Reaching New Heights: The Advantages and Art of Vertical Gardening
By Ryan Dorn, SouthernSeeds.com
In the dynamic world of gardening, the utilization of vertical space is a game-changer. Vertical gardening, an innovative way to maximize your growing space, allows you to reap bountiful harvests and infuse creativity into your gardening practices. It transcends the traditional concept of having a massive backyard and brings the joy of cultivating a green thumb to urban dwellers and those with spatial constraints. Let's take an in-depth look into this unique way of growing your favorite plants.
What is Vertical Gardening?
Vertical gardening is a technique where plants are grown upwards on any vertical surface, taking advantage of gravity and making efficient use of available space. Instead of sprawling outwards over the ground, plants in a vertical garden climb trellises, nets, towers, walls, or other structures. This method challenges traditional gardening norms and creatively maximizes your growing potential. From compact apartments to spacious homesteads, vertical gardening breathes new life into your living space.
Materials You Need to Start Vertical Gardening
You don't need an arsenal of specialized gardening tools to start a vertical garden. Look around your home, and you might be surprised at how many everyday items can be repurposed. Privacy fences, balcony railings, walls, or even PVC pipes can all serve as solid structures for your vertically growing plants. The key is to identify a stable structure that allows your plants to grow upwards and receives an appropriate amount of sunlight for their needs. With a little creativity, you can turn almost anything into a vertical garden.
Advantages of Vertical Gardening
Vertical gardening is not just a spatial solution; it offers a plethora of advantages that can enhance your gardening experience. For starters, watering your vertical garden is much more straightforward. With gravity on your side, water flows naturally downwards, ensuring each plant gets its share. This can lead to better water utilization and potentially healthier plants.
Vertical gardening also presents a natural deterrent for some pests. It’s tougher for certain pests to reach and damage plants that are growing off the ground. Moreover, a well-planned vertical garden can encourage better airflow around your plants, reducing the chances of fungal diseases.
One of the most gratifying benefits of vertical gardening is its aesthetic appeal. It adds dimension to your gardening space and provides a green oasis, no matter the size of your home or yard. A vertical garden can serve as a lush backdrop or a privacy screen, transforming your outdoor (or indoor) spaces into tranquil, green sanctuaries.
Disadvantages of Vertical Gardening
Despite the many benefits, vertical gardening does come with its own set of challenges. For example, root vegetables may not thrive in vertical setups due to the shallow depth of most vertical containers. Thus, plants such as carrots or potatoes might not be suitable for a vertical garden.
Watering can also be a tricky aspect of vertical gardening. While it's true that gravity assists in watering from the top down, this can lead to excessive runoff and unequal water distribution. The top plants may end up receiving too much water, while the lower ones don't get enough. A well-thought-out watering system and careful observation can mitigate these issues, but they are still important to consider.
Are Vertical Gardens Worth It?
For many people, the advantages of vertical gardening far outweigh the disadvantages. The key lies in how we use our resources effectively to create sustainable gardening solutions, and vertical gardening hits the mark here. It is a creative and practical response to space limitations, water scarcity, and urban living constraints. Vertical gardening offers a worthwhile investment in terms of maximizing space, reducing pest issues, and adding an appealing visual element to your surroundings.
How Do I Water a Vertical Garden?
Watering a vertical garden is a balancing act that depends on your setup, the type of plants you're growing, and the climate. It's crucial to ensure that every plant in the setup gets enough water without overwatering the ones at the top. Drip irrigation systems or soaker hoses can be excellent for vertical gardens as they deliver water directly to the root zone of each plant. Additionally, water-absorbing polymers mixed into the soil can help retain moisture. Always monitor your plants for signs of over or under-watering and adjust as needed.
Location for a Vertical Garden
As with any garden, sunlight is a critical consideration when deciding the location of your vertical garden. Most fruits, vegetables, and herbs need at least six hours of sunlight per day, so your vertical garden should be placed where it can get this. A south or west-facing wall or fence is often an excellent location. However, if you’re in an area with intense summer heat, a location with some afternoon shade may be preferable to prevent scorching your plants.
Soil for Vertical Gardens
Choosing the right soil for your vertical garden is vital to your plants' health. Since vertical gardens usually don't have as much soil as traditional ones, the soil you do use must be top-notch. A high-quality, well-draining potting mix or your homemade compost can work well. Such soils provide the necessary nutrients and ensure proper aeration and moisture retention. As mentioned, we will have an upcoming blog on homemade soil and compost, so stay tuned!
Planning Your Vertical Garden
Planning is an essential step in creating a successful vertical garden. Start by choosing plants that thrive in your gardening zone. Next, consider the size of your plants. Plant larger crops at the bottom and smaller crops at the top so the larger crops don't block sunlight for the smaller ones. For example, your indeterminate tomato plants might go at the bottom, with herbs like basil and thyme at the top. Below is a great image sent to us by one of our amazing customers (creator unknown) showing how to section off your vertical garden. It should give you a great idea on how to plan out your vertical garden.
What Plants Can Be Grown in a Vertical Garden?
With the right setup, a wide variety of herbs, fruits, vegetables, medicinals, and companion plants can thrive in a vertical garden.
In terms of herbs, some great choices include basil, cilantro, mint, oregano, rosemary, fennel, chives, parsley, lemon balm, sage, savory, stevia, and thyme. These herbs are generally compact and thrive in vertical gardens.
Fruit choices for vertical gardens often include strawberries, watermelons, cantaloupes, and honeydew. These plants have sprawling vines that can be trained to grow upwards, thus saving ground space.
When it comes to vegetables, chards, lettuce, arugula, kale, spinach, mustard greens, cucumbers (small varieties), eggplant (small varieties), peppers (compact varieties), pole beans, summer squash, winter squash, peas, pumpkins, tomatoes (indeterminate or vining), and gourds are all great options for vertical gardens.
Lastly, adding some medicinal plants and companion plants to your vertical garden can be hugely beneficial. Medicinal plants like bee balm (Mondarda), borage, calendula, catmint, chamomile, echinacea, hyssop, lavender, yarrow, toothache plant, and passionflower can be great additions. Companion plants like nasturtium, marigold, and feverfew can help deter pests from your garden.
Maintaining Your Vertical Garden
Maintaining a vertical garden is not much different from caring for any other garden. Regular watering, fertilizing, pruning, and monitoring for pests and diseases are all part of the process. With vertical gardens, checking for adequate water distribution becomes especially crucial. Ensuring all the plants receive equal sunlight is another essential aspect. With the right care and attention
to detail, your vertical garden can flourish and provide you with an abundance of fresh produce. It's important to rotate or rearrange plants if you notice any not getting enough sunlight or looking a bit peaky. Also, vertical gardens can dry out quicker, so consistent watering and the addition of a good compost or slow-release fertilizer can help keep your plants thriving.
Vertical gardening is a flexible, space-saving solution with numerous benefits that can make it an appealing choice for gardeners, especially those with limited ground space. By carefully selecting the right plants, designing a functional watering system, and providing proper care, a vertical garden can be an abundant source of fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruits. With a bit of creativity and effort, you can transform your vertical space into a verdant, food-producing oasis. Like always, if you ever have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out. We're always here to help. Until next time... be well y'all!