How to Start a Successful Vertical Garden
If garden space is limited then why not use the space wisely by starting your very own vertical garden. Urban gardeners have been proving for some time now that you don’t need a big backyard or even a patch of earth to harvest your own salad or green your living space.
These can either be created on a wall or even free standing if you prefer. If choosing to add to the wall of a building, vertical gardens provide extra insulation to the property. Many types of plants will thrive in a vertical garden, from herbs and fruit to grasses and ferns.
There are many costly products popping up as the trend of vertical gardening grows but it doesn’t have to be expensive or high tech. It can be done as simply as homemade irrigated planters and homemade trellises and twine to support climbing plants. You’re limited only to your imagination.
A popular choice for vertical gardens is using upcycled wooden pallets although a quick Google search will pull up lots of fun ways that people have created vertical gardens. If going with pallets be careful with edible planting – there are some health concerns regarding pesticide treatments of the wood, so take care when selecting your pallets.
There are also many advantages to vertical gardens, some of which include:
- Heat generated by walls or enclosures can translate to a longer growing season and higher yields for vegetables.
- There is less risk of pests, disease and weeds.
- Caring for plants against a wall or growing upwards is less hard on the knees and lower back because it doesn’t require all that bending.
What Type are You Going For?
There are lots of varieties out there when it comes to vertical gardens so choose the one that you want to go with. The easiest option would be a container-style in which potted plants are attached to a wall. Another easy option would be a “pocket” garden, featuring plants tucked into pockets made from felt or canvas.
In wooden pallets, landscaping fabric is stapled to the back, bottom, and sides of the pallet. The inside of the pallet is completely filled with soil, and the plants are grown in the slat openings.
If this is your first attempt at a vertical garden, dont try to go for something too fancy, try an easier solution and see if vertical gardening is for you.
Vertical Garden Placement
Once you have made the decision as to the variety of vertical garden that you are going to go for, it is time to think about the placement. These can go either indoors or outdoors and will depend on the kinds of plants that you are planning to grow. Let the type of sun exposure the plants will need determine where you place the garden.
Choosing Your Plants
Whatever plants that you decide to grow, you will need to understand their flexibility as they will be grown vertically as opposed to horizontally. Herbaceous plants are more flexible in the way they fall more so than woody plants. You don’t want plants that are going to grow out, you want plants that will flow down.
When you want to start a successful vertical garden, you want to choose plants that are all of the same habit. Choose all-sun or all-shade plants. You don’t want to mix and match if you want your garden to be successful.
It is also important that the plants you choose have the same rate of growth. If not, the plants with faster growth will take over the plants with slower growth and they won’t be able to catch the needed sun.
If you wanted to grow vegetables you could make the most of vertical space with:
- Pole beans – easily trained to grow up a trellis, chicken wire or netting.
- Snow peas and sugar snap peas – will grab twine tied to a shelf, fence or balcony, or wind around a trellis.
- Baby butternut squash – can climb without being weighed down.
- Cucumbers – grow well vertically when supported by a tomato cage, trellis, or fence.
- Cherry and grape tomatoes – can grow in hanging pots though the plant may require support as it gets larger.
- Lettuce, kale, Swiss chard – can grow in pockets or smaller wall planters but require diligent watering. Harvest lettuce all summer by reseeding every few weeks.
- Herbs – tolerate more shade than most vegetables.
The key to starting a successful vertical garden is to use potting soil. These kinds of gardens will dry out just like any other kind of garden so potting soil will help to hold moisture after watering.
Another important factor to remember is gravity, which pulls the water down. Plants that don’t need as much water should be at the top part of the garden, since that part dries quickly. Place the ones more suited for wetter conditions at the bottom.
If you’re using a wooden pallet or container with panels, you’ll want to grow the plants horizontally for a few weeks to let the roots establish themselves and help hold the soil in place. If you try to plant it vertically straight away, the roots have to grow still so you’re dealing with gravity pulling your soil. You can also slowly elevate the container to a vertical position over the course of a few weeks to secure the garden.
During the early stages of the garden, it will more than likely need more maintenance than a normal garden. They are more compact and therefore have less soil, so they may need to be watered more often.
For larger walls I would recommend considering a drip irrigation system to make it a little easier for yourself. Using a watering can is the cheapest option but you must make sure that the water is being evenly distributed.