Garden Types: Caves are Best!

Garden types fall into two general categories when it comes to vine vegetables: Horizontal or Skyscraper. Horizontals should not be used for vine because as they grow during the season, they start over-lapping creating what can be called a "dreadlock" as the vines lock together. Vine plants are ever harder to investigate for pests and vegetables as the dreads take over. Invariably, the gardener gives up because of the time find vegetables along with rotten goods that were not found previously. Also, it is hard to spray for infestations since the undersides of the leaves are only a few inches off of the ground. Please note that the comparisons and criticisms of horizontal gardens applies to raised bed gardens which only delays the problems of dreadlocks.

Some people, for tomatos, use cages which only elevate the problem if one has planted the vining indeterminats. At a certain point, the length and weight of the tomato plants cause the cage to bend over. And, cages cost between $3.50 and $6,00 depending on size. Cages are good for determinants which don't grow more than four or five feet in height. (One should plan on staking the determinants or use a cave to hold the cages up.)

A cave approach is better.

  1. Cost for 20 indeterminants management
    1. Cages: $80 at $4 each or $120 at $6 each plus $20 for stakes.
    2. Cave: $36 (four 4x4's at $6 each plus four 2x4's at $3 each--all weather-treated) for 4 rows of five plants for no inconventient dreads.Yes, dreads will still occur but it will be over your head or hanging down before your eyes. Most importantly, the tomatos will hanging below the leaves where you can see them.
  2. Productivity: An 8x8 plot of ground has 64 sq.ft. of sun catching surface area while an 8ft high cave offers three (3) times as much sun catching area if place perpendicular to the east-west traverse of the Sun: East wall, top fall and west wall. One can grow in areas that would traditionally not have enough sun to produce vegetables. This is why along with drip irrigiation (drip or skip) that one can produce more in a give area with cave gardening.
  3. Picking: As any of the cave pictures show, produce is easily picked compared to backbreaking bending over and moving leaves to find the goodies.
  4. Infestations of bugs: Whether insects, mildew or other pains, it is easier to find and treat these inconveniences as the plants go skyward. Furthermore, with less ground contact, the plant is less exposed to bugs. Should one detect a problem, it is easier to spray under a caved leaf than a dread leaf. As the plants grow, one should trim back the lower leaves so insects have to hop higher and one can spray the ground more so than leaves that are no longer contributing optimally to vegetable production.
  5. Removal end of season: With horizontal or cage vines, one has a real mess cutting up the vines to separate them. With cave gardening, one just cuts the string at the bottom of the plant and pulls it up. The plant falls over with one pulling from the ground for the mulch or compost pile.

One can and should rotate crops around the cave--see Crop Rotation. Also, with a cave one can plant companions in the middle or outside walkways. Marigolds, the best overall companion, can be planted that are short and tall for maximum pest repelling.

In 2012, caves were used for tomatos and cukes. In 2013, the use will be expanded to beans, winter squashes and beans.

Raised bed gardens: All the criticism of horizontal gardening applies to raised bed. If one has a raised bed garden, one can enhance one's bed garden by building a cave for those plants that benefit from a cave.

Cave Construction

CaveGarden Homepage

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