You don’t have to own a large plot of land or even a yard to grow a vegetable garden. You only need a little bit of space to grow your plants upward instead of outward—in a vertical garden. Vertical gardens maximize space and can turn a corner of your yard, a patio or a balcony into a pleasant refuge that also yields tasty produce. Keep reading to find out how to start a vertical garden this weekend.
Why Try Vertical Gardening?
So what are the benefits of vertical vegetable gardens? Here are some of the reasons why vertical gardening is an excellent, if non-traditional approach to growing your own produce.
- Convenience – Maintaining a successful garden plot can be a labor-intensive and time-consuming endeavor, depending on the size of your plot and what you are growing. Vertical gardening requires less soil, watering and weeding. Because your plants are elevated and growing vertically, many are at eye level; making them easier to tend without much bending at the knees or back.
- Saves Space – You don’t need to parcel off a sizable piece of your property to grow vegetables with a vertical garden. Your garden can be grown almost anywhere, whether it’s in your yard, on your patio or balcony, even along a fence. Whether you live in a rural, urban or suburban location, vertical gardens are a great way to grow produce and maximize space.
- Healthy Plants and Produce – Vertical gardens can often increase your yield. Planting vertically can improve air circulation and exposure to sunlight; providing ideal growing conditions. The plants should benefit from this better air circulation, and thus lessen pest, disease, and environmental issues.
Plants That Do Well Growing “Up”
There are a number of vegetables that can thrive in a vertical garden. Some require “training” to grow vertically on a support structure such as a trellis, while others can be grown in pots or planters on shelves or in hanging baskets. A combination of climbing plants and container plants is a great approach to a well-rounded vertical garden.
Climbing plants include:
Other plants that do well in containers arranged vertically include:
Start Gardening Vertically
It’s time to start your vertical garden. Choose a sunny location, preferably close to a water source for convenient watering. A sunny spot in the backyard, on a patio or a balcony is a great place for a vertical garden.
Measure your space using a tape measure to get an idea of how much room you have and how much you’ll need. If starting your garden in the yard, your plants can climb a trellis directly from the soil. If gardening on a patio, deck or balcony, you will need soil-filled planters in which to seed your plants. Knowing how much space you have to work with will help you decide on the size and number of trellises, tomato cages, planters, shelves, etc. you will be able to use.
A trellis is an indispensable support system in vertical gardening. Decide what kind you need. They can be freestanding or installed on exterior walls or fencing to help climbing plants grow up along the surface. Or plant the trellis directly into the soil or into soil-filled planters. True Value has a number of trellises to purchase or, if you're feeling real handy, you can build your own trellis.
If putting your trellis directly into the ground, drive its supports into the soil, using a rubber mallet if needed. Remember, the heavier your vegetable yield might be (melons, etc.), the sturdier your trellis must be.
Position a trellis so the plants get adequate sun and it doesn’t cast shadows on adjacent vegetation that might also need sun. Most vegetables require at least 6 hours of sun. Your garden may get best results with a south-facing orientation.
Use wooden stakes to give your trellis more support. Drive each stake into the ground, angling it toward the foot of each post.
Attach trellis netting with a staple gun or with S-hooks to help the plants climb the trellis and foster their growth and your garden’s success. If you started your plants from seed, once your plants begin to sprout and grow you will begin training them. You can use plant ties to gently attach the plants to the trellis and netting when training.
If using a trellis or a wire tomato cage in a planter, drive the trellis or cage supports into the soil. Depending on how deep your planter is, it might be helpful to fill it halfway with soil, place the trellis supports in the soil and then fill the planter the rest of the way. Be sure your container is deep and strong enough to hold as much soil as required by the vegetable you are growing. Without enough soil, the roots will not be adequately nourished and less water will be retained. As a general rule, depending on the type and amount of plants, a container should be at least 12” deep with a comparable diameter. If you are unsure about the container-size requirements of the plants you want to grow, ask an expert at your local True Value hardware store.
Always install your support system (trellis, tomato cage) before planting to avoid potential damage to plants or other complications later. Keep the entire planter’s weight (with water) in mind if you plan on moving it frequently.
Most vegetables that grow in a regular garden can be grown in a container. And these containers can then be placed on the tiers of a shelving unit or in a hanging basket as a part of your vertical garden. If using a shelving system with your planters, it is best to have one that allows air circulation and efficient use of water, such as a wire shelf. The openings allow air to flow freely around each plant and tier of plants, while any water that drips down from an above tier will make its way to plants below. Hanging baskets can be hung from just about anything in and around your improvised garden. They must be watered frequently, however, as they tend to dry out quickly.
Arrange your vertical garden planters before filling them with soil to avoid moving them around at full weight.
Remember to use high-quality organic potting soil in your planters. When selecting potting soil, choose a mix that specifically lists its contents. Where possible, choose a potting soil that has organic amendments such as manure or compost mixed in. If not, you can also add these amendments separately to your soil. Follow all package instructions.
Fill planters with soil. First, start with an inch or so of gravel for drainage. Choose containers with multiple drainage holes in the bottom. Next, add soil. When filling your container, pour the potting soil or soil/amendment mix to about 1/3 of the way full. For purchased plants, take the plant out of its pot and place it in the container. Fill in around the sides of the root ball with more potting soil, pressing lightly. The plant should be at the same soil level as it was originally growing, and there should be a 1/2" to 1" space from the top of the soil to the lip of the planter. If you’re starting from seeds, plant them as instructed on the package by the seed manufacturer. Spread the seeds into the soil, then lightly tamp down the loose soil so it makes enough contact with the seeds to insulate them and provide better nutrients.
Water your vertical garden using a garden hose or watering can. Apply a light, direct misting on plants. Watering deeply once a week conserves water and is more beneficial than lightly watering multiple times a week. Try watering early in the morning to minimize evaporation.
Container plants need more watering than plants that grow in the ground. The containers themselves can draw water from the soil inside of them through evaporation. Also, because there is less all-around soil, the water is used quickly.Check to see if the container needs water by sticking your finger into the soil. If it feels dry, add water with a garden hose or watering can. Water your plants by thoroughly soaking the soil, then allow it to drain.
Soil in plastic containers doesn’t dry out as quickly as soil in natural-material planters such terra cotta, stone or wood.
That’s it! Enjoy your produce and keep growing upward and onward with your vertical garden.
Project Shopping List
Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.