Fresh vegetables and fruits are one of the best things about spring and summer. Growing your own can be rewarding, and you don’t need a big garden plot to fill your table with fresh, home-grown produce. Many delicious, nourishing fruits and vegetables are great for vertical growing, and will do just fine if you train them up a trellis or other upright structure.

You might be surprised at some of the summer favorites that can work well in a vertical vegetable garden, including cucumbers, squash and even melons! As a rule of thumb, if the produce grows on vines and is fairly lightweight (2 pounds or less), you can probably grow it vertically.

Vertical growing offers many advantages, including allowing you to plant more in a small space, harvest without bending down and keep fruits and veggies off the ground where they’re exposed to insects and fungus.

Here are a handful of unexpected vertical garden plants to try this summer:

  • Cucumbers — Plant seedlings at the base of a trellis or cage, and loosely tie vines to the bottom of the support. Once the plants start to grow, they’ll naturally climb the support with a little encouragement.
  • Butternut squash — Because they’re a mid-sized — and delicious — variety of squash, butternuts do great in a vertical vegetable garden.
  • Zucchini — Everyone’s favorite summertime squash is a natural for vertical gardening. Sturdy, leafy vines need little encouragement to grow upwards. Just be sure to harvest before the squash reach violin-size!
  • Midget watermelon — Petite and sweet, midget watermelon have all the flavor and appeal of their larger cousins at a more manageable size. They’re a vertical-growing version of a classic summertime favorite.

Of course, beans and tomatoes also do well in vertical gardens, and you can surely find other plants that are perfect for vertical growing. Whatever you choose to include in your vertical garden, be sure to follow growers’ recommendations for sun exposure, shade, watering and soil for each type of plant. With a little creativity, the sky’s the limit for your vertical garden!

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