Eat Extremely Local: How to Start Your Own Vertical Garden
There’s nothing quite like eating food you’ve grown in your own garden. Of course, not everyone has the yard space for sprawling gardens especially if you live in a large city. Fortunately, you don’t have to set aside your dream of gardening just because you are constrained by space. In fact, you can still grow tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables even inside your apartment thanks to vertical gardening.
Unlike traditional gardens where plants tend to grow outwards, vertical gardening uses various support structures to help plants grow up. This makes it perfect for small spaces and, since it doesn’t take up as much space, also makes it much easier for you to harvest your produce. Besides this, it also allows you to naturally cover up unattractive structures and creates a micro-climate as it can insulate a building from heat and provides shade.
Starting your own vertical garden is quite simple and many garden supply centers offer ready-made kits that you just need to assemble. You can also create one yourself from simple materials like nails, bags and some wood. Regardless of what route you choose, it shouldn’t cost your more than $100 total for all of the materials. You can even use materials you happen to have around the house for props and structure supports such as branches, old gutters and even a staircase. Here are a few things you should consider before you setup the vertical garden.
Choose Your Location
If you have an ugly wall you’ve been dying to cover up, you should set up the vertical garden there. Any wall works since you won’t need to worry about weight load unless you plan on planting trees or a very large vertical garden. If possible, choose a location that gets plenty of sunlight as most vegetables and plants do well in full light situations. While a full sunlight location is ideal, if you don’t have an area like this, try to find a location that gets the most light in a day. Your plant choice will depend on the wall you choose and the amount of light it receives.
Make the Vertical Garden
There are plenty of other ways you can create a vertical garden with less time, effort and materials. It’s likely you have most of the equipment you need in your house already! Do you have an old hanging shoe organizer? All you need to do is full the pockets with some soil and there’s your vertical garden. Even things like empty soda bottles can become excellent hanging containers on your wall so long as you have some twine and a place to hang them up.
Even a more “official” vertical garden doesn’t take too much time or money. In general, a standard vertical garden is made up of three parts:
- Frame – The frame is the most important part of the vertical garden as it acts as the backbone. As the entire structure of the garden, you need to ensure it is not only sturdy but easy to maintain as well. While metal and wood might seem like the natural choices they both come with their own set of problems. Metal tends to be heavy and very expensive while wood requires pressure treating to prevent against rot. The material most vertical gardeners use is PVC (plastic) pipes. It is lightweight, easy to maintain and doesn’t rust or rot. In addition, it is also much cheaper compared to both wood and metal. You can make the frame as simple or complicated as you like from a simple rectangle to one that has multiple horizontal and vertical support beams.
- Plastic Sheet – Once you have set up your frame, you then need to attach a sheet of plastic over it. The plastic helps keep water off your walls and also serves as a backing to the cloth layer. You should use some heavy duty plastic for best results.
- Fabric – You attach this directly to the frame with screws or heavy duty staples. When finalizing the placement of the fabric, make sure there are no wrinkles and it is stretched completely taut against the frame. You can use any type of fabric so long as it can hold water without rotting.
You’ll also need to worry about an irrigation system to keep the plants watered and have a fertilizer injector to keep the plants happy and healthy. For the beginner vertical gardener, building your own setup might a bit confusing so it’s probably best to buy te pre-made kits at your local garden center.
Choose Your Plants
While there are no “wrong” plants for vertical gardening, there are some tried-and-true ones people tend to use. For beginners, experts suggest growing plants that naturally vine such as cucumbers, grapes, climbing beans and peas. These do not require any additional support as the tendrils of these plants will automatically grasp onto the support structures and grow upright. Other plants like winter squash, melons and pumpkins also vine but because they produce such heavy fruit they require a much sturdier support structure.
Tomatoes are another favorite for a vertical garden though they don’t naturally vine. Instead, you need an additional support such as a wooden stake to support them. As the plants get taller you can then start tying the loosely around the stake. If you want a complete salad you can grow lettuce, kale and spinach in hanging baskets. At the end of the day, you can choose whatever plants you want so long as you have adequate conditions. Just make sure you keep an eye on them to catch any issues before they become a problem. One of the biggest issues for vertical gardening is keeping the plants hydrated. Since the soil is exposed to more light, it is more likely to dry out. A good layer of compost and mulch will keep the soil from drying out as will a regular watering.
Whether you simply want to increase the yield of your crops or want a piece of nature in your apartment, a vertical garden is flexible enough for any situation. Not only are you helping the environment by growing your own produce, you’ll also save money as well.