If you don’t have much space on the ground, it makes sense to train your vegetables and fruits upwards. Arches are a very efficient, not to mention attractive, way of growing vining vegetables such as squashes.
Read on or watch our video to see how we adapted a cheap, off-the-shelf garden arch to make a sturdy support for climbing vegetables.
Like any vertical growing method, vegetable arches are a great way to make better use of the space you have. Sprawling vegetables such as squashes can take up a lot of ground, so training them skywards frees up soil space for other crops. Set them up to frame a path or join several arches together to create a stunning living focal point.
Natural materials such as hazel can be flexed and tied together to form a beautiful rustic arch, or use vertical bamboo canes tied together with horizontals for strength, then joined at the top using pieces of plastic PVC piping.
If you already have a garden arch it’s very easy to adapt it for vining vegetables and fruits, which is what we’re going to do.
Making a Vegetable Arch
Our vegetable arch starts with two self-assembled arches made from rust-proof powder-coated steel. They are very easy to put together using the accompanying instructions and can easily be moved or dismantled in the future.
Once assembled, push the completed arches about 16 inches (40cm) into the ground, making sure they’re firmly packed down as they’ll need to be strong on windy days once covered in foliage. If you wish, you can check they are perfectly vertical using a spirit level so that heavy squashes won’t over-balance them. We’re tying our two arches together with cable ties to make the whole structure extra rigid. Add cable ties at each horizontal bar and cut away the excess for a tidy finish.
The arch would suffice as it is for pole beans, perhaps with bamboo canes pushed in and tied to the sides for a little extra support. But the squashes we’re planting need more to grip hold of. Galvanized wire mesh is perfect, or you could also use chicken wire or cattle panels. Cut the wire mesh to size using wire cutters. Wear gloves while you’re doing this to avoid any scratches. Attach the mesh with cable ties or heavy-duty garden wire. Secure the mesh at regular intervals along the arch’s horizontal and vertical supports.
The mesh doesn’t quite reach the top of our arch, so we’re going to create additional supports using heavy-duty wire. You could also use thick garden string. Securely tie one end of the wire to the front of the arch then spool out the wire horizontally across the arches, tying it to the middle vertical supports. When you get to the other end of the arch, tie it into position then run it up the support about six inches (15cm). Tie it into place then return to the front of the arch. Tie it in, run it up another six inches (15cm) then head back to the opposite side. Repeat this process until you reach the top of the other wire mesh.
We’re now ready to plant and for this arch we’ve chosen a stunning variety of winter squash. By the end of summer it will have completely cloaked this arch and will look incredible.
Add plenty of well-rotted compost to the planting area. Set your squash plants into position and angle the stems towards the mesh. Water them in really well. You may need to loosely tie in the stems to start with, but they’ll soon find their own way up the mesh.
I’m sure you’ll agree that a vegetable arch like this will look just beautiful once it’s covered in luxuriant foliage and dangling fruits. If you’ve got another way of creating vegetable arches or vertical supports, we’d loved to hear about it - please drop us a comment below.