With petite-sized house blocks and the rise of apartment-style living, many would-be home gardeners don’t have enough room to swing a cat, let alone grow a vegetable patch.
The good news is you don’t need a lot of room to cultivate fresh produce.
With vertical gardening, the only way to grow is up!
Growing vertical edibles allows you to produce more for less. Because of the nature of vertical gardening you can cultivate bigger yields with a smaller footprint. With a vertical garden it’s possible to take an uninspiring wall and turn it into a productive green space.
Or, you can use it as an attractive green screen for privacy or a way to segment spaces. And if you choose to grow edibles, you can also bring fresh homegrown produce to the family table.
WHAT TO GROW PLANTS IN?
Vertical gardens can be grown directly from the ground using trellises, in hanging pots or in any number of modular systems that are made up of specially designed, interchangeable pockets, pods, trays or pots, fitted to a frame or wall.
You can also get creative with preloved items found around the home: a ladder, wooden pallets, old guttering, recycled containers including tins and plastic bottles, even some old kids’ gum boots. Creating a unique and productive vertical garden really can be child’s play.
BENEFITS OF VERTICAL GARDENS
Vertical gardens are one of the biggest horticultural trends to hit the home gardening market. And for good reason.
- When positioned in the right place, vertical gardens can help to cool a garden or home.
- With a vertical garden there is more free-flowing air movement between plants so less likelihood of diseases.
- It’s much kinder on the joints. You don’t have to bend or kneel to plant or harvest.
- There are fewer garden pests to contend with. This is because it’s a lot harder for crawling garden pests to reach the crops; also, they’re easier to spot at eye level.
- Layers of crops allow you to grow sun-loving plants above those that need a little shade.
The key elements of vertical gardening are location, water, substrate or growing medium, and nutrients.
The substrate needs to be free-draining and lightweight. Garden soil isn’t suitable for container or vertical gardens as it’s too dense, too heavy and inhibits good drainage. Try combining a good-quality potting mix with some vermiculite and perlite to improve aeration and drainage, and a little compost material for good measure.
Most vegetables need a minimum of four to six hours of sunlight a day in order to flourish. Ideally, position your vertical garden where it will receive adequate sunlight (morning sun and afternoon shade) but not too much sun in the warmer months.
More exposure to drying winds means vertical gardens do have a higher water requirement than garden beds; watering needs to be frequent but not too heavy.
Hand watering is one option, but a low flow rate and drip feeding can work well. Some kits include drip feeders.
Your vertical garden will also need a regular nutrient boost. A liquid seaweed and fish emulsion concentrate will help to strengthen the root system. Top up compost regularly in the plants and mulch well (especially in summer), as this helps to provide a more even temperature and protects the root systems.
Organic pest control for vertical gardens includes bringing in the good bugs like ladybugs to get rid of aphids (do this by planting mint, fennel and dill). To get rid of slugs and snails, invite birds in with a bird bath nearby, or try beer traps. Garlic and chilli sprays can help to get rid of some bugs. If mildew’s a problem when humidity is high, mix organic milk and water, then spray.
WHAT CAN YOU GROW?
Generally, the best vegetables and fruits to grow are those that are compact with a shallow root system. You can grow a rainbow of colour in your vertical garden with orange and red tomatoes, purple lettuces, vibrant green mint and gorgeous red strawberries.
In the warmer weather you can grow beans, spinach, tomatoes, zucchini, celery, cucumber, snow peas and capsicum. In the cooler weather try kale, leeks, lettuce, parsnip, turnip, rhubarb, spinach, radish, Swiss chard and kohlrabi.
You can grow edibles from seed, but with vertical gardening it’s a lot easier to begin with seedlings.
A MOVABLE FEAST
Freestanding vertical gardens can also be placed on wheels if you choose, so you can move them to make the most of seasonal variations in sun, warmth and shade, or to move the garden closer to your entertaining area for guests to pick their own salad greens.
A VERTICAL GARDEN IN FOUR SIMPLE STEPS
#1. Drill a hole in each of your plastic pots
#2. Add a hook to each pot
#3. Plant using lightweight, free-draining potting mix
#4. Hang the pots on wires or another form of support