How to Plant Edible Climbers and Vines

Integrate vertical elements into your garden to make the most of the space.

clapboard house with vines growing over backyard pergola

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Introducing vertical elements into your garden can help ensure that you make the most of the space. Growing edible climbers and vines is one way to use any vertical space you may have. In this article, I will share some suggestions for how you might choose to incorporate them into your garden.

Edible Climbers and Vines to Consider

Whichever climbers and vines you include in your garden will depend on where exactly you live and the conditions to be found there. Choosing plants that are native or suited to the environmental characteristics of your particular garden is key. 

When choosing edible climbers and vines, it is important to think about whether you would like to grow annual or perennial climbers or vines in a particular spot. In my article on plants for a pergola or porch, I listed a range of edible options in both of these categories.

In addition to considering which edible climbers and vines you might like to grow, you should also think carefully about how exactly you will incorporate these plants into your overall garden design. 

Creating Shade and Cover

Climbers and vines can be grown up and over a range of different structures, providing shade and a level of cover for the areas below. The structures themselves can be constructed from a range of different natural or reclaimed materials to reduce not only the cost but also the environmental impact of the project.

As well as considering structures like pergolas and porches, gazebos and arbors, you might also look at practical trellis solutions like bamboo or willow structures or cattle panel arches, which can be used to grow annual climbers over top or to cover the space between raised beds. Taking a DIY approach means that you can create a tailor-made shade-providing structure for a wide range of different spaces.

The plants climbing the structures you create can provide shade for seating or recreational areas, or for other plants you wish to grow. A trellis structure with climbers might also provide valuable shade and aerial protection for chickens or other garden livestock.

table grapes create a shady bower

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Create Visual Screens and Partitions

The climbers and vines you grow do not necessarily have to go overhead. They can be grown vertically up trellises, walls, fencing or screening structures. 

Edible climbers and vines can be used to add visual appeal to a wall or fence, which is rather unsightly on its own, while also providing useful yields. They can improve features which interrupt sight lines—either from neighboring properties, from nearby pavements or roads, or within the garden itself.

A trellis might be used to separate one garden room from another. Hiding parts of your garden can sometimes make it feel bigger, increasing the sense of space. You might also use a fence or trellis with climbers to screen unsightly elements like a driveway or trash bins from view.

Fencing might be used to protect an area of garden planting—a vegetable plot, for example. Planting such fencing with edible climbers helps make sure your garden looks lovely and that you make the most of every inch of space available.

Create Child-Friendly Spaces

The structures you build for climbing plants in your kitchen garden might also provide fun spaces for the youngest members of your household. Wigwam structure dens, play tunnels, and "secret" spaces can be created for kids, to give them magical places to play and relax.

Trellises and other structures with climbing plants make for great games of hide-and-seek. And there may even be the opportunity to make structures which double as trellises for plants and play equipment. A DIY jungle gym-type project could potentially be used to grow food, and a swing structure could have climbing plants up the sides.

Use Layered Planting Schemes

Remember, climbers and vines in your garden do not necessarily have to have a human-made structure to climb. Some may be allowed to climb up trees in a forest garden or woodland, or tangle their way into a mixed hedgerow along the border of your property. 

Vines and climbers making their way up and through other layers of planting can help to give your garden that dense, lush feel. And they will help you boost biodiversity and attract beneficial wildlife within the space.