I feel before I say anything else, it would be best to mention the person who inspires me most in everything I do with our home, that is my wonderful wife. Mel Bartholomew, author of Square Foot Gardening would be somewhere in the top five. If you are an urban gardener and you haven’t read his book there isn’t another book you need to read more at this point. You are missing out. Jules (my wife) introduced me to him many years ago but his practices didn’t really become a reality for me until we moved to our downtown home.
Why we chose a vertical pumpkin patch
With urban living comes many advantages. Jules and I both walk or ride our bikes to work, we are a few minutes walk from a zoo, there countless numbers of cafes, restaurants, bars, playgrounds, etc. within walking distance. But there are also some disadvantages. Real-estate is a valuable commodity where we live and there aren’t many lots that would accommodate the size garden we wish we could have so we have to get creative.
Every year we grow a variety of vegetables and fruits in our garden. We try to plant what we love so we always look forward to eating it. My wife is partial to our blueberry bushes while I always look forward to early July when I get to harvest our garlic crop (my personal favorite). We also plant several types of tomatoes, beans, peas, squash, kale, basil, peppers, mint and rosemary. That usually just about pushes out garden to capacity.
Just in the last year or so our son Sam has shown a lot of interest in “helping out” in the garden. Along with that he is at the age (three) where Halloween and other holidays are starting to be things he looks forward to. We thought what would be more fun than growing pumpkins that they could watch grow, harvest in the fall and carve into jack-o-lanterns. The only problem was we didn’t have five hundred square feet of garden available for a pumpkin patch. So I thought, let’s go for a vertical pumpkin patch…
How to make a vertical pumpkin patch
I took a pile of dirt that we use to let potted soils rest for a couple of years to give any bad stuff time to move on and piled some rocks around it.
From there I just scavenged around the garden shed and garage for anything I could find that would make a heavy duty trellis. Here’s how I made it:
This is what I did to construct my vertical pumpkin patch trellis:
- Lay the vertical rods down on the ground with the desired spread at the bottom and the top (i.e. predetermined angle they would be at once installed (e.g. 6′ at the bottom & 3′ at the top).
- Take the 2x4s and lay them across the rods approximately where you want them. Be sure to leave enough of the vertical rods showing at the bottom to sink them into the ground. From there estimate the length needed + desired overhang and cut the 2×4’s down.
- With vertical rods at exact opposing angles and horizontal 2×4’s level – roughly draw the correct hole angle for the rod to pass through the 2×4’s at each junction. If memory serves I ended up sliding the 2×4’s on end under the rods then simply traced the path that the rod passed across the 2×4’s. As you can see from the photo the rods aren’t going straight up – you don’t have to be exact but the holes in the 2×4’s should be angled slightly to maintain the desired trellis shape. This step will differ depending on personal design. I just found it easier to support from the top when it comes together. No reason you couldn’t go straight up with the vertical rods, they would just require more support.
- With a slightly oversized hole saw drill out the 2×4’s at the predetermined angle in the center of flat side of the 2×4.
- Predrill screw holes for the rods on both sides of each angled hole. So everywhere you drew an angle for the hole saw on the 2×4’s you should now drill a hole for a screw.
- Slide the 2×4’s onto the rods. With differing lengths and angled holes once the second one is on they will maintain the desired position and the trellis should start to take shape.
- Stand the trellis up and push the vertical rods into the ground as far as possible (once the plants mature and pumpkins develop there will be a fair amount of weight involved – my first trellis sank almost a foot)
- Temporarily secure the trellis. I had a fence to run my braces to. If you don’t have that I would try a 3rd leg running down the back at a similar angle.
- Level each horizontal 2×4 and screw them to the rods at the predrilled holes.
- Once the 2×4’s are level, center the trellis vertically and install your permanent bracing.
That’s pretty much it LOL… From here I installed eyelets on the top of the bottom board, on the bottom of the top board and I started stringing paracord (didn’t use string – you need something strong). I started at the bottom, ran the cord to the first eyelet at the top then using that line I drilled a hole through the center of the middle 2×4. Took the cord off of the top eyelet, passed it through the hole I just drilled and repeat.
Don’t skimp on soil!! Find some good organic soil (bagged if you have to). Vine bores are a pumpkin plant’s worst nightmare.
If you can I’d recommend installing a soaker hose at this point. Once the plants mature it’s hard to water from above. It gets pretty busy/condensed at the bottom of the trellis (ground watering is much better than overhead for any plant).
The trellis was conveniently located just a few feet from our rain barrel system, so it was easy to irrigate consistently.
From there we all went to a local nursery and bought some pumpkin seeds. We were a little late in the game when we decided to do this so the common large carving type pumpkin seeds were all gone.
We settled on a pack of Rouge Vif d’Etampes. This type has deep lobes and is very rich in color, almost red but doesn’t get as large as most.
From there we watched our vertical pumpkin patch grow….
We harvested five lovely pumpkins from our vertical pumpkin patch on September 23!!