Sunday, May 05, 2013

Growing Zucchini in Small Spaces

Alright.  It's happened again.  I've found mind-blowing gardening tips and tricks over at Pinterest.  A few years back for my birthday, my hubby made me a small raised rock garden in our little back yard.  The next year, he added a second one along our fence line.  We have loved experimenting and trying to grow things in our "small but mighty" garden.  We love pretending we are farmers, or better yet, the Ingalls.  One thing that grows for us really well... I'm talking maybe a bit too well, is zucchini.

Some of the bounty from our mini garden - we grow our zucchini BIG around here.
The only trouble with a thriving zucchini plant in a small garden -  is space!  The giant leaves spread out and take up a very large area of our tiny garden, making it a little harder to grow other kinds of veggies. Here's a shot of our garden last August.  You can see the zucchini plants in the middle right behind the girls in the pool (between the corn and strawberries).  It really takes OVER.

The girls love tending our little garden.

So the other night I was perusing Pinterest when I stopped dead in my tracks.  Here was a revolutionary way to grow zucchini (and other summer squashes) in a smaller space.  In a 2x2 space!  What?  I was so excited.  Check it out.

Picture by Jeff from the blog "Our Engineered Garden"

By simply using an inverted (aka upside-down) tomato cage, you can train your zucchini leaves to grow straight up!  This leaves the bottom of the plant (where the zucchini's grow) open and makes it easy to see the fruit growing.  I can't tell you how many times we've pulled back a giant Jurassic sized zucchini leaf and found a gargantuan baseball bat sized tuber!

This was our first giant surprise zucchini the first year of our garden.  We were SHOCKED.
This idea of growing vertical zucchini comes from Jeff over at the blog "Our Engineered Garden" (I had a link here, but the blog is no longer available).  He has amazing gardening techniques I have not even finished reading all of his tips.  The two pictures of the zucchinis in tomato cages posted are from his blog because we are trying this asap and don't have our own pictured results yet. But if it works, it will revolutionize our little garden space!

Picture by Jeff at "Our Engineered Garden"
This is going to be a great experiment.  Apparently, you have to "train" the leaves daily to get them to grow the way you want them.  We put our zucchini start in the ground yesterday and the upside-down tomato cage is in place.  Have any of you done this before? Are any of you going to jump on the experimental band wagon and try this with me? By the way I forgot to mention it also works with a few other varieties of summer squash.  I will dutifully report back to you on our progress throughout the summer.  Oh and if you need a recipe to use all of this bountiful zucchini in, try our delectable baked zucchini fries recipe.  Happy Gardening! 

UPDATE 2014!:  We tried this little technique last year and it worked perfectly.  The leaves grew up and it was so much easier to see the zucchini along the bottom, before they became giant bat-sized monstrosities.  We have already set up our upside-down tomato cages for this years' plants.   Hooray for an experiment that really worked great!


24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love this idea and I will be giving it a try. I have the same issues small garden and big leaves. Thanks for sharing.

Amber S said...

I love this idea. Plan on using it in my raised beds this year.

Beth said...

I was planning on trying this with the tomato cages right-side-up. What's the advantage of putting them upside down? And how did you keep the cage from tipping over since there's nothing to poke into the ground?

Jean C said...

I did this last year with yellow squash and it worked great.

Annemarie Webb said...

Would this work for cucumbers?

Jenn said...

Hi Beth. My nubby was in charge of the planting, he says that he just buried the narrowest part of the cage at the bottom by putting a layer of dirt on top of it to stay in place. I think that allowed the leaves, which get pretty big to overflow at the top. I bet either way would work. Let us know what you find.

Jenn said...

@Annemarie. I have not tried this with cucumbers but I do know they like the climb. I planted them next to my tomato plants because we had some trellises for them to climb on. One time I planted the cucumber next to the corn, and they climbed the stalks and "jumped off" as we liked to joke. I think you'd need to add some smaller netting or chicken wire to get the cucumber to climb, the tomato cages have too large of gaps between the wires for the cucumber to really cling too.

Anonymous said...

This is absolutely Genius! I've been trying to come up with a way to grow zucchini in a very small raised garden that My Family finally agreed to let me put in and let me tell you I was not sure how I was going to manage having zucchini and my other plants grow in a 3 x 3 space but with this I just might be able to pull it off. Thanks for putting this useful information out there!

Mirja said...

Thanks for a great tip :) Allthough I have a LOT of space (seriously, a lot :D 43,000 sq ft lots :P ) I will def give this a go as I'm not really interested in lethal size zuccini :)

Anonymous said...

Cucumbers can be trained to grow on a trellis.

Dana said...

Thanks for the heads-up,your three little girls are darlings!

Anonymous said...

I have acres but water is my issue (there's only water close to the house). I plant in raised beds close to the house, love vertical gardening along a chain link fence. Squash running all over the ground has always been an issue for me (the mower loves squash). I love your idea. I have a bunch of tomato cages that I can put to work on my squash. What a fantastic idea. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

You can use the cages for cucumbers. They climb the cage in a spiral. Works great.

Anonymous said...

This is a great idea...without realizing it...I am using this...but mine are up-right...don't think it will make a difference ? just retired...moved to new state...and LOL i'm now BUGAPHOBIC !! I've not gardened in decades and am new to this...hope it all works...anyhow I've used the tomatoe cage for many veggies now...even for the eggplant and peppers...cucumbers of course...so the idea of using this versatile cage is GREAT...OH and old wooden ladders !! Try that...May I ask a question ? Has Your squash and zucks ever have yellow leaves...mine was doing so great...Maybe a new planting ? liss Jennings/Pinterest

Lora said...

I really hope this works ! I just bought zucchini, yellow squash, spaghetti squash and 2 different types of cucumber. My husband said we don't have room but I just have to plant these an try !!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this wonderful idea! Though late in the season for this year. i will definitely try it next year! Very exciting.

Anonymous said...

I have never tried this with zucchini, however I have used this technique on my Peony plants. Works great!

Cindi Nettles said...

I have never tried the cage but I do use knitting yarn to tie the leaves up. Once they get fairly large I grab some chunky yarn that I have no plans for, while my husband holds the leaves I just tie them up. I have also used this on potato plants as well.

Maria said...

I wish this worked for me! My flowers kept falling off or if a small zucchini started growing it turned rotten. Bummed.

Jenn said...

Sorry to hear that Maria. It worked for us last year, the squashes grew around the bottom of the plant so it was awesome, and the leaves grew up. We actually didn't grown and zucchini's this year because we grew them so well last year, that we were almost tired of eating them. lol

Karma Lewis said...

My husband and I are so excited we found this post on Pinterest!! We are going to try this next year with our zukes, cucumbers, and yellow squash! Thank you for sharing this with the rest of us!

Anonymous said...

Regarding using tomato cages for cucumbers, we did this successfully last year by putting one tomato cage upright and another upside down, so 2 cages for each cucumber plant. They grew beautifully and the cucumbers were so easy to pick. They seemed to have a longer harvest season as well as preventing them from being susceptible to pests. We planted in a bed with onions, perhaps that also helped kept pests away,

Kristina said...

Did you use a bush variety of the regular full sixes plants?

EJ McFarlane said...

I have gardened for many years and have learned to build a 3 foot high wooden
A frame that is supported by cross bars of wood to trail the zucchini up on.
It works very well. Doesn't take over my garden.

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