Vertical gardens are hot, hot, hot right now … and for good reason! Vertical gardening is a great choice for gardening and growing food in a limited space. It’s also a technique many seasoned gardeners want to learn and add to their skill set. Vertical gardens can be use to grow food or to obstruct undesirable views, or even to create a touch of “something different” in outdoor living spaces. No matter your reasons for vertical gardening, we have a few tips that can help you maximize the output from your vertical garden.
First, you need to decide where to place your vertical garden. If you are growing food, you need to keep sunlight requirements in mind. Most vegetables require a minimum of 6 hours of sun. Greens and herbs may not require as much sunlight. If you are an urban gardener in an apartment or condo, you may be able to use a balcony for a vertical garden. For those with outdoor yard access, consider placing your vertical garden on an existing fence or against a south-facing wall of the house.
Support Is Key
Your vertical garden will require some kind of support structure. In order for your plants to grow up, they will need some kind of support system to assist them. You can use trellises, walls, pieces of fencing, wire cages, pallets, bamboo poles, ladders and more. There are plenty of options, so let your imagination run wild. Choose a support structure that is strong enough to withstand whatever veggies you want to grow. Some plants, like tomatoes, can be heavy when loaded down with fruits, and will need a strong support system. Peas and beans are lighter veggies and won’t require strong support – they just need something to climb on. Make sure your support system does not block sun for your other vegetables or plants, and leave enough space for adequate air circulation. Be sure to anchor your support system securely as winds may cause them to break loose. This is especially important in an urban environment like an apartment balcony.
If you are using containers in your vertical garden (such as pockets or pots) be sure to choose a good, strong container. Make sure the containers are deep enough for the vegetables you want to grow. This is especially important if you are planning to use shallow pockets. Some veggies won’t grow as well if their roots don’t have room to spread out. You can also consider hanging baskets, window boxes, wooden crates, and wood pallets for your containers. Make sure to drill small holes in the bottoms of your containers before mounting so that your pots can drain adequately.
Don’t scrimp on your soil when growing veggies vertically. Soil quality is very important to plant health, especially when growing in container environments. Use healthy, rich soil that is weed-free. Also, make sure the soil drains excess water. You may want to mix in some peat moss or perlite to encourage good drainage.
What Can I Grow?
Nearly any type of vegetable can be grown vertically as long as the container is deep enough to accommodate the root system and the vertical support is strong enough to hold the plant well. Remember to keep in mind sunlight requirements when picking your crops. Keep in mind, most vertical gardens will need to be watered daily, especially in the heat of summer, so make sure you can adequately care for any variety of plant you choose to grow.
Ideas for vertical gardens:
Cucumbers (choose vine rather than bush variety)
Squash (choose vine rather than bush variety)
Tomatoes (with adequate support)
Melons and winter squash can even be grown in a vertical garden, but make sure you have plenty of strong support for the heavy fruits.