Zucchini plants can usually be seen in the garden with their sprawling vines and huge leaves. If you’re short on space – grow zucchini vertically! Training zucchini up trellises, fencing, or cages allows you to take advantage of vertical growing space. Here are some tips for supporting and guiding zucchini to climb upwards.
Choose Compact Bush Varieties
To make vertical zucchini growing as easy as possible, select bush or semi-bush types. These compact varieties are bred to grow in a more upright, restrained habit than the spreading vines of regular zucchini.
Good bush zucchini cultivars include:
Raven – A classic dark green Italian-style zucchini that reaches 16-24” tall and wide.
Eight Ball – A ball-shaped mini zucchini ideal for small spaces. Only reaches 3 feet wide.
Gold Rush – Yellow straight-neck type zucchini, compact at 2 feet wide.
Spacemiser – Green zucchini optimized for close planting; suitable for containers. Grows 18-24” wide.
Standard vining zucchini varieties can still grow vertically. But compact bush types require less training and trellising to stay tidy and upright.
Set Up a Support Structure
Install a vertical support structure at planting time before vines start running. Make sure it’s robust enough to eventually hold significant weight from larger zucchini fruits without toppling over.
Good trellis or cage options include:
-Wood or bamboo A-frame trellis
-Wire or nylon trellis netting on posts
-Tomato cages or wire cones
-Fencing panels secured to sturdy posts
-Teepees made from 5-6 tall garden stakes, tied at the top
Position trellises, cages, or other supports down the center of each zucchini planting row or patch. Space multiple plants 2-3 feet apart in all directions.
Help Young Vines Climb
Once seedlings emerge, train the tender young vines to start climbing upward. Here are a few techniques:
Weave stems through trellis openings or run them through holes cut in fencing.
Gently tie main vines to supports using soft plant ties or cloth strips. Avoid damaging delicate stems.
For teepees, loosely wrap vines around the outside of support stakes as they grow.
Bush varieties may not need as much help climbing. But guide central leaders upward.
Don’t worry about grabbing onto every single vine – just train a few main stems on each plant vertically. The goal is to get the vines established climbing upwards early in development.
Prune for Vertical Growth
Once vines reach the top of supports, pinch off the growing tips. This encourages lateral side shoots to form off the main vines instead of further upward growth.
Keep pruning side shoots regularly to establish dense, bushy foliage along the vertical support structure. Aim for evenly distributed vines populated with side shoots and leaves rather than long, leggy vines.
Remove the occasional lower leaves and shoots to allow light and airflow into the lower vine canopy as well. Keep pruned vines in balance.
Tie Vines In Place as Needed
Check vines weekly and gently tie-in any wayward growth wandering away from supports back into place. This keeps everything neat, organized and climbing upward. Stray vines can be redirected and wound around supports.
Try stretchy plant tape, soft twine, old pantyhose, or strips of t-shirt material for low-impact vine tying that won’t damage delicate plants.
Maintain Even Moisture
Consistent watering is especially important for container-grown vertical zucchini. Plants dry out quickly climbing on exposed supports compared to sprawling on the ground. Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses if possible.
Mulch around the base of plants to help retain soil moisture longer. Avoid wetting foliage, which can promote disease. Monitor soil regularly and water when the top few inches become dry.
Harvest Zucchini Early and Often
Check plants daily once flowers appear and fruit sets form. Pick zucchini young and small, no more than 6-8 inches long. This encourages more production versus letting fruits get massively oversized.
Twist off ripe zucchinis to avoid damaging fragile vines. Support heavy fruits suspended on high vines while harvesting. Keep plants picked clean for ongoing productivity.
Enjoy Your Vertical Sign!
Growing zucchini vertically offers big rewards in small spaces. Follow these tips and you’ll be plucking fresh zucchini from compact, healthy vines all season long.