170 pounds or better.  The common 110 pound is cheaper and often more readily found on shelves, yet it is too small in diameter and will end up killing your tomatoes.

To help identify the correct twine for growing vertically in your garden look at the package.  you will see numbers similar to “9600/170”   That means that on one roll there is 9,600 feet of that twine which is rated to support 170 pounds.  Do NOT settle for the 110 stuff.

Here in our garden we use Tytan International twine.  It is orange in color and is generally sold in a two pack. Especially relevant in your choice of twine is something that is UV stabilized.  UV Stabilization helps ensure your twine can be used year after year and won’t breakdown under frequent exposure to the sunlight.  Rather than replacing twine every year buy something UV stabilized.

This is a picture of what we use in our garden.

baler twine for growing tomatoes vertically
baler twine for growing tomatoes vertically

 

Rather than buying this online you can try and source it locally at a farm store.  In my area we have Orscheln’s, $31.99 at Tractor Supply and even grain elevators and Coops that sell grain and other ranch supplies to farmers.

 

Preparing more space for Mittleider vertical gardening

We are a little short on room for growing all our vertical crops and decided to put in two more of the 30 foot long by 18 inch wide Mittleider grow beds.  These grow beds will run north and south.  To the west side of these two beds there will be a couple more grow beds for additional crops that won’t be grown vertically.  

For grow beds/boxes that run east and west you want to put the tall crops to the north end so they don’t shadow out the shorter crops.  For beds running north and south you’ll want those same tall crops to the east for the same reason.

Below you will see the garden area that’s been tilled and read to get started in the first picture.   There will be a 5 foot wide buffer zone on the outside edge of our Mittleider garden with a 3.5 foot space between each 18″ wide bed.  The portion of the garden to the right that has grass in it will be tilled several times and all that grass will be removed. 

preparing the soil for  a Mittleider grow bed
preparing the soil for a Mittleider grow bed

Here you see the t-posts going in that will form the support for our vertical gardening.  They’re being placed every 10 feet, or 4 of these 4x4s in each 30 foot grow bed.  Once the second grow bed t-posts are in place we will put another 8 foot long 4×4 on top to span the distance between each row. 

t-posts  for growing vertically in a Mittleider garden
t-posts for growing vertically in a Mittleider garden

UPDATE 20 May 2016 –

Just a couple pictures of more progress.  We need to tamp the posts in a little more as it dries out a little.  The support wires for both of the grow beds under this structure are up and tight.  One of the two grow beds is formed up and will be finished tomorrow.  Once done we’ve got another 18 tomatoes ready to go in the ground.

After this project is done we will continue to extend the grow beds to the right for a few other crops that are currently in seedling flats.  Just like in our grow box for sweet potatoes, there will be a 5 foot border around these grow beds to help control insects and weeds. 

vertical gardening in a Mittleider garden

Mittleider grow beds and support for vertical gardening

Growing tomatoes vertically in a Mittleider garden

The tomatoes are transplanted into our little Mittleider in garden green house. Recently we started the process of growing vertically to maximize the space and production of tomatoes. In the picture below you will see the heavy square baling twine we use to grow vertically.

 All the tomatoes are grown in one row with 9 inches of space between them. The twine is tied off at the bottom on a wire attached to our t-posts. The wire runs the length of the grow box and is 3 1/2″ above the grow box.  At the top of the t-posts are two more heavy gauge wires running the length of the grow beds.  We then alternate every other tomato plant and use a releasing knot to train the tomatoes to grow away from one another and maximize space. This ensure they get maximum air and sunlight.  In this picture below you can see the “V” pattern formed with the twine.  You’ll also notice extra twine hanging from the top. This allows me to lower the plant as we pick all the tomatoes from the bottom and the plant has grown all the way to that top wire.  And if you do your part they will grow that tall.

In the bottom picture you see where the twine is tied to the bottom heavy gauge wire.  If you tie the twine to the tomato plant you risk damaging it in two ways.  As the tomato grows the stem is going to get thicker.  If your twine is tied to it you risk the chance of strangling the tomato. Additionally, if you’re tied off at the plant you risk damaging or even pulling out the tomato if something or someone pulls on the twine. 

When wrapping  the twine It’s important to wrap the twine around the plant and not the plant around the twine. By doing the later you risk damaging your tomato plant.  Also, as you wrap towards the top take extra care not to damage or break off the growing rip, also known as the terminal bud.  Doing so I’ll stop the growth of your plant.   I stop sever inches short of the terminal bud to ensure that the twine doesn’t damage it. 

You can also grow other crops vertically such as crooked neck squash, eggplants, cucumbers and even melons.  We will have posts on growing the vertically in the future. 

growing tomatoes vertically with balng twine
using baling twine to grow tomatoes vertically

Growing tomatoes vertically in a Mittleider garden 

These tomatoes are being grown vertically as part of the Mittlieder Gardening Method in Kidder, MO.   They’re pruned and wound around heavy bailing twine to maximize the sunlight and air to the plants while making it easy to harvest.  No wire cages to fight here!   The 2×4 is just over 7 feet from the ground.  Some of those tomato plants are 10 feet tall.

This week I’ve been attending a Mittleider gardening course and have had the opportunity see the system implemented and learn so much.   I will have many more Mittleider posts in the future as I convert my traditional garden to a Mittlieder