Starting a garden doesn’t have to take a lot of space. In fact, some veggies and flowers do better when they have a chance to climb. The structure you choose will contribute greatly to your success, as will the soil you put in your first vertical vegetable garden.
Start with Something Sturdy
Whether your garden hangs from a fence or is a free-standing garden built on a ladder, you want to make sure that the original structure is sturdy and stable. To start, make sure you anchor any free-standing structure to keep it from tipping. For example, an old ladder will be a great tool for staking tomato vines and training beans. Consider pounding in an at-post fence pole to stabilize the ladder before you load it with pots so high winds don’t tip your garden over.
Make it Portable
If you live in an apartment or have a little backyard, there are several rolling vertical garden carts that can help you develop your green thumb and still leave space for your grill.
If your patio is covered, you will likely need to water your rolling garden. However, this is not necessarily unfortunate. A rain-soaked portable garden will be heavy and could get really messy. If it’s going to be hot, try to place your garden out of drying winds. Water your plants in the morning to prevent pests or mold from becoming a problem during cooler overnight hours. Some plants may look wilted at the end of a warm day, but this is a natural mechanism to protect the plant from cell damage. If the soil is still damp from your morning watering, the plants should be fine.
Invest in Landscaping Fabric
Even if you purchase a fully contained vertical vegetable garden, it’s a good idea to have landscaping fabric that you can put down under the garden. Potting soil can wash out of your pots if they get a bit too much water and leave a messy puddle under your garden. If your patio or deck is wood, you may be sending dirt down to your neighbor.
Landscaping fabric or paper is a useful product to help you capture potting soil before it washes out of your pots. You can line pots with it, and while water will trickle out of an over-watered pot, the soil won’t. You can also place it under your vertical garden to catch soil that washes out over the top of the containers.
If you have access to pallets, like this brand new 5 pack of wooden shipping pallets, you can also use landscaping fabric to build plant pouches for a rustic DIY vertical garden. Since you’ll be stapling fabric into old wood, consider investing in a staple gun. A manual will be cheaper, but slower, and it will be tough on your hands. If you can, go electric or battery-assist.
This Ryobi Automatic Stapler will get the job done quickly.
Get Good Soil
Vertical garden soil reservoirs tend to be small, so be ready to invest in good potting soil. First of all, it will be higher in nutrients than older, tired potting soil recycled from other pots. More importantly, new potting soil will hold water for a longer period of time, protecting and nurturing the roots of your plants.
Choosing Your Plants
There are many vegetables that will work in your vertical vegetable garden. If you’re growing things in pockets, consider starting lettuce, spinach, and beets from seed. Even if you don’t want to eat beets, the greens are delicious and beautiful in a fresh spring salad. Be sure that you’ve got a sturdy salad spinner to help you clean and freshen your greens.
For gardeners that have space for a trellis, vining plants are the way to go. Again, start with something sturdy as your growing frame. Tipi forms, or items that narrow at the top, are inherently more stable than square items. Stake your structure to keep it from tipping over in the wind, or becoming unstable if the soil is saturated.
Pole beans are a great veggie to start on a trellis. These plants are easy to train and will grow quickly. In addition, pole beans provide shade for delicate roots at the bottom. If you’ve wanted to try strawberries or start a flowering vine, such as clematis, this shaded soil can be a great home for such plants.
Vining tomatoes will also work well on a trellis, as long as they have plenty of sun. Be aware that some tomato plants can get extremely tall; you may need to harvest with a ladder! You’ll need gardening clips or soft ties to support a tomato plant against a trellis. Old tee shirts, torn into long strips, can work. If 100% cotton, you can safely discard these at the end of the season.
Many people grow cucumbers on chain link fences or on wire mesh. Be aware that once cucumbers start producing fruit, you’ll need to harvest daily while cucumbers are small or the vines will tear from the trellis.
Some people find that the fuzzy texture of cucumber stems and leaves irritates their skin. Before you’re dealing with a rash, invest in good gardening gloves to protect your skin and nails. Fresh cucumbers are often covered in little spikes, and many veggies will need a scrub before you can put them to use. A good set of scrubbing brushes will make your harvest easier.
Here are some great beginning gardening products that will get you off to a good start.
If you’re just wanting to pretty up a dull spot on your patio or porch, you have the chance to put a wide variety of materials to use. As long as the plants can poke out of your vertical container, the sky is your limit. Consider building a wooden frame, lining it with landscape fabric, and covering it with trellis. Cut the landscape fabric so the plants can poke through and get some sun.
There are several vegetable plants that are quite beautiful in the landscape. Both zucchini and summer squash have large, glossy leaves that look great in a pot. Swiss chard is a beautiful, dark green and serves as a great backdrop for other plants in a vertical garden. One of the prettiest plants in the landscape is the purple flowering eggplant.
Check Your Vertical Vegetable Garden Often
Vertical gardens have smaller soil reservoirs. While many come with an irrigation kit included, you’ll want to check your vertical garden often. In addition to harvesting, you can control weeds, keep an eye out for pests, and make sure the plants aren’t suffering from over-watering.
Vertical gardens can run the gamut. From pretty wireframes with wheels to hearty pallet structures built with your own two hands, you can turn any drab spot into a bounty of beautiful plants and fresh veggies. Start small, manage your garden well, and expand next year.
Want to learn more about how to use your space effectively? Check out this post on creating a beautiful and bountiful vegetable garden design here.