Vegetable Gardening: Bush Vs. Vining Plant Types

Both vining and bush plants have their pros and cons, but bush varieties come out on top in many areas. Among the reasons to plant bush varieties of vegetables and fruits include less maintenance, compact size, and abundant harvest period. But what about reasons to choose vining plants? Do the benefits of bush plants mean you shouldn't bother with their vine-like counterparts?

Explore the reasons for planting each of these as two of our writers provide their views.

Bush Plant Pros - Reasons to Plant Bush Varieties

(Mary Ellen's viewpoint) I feel there are many benefits of bush plants over vining fruits and veggies in the garden, but here are just the most important ones:

  • Container gardening in small spaces. If you have no yard and only a patio, balcony, or a very small space in which to garden, you'll want bush varieties grown in containers. Vining plants can be difficult to manage in a tight space, while bush plants will support themselves and grow to a compact size. You can even get dwarf varieties for the smallest of spaces, including dwarf bush tomatoes for containers.
  • Avoid overwhelming yields. Vining varieties of plants generally produce more fruits or vegetables. Many consider this a benefit. However, if you are gardening for one in limited space, a yield of 40 cucumbers may be too much. Choose bush varieties for a reasonable harvest you can manage and actually enjoy.
  • Work less. Bush varieties of vegetables require less maintenance and upkeep than vining veggies. Vines need to be trained to a trellis or similar structure. Sometimes, it's even necessary to tie them to a structure so they don't flop onto the ground. Vines also need more pruning than bush vegetable plants.
  • An earlier harvest. Some varieties, like bush tomatoes, produce mature fruits earlier in the season as compared to their vining counterparts. Enjoy your tomatoes earlier in the summer and have less risk of unripe fruit left on the plant.
  • Can and freeze with abandon. If you're a saver, you want bush plants. These varieties produce more prolifically in a short period of time than vine plants. That means you'll get an abundance of beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and squashes, perfect for preserving, canning, and freezing for the months to come.

Vining Plant Pros - Why Choose Pole Type Veggies

(Laura's viewpoint) When choosing between bush varieties and pole-type veggies, the obvious difference is the amount of support each type requires. I've grown both, but over the years I've slowly switched over to vertical garden methods. There are many reasons to choose vining plants over bush varieties. Here are my vining plant pros:

  • Vertical gardening saves space. Making use of vertical gardening methods is one of those "vining plant pros" gardeners with limited space can appreciate. True, you can stick bush types in pots, but using a trellis with pole varieties of beans, tomatoes, squash and cucumbers requires less space per plant than bush varieties. This allows gardeners to cultivate more types of vegetables and harvest bigger yields without increasing the size of their gardens.
  • Pole-type veggies are easier to harvest. Of the many reasons to choose vining plants, this is the primary reason I switched to pole varieties. As I've aged, bending over or crawling along the ground to harvest green beans, cucumbers and tomatoes has become increasingly more difficult. The strain on my back and legs is felt long after leaving the garden. Planting pole varieties of these vegetables allows me an opportunity to continue growing and harvesting my own food for years to come.
  • Vertically-grown produce is healthier. Keeping garden vegetables off the ground improves air circulation and reduces exposure to dirt, bacteria, fungal diseases, insects and four-footed pests. Not only are trellised vegetables less likely to have blemishes and bite marks, but they're also less likely to rot from exposure to wet soil or mulch. This reduces the amount of wasted resources as more usable produce reaches the table.
  • Pole-type veggies typically have a longer production period. Pole varieties of beans and vining tomatoes (indeterminate) continue to grow and produce throughout the season. Bush plants reach a certain height, then flower and produce edible vegetables. Once all the vegetables have been harvested, bush varieties are done for the season. To have a longer harvest period from bush varieties, gardeners would need to stagger sowing times. This adds to the space requirements for growing bush varieties of vegetables.
  • Trellises keep the garden neat and accessible. No more blocked aisles from fruit-laden bush tomatoes leaning on the ground. No bush cucumber plants to step over. No long rows of bush beans blocking access to other areas of the garden. I find rows of trellised vegetables creates plenty of unobstructed walkway space through the garden. I no longer feel like I'm crossing a mine field, waiting for that squishy feeling of a squash getting "squashed" beneath my garden shoes. 

I've discovered growing pole and vining varieties of garden plants means ending the season with more produce and higher quality vegetables. But most importantly, growing pole-type veggies makes harvesting quicker and easier. And that's a blessing when I'm hurrying to get dinner on the table!

Bush or Pole Type Veggies

Bush plant pros range from being able to grow vegetables in a small space to having less work to do, and to be honest, there are very few cons. If you love veggies and are ready to try gardening in with limited room quickly, you need bush plants. Admittedly, it does take time to put up trellises each spring; however, doing this work upfront saves on labor later in the season as Laura points out.

In the end, they both have their advantages. It's simply a matter of personal preference. Why not try both?

Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.