Interior designers know the classic design tip: When working with a small space, look up!
Using empty wall space creatively can make all the difference in an apartment or small house (I learned this firsthand), and it can also work in a garden! If your outdoor space is limited, these vertical gardening ideas can take your garden to the next level!
What is a vertical garden?
In very simple terms, a vertical garden is a way of growing fruits, vegetables, herbs or flowers rather than on the ground, by means of some kind of support or structure. This can be done in the ground, in containers, on a wall, or even without soil.
The best edible plants to grow in a vertical garden have climbing or grapevine habits, like cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, peas and even a variety of squash and pumpkins. (You can also add vine blossoms to your vertical elements for beauty, too!)
While lack of space (such as in an urban or apartment environment) usually motivates the vertical approach, there are many other benefits to this creative way of gardening:
- Disease prevention
- Ease of harvesting (no bending)
- Higher efficiency
- More curved product (no flat side when laying on the floor)
- Visual interest or even intimacy
- Portability; some container systems can be moved to follow the available sun
- Control of invasive or widespread plants such as squash vines
- Creates shelter for shade-loving plants (or people)
The possible aspects of a vertical garden are endless, from the very simple and inexpensive to the breathtakingly complex and expensive. With an indoor grow light and the right system, you can even grow all year round. produce in your home!
But that begs the question:
Do DIY or not DIY?
I first became interested in vertical gardening (beyond just staking beans or caged tomatoes) when a friend bought a Tower Garden System. They’re pricey, but the idea of growing lettuce, kale, cucumbers, beans, and even tomatoes on a few square feet on a patio or even indoors all year round? Tempting. (And for someone in an urban setting and with the rising cost of organic produce, it might be worth it!)
(Update: I have since found a smaller and cheaper indoor garden option AeroGarden. Full details in a later article, but I have the Harvest Family model. It was easy to put together and kids love to watch it grow!)
Of course, I immediately started thinking about ways to make my own more economical DIY vertical gardening system, and there are plenty of DIY tutorials out there. If you are looking for a floorless system, the list of materials can be long and still around $ 200-250.
For now, I have decided to take a simpler route and see what I can do to adapt our traditional outdoor garden beds and make them more efficient, and maybe add a little indoor garden to it. ‘herbs and lettuce for the winter.
Before you decide to buy or DIY, do a little research around the basement or garden shed. You will be surprised at how much inspiration you can find. Just look for anything a plant could grow in. Pallets, mason jars, old shutters, a broken ladder, rebar, a piece of trellis, twine, rope – all of this can be made into a vertical garden structure.
While the jury is still out on which approach we’re ultimately going to try, here are 5 intriguing vertical garden ideas ranging from simple to sophisticated!
Traditional garden with vertical elements
If you have an existing backyard garden, plan to add a trellis and vines on the north side of your plot. This prevents your taller plants from shading the rest of the garden. I also suggest using a portable, not permanent stand, so you can rotate your plantings from season to season.
Here are some ideas for growing your plants vertically in a traditional garden bed:
Don’t forget to plant lettuce, spinach, and other delicate, shade loving plants to the shade these trellises provide!
Patio / potted garden planter
If you’re confined to a patio or deck, try gardening tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, beans, or squash in containers. You can create your own garden with individual pots, tiered planters or a raised garden box. (Although they are beautiful, keep in mind that real terracotta pots are very porous and tend to dry out.)
Use organic potting soil and consider putting heavier pots on carts to maximize sun exposure – the real key to container gardening. Tie the plants to the tomato cages and support the stakes as they grow for unlimited space.
Outdoor or indoor wall garden
If you’re short on horizontal space but have a wall or fence that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight, try a wall garden. These can even be indoors if you have a very sunny exposure or grow light. A wall garden can be built from scraps of wood, small pots, or even canvas pockets (like an old shoe organizer on the door). I like this beautiful DIY version in cedar wood.
As with all container gardens, it can be difficult to keep a wall garden evenly watered and fertilized (but not overwatered by paranoia!).
If you are going to try the indoor garden, consider a system designed for this purpose. Unless you’re planning on mounting a grow light, I recommend using something with removable containers for individual plants so you can move them closer to a window if needed.
Indoor herb garden
Window sill herb gardens are nothing new, but deserve honorable mention because what could be better than fresh lettuce or herbs in winter? In a warmer climate, a few mason jars on the kitchen window sill or hanging in jars will do, but in cooler climates a grow light kit will almost certainly be necessary.
And I like these ideas about how to use IKEA items for an indoor garden!
Another type of vertical gardening, hydroponics, has seen a surge in popularity in recent decades. Hydroponic vegetables are grown only in water (no soil) with added nutrients and trace elements. Although this method dates back to the ancient Aztecs, the modern hydroponic method involves a lot of plastic and synthetic fertilizers, and I have refrained from exploring it for these reasons. (It can also be expensive, as I mentioned above.)
In contrast, vegetables grown in greenhouse hydroponics do not require chemical pesticides. Studies are limited, even found to be nutritionally superior (although some would say, not in taste).
What do you think of vertical gardening? Have you had success with these or other methods?