I may receive commissions from purchases made through links in this article. But that in no way influences my opinions.Full Disclosure
Live in an apartment with a little balcony? An urban house with a tiny yard? Think you’d love to grow your own food, but just don’t have the space? Think again. While you might not have much floor space, that shouldn’t stop you getting the satisfaction and health benefits of growing your own fruit and veg. Grow up! Building a vertical garden is incredibly easy – and you get to grow loads of food in a small space. With a vertical garden, or wall of bounty, you can grow an array of produce, from herbs and salad leaves to squashes, strawberries, and beans. Just because you live in an urban environment, surrounded by masses of concrete, doesn’t mean you can’t have easy access to fresh produce. All you need to do is get a little creative, and make the most of the space you have, to get your very own green space and get a little closer to self-sufficiency.
What Can You Realistically Grow in a Vertical Garden?
Well, it largely depends on just how big your wall of bounty is. Obviously you can’t grow anything too big, or anything that requires a lot of large plants for only a small yield of produce. So grains, corn, giant pumpkins, and tall brassicas like sprouts and broccoli won’t work. Herbs for your kitchen are super easy and don’t require much space. Similarly, salad vegetables – lettuces, spinach, cucumbers (smaller trailing varieties), radishes, spring (or bunching) onions, little bell peppers, chillis, and tumbling cherry tomatoes are all excellent choices and, if you maintain them properly, will thrive in a vertical garden. You can even grow small carrots and baby beets.
Strawberries do really well, and, because of the nature of vertical gardens, the fruits tend to hang over the edge of their container, so they don’t rot or blemish in wet conditions. With a little bit of creativity, you can grow small squashes and pumpkins too, like acorn squash, patty pan squash, and sugar baby pumpkins. For squashes and pumpkins, you need trailing varieties that produce smaller fruits, and, unless you’re growing them close to the ground, you’ll have to support the fruits as they grow – pantyhose work well for gently cradling growing fruits. All you need to do is tie each end of the pantyhose securely to the vertical garden, and create a little hammock to rest the fruit in.
If you’re going for a floral extravaganza, or you want to do a little companion planting to keep your fruit and veg healthy naturally, your choices are huge. For bright color, trailing lobelia and sweet peas create fabulous curtain of color which in turn helps to attract beneficial insects, like bees, to your vertical garden. Anything with lots of color and plenty of blooms works well, particularly if they trail. You’ll attract bees to help with pollination and ladybirds and hover flies to help in the fight against pests like black fly and green fly.
If you prefer form over function, create a piece of living art. Use a mixture of succulents, bedding plants, and trailers to create a living wall of beauty.
Where Can You Build a Wall of Bounty?
Well, you can build a wall of bounty almost anywhere. But remember, before you go crazy and build vertical gardens for every spare bit of outdoor space you have, check local laws and regulations. One of the easiest places to build a wall of bounty is against an existing wall, as you can literally construct it and anchor it to the existing wall. If you have enough space and can get your frame support deep enough and sturdy enough, you can build a freestanding vertical garden and double your crop yield, by growing both sides.
How to Build a Vertical Garden
It’s really very simple. There’s any number of methods you can use. You can use old pallets with guttering, pond liner, hessian, or weed suppressant fabric mounted on them. One of the simplest methods is to get a large piece of MDF (make sure it’s been treated so it’s weather-resistant, or treat it yourself). Use staples to mount hessian or plastic pond liner pockets at regular intervals until the panel is full. Don’t go crazy with the pockets – remember to leave enough space between each for plants to reach their full height and width. And, if you’re growing tumbling or trailing plants, remember to leave plenty of space above and below. Then simply anchor it to a wall, and you’re ready to go. If you’re using something like pond liner, remember to punch small holes along the bottom of each pocket so water can drain effectively. Fill the pouches with good quality topsoil, and get planting.
As a quick alternative, you can attach chicken wire or wire mesh to the wall, then use garden wire to attach plant pots to the chicken wire. Take a look at this example:
If you fancy growing pole beans, raspberries, or anything else that climbs or grows in vines, simply build yourself a moderately deep box, at least 10 inches deep and place it against your wall. For canes, get them planted, then simply secure string horizontally across the wall, around the canes, to the canes sit between the wall and the string or wire. For beans and climbers, place wire or strong twine vertically down the wall, with one string for every plant.
Maintaining Your Vertical Garden
You obviously need to keep your plants watered – but too much water is as bad as not enough. With a vertical garden, always start watering from the top – this ensures the plants lower down don’t get drowned as the pockets above release their excess water. Ok, so you’re giving your plants plenty to drink, but they’re starting to look a little yucky – or they’re not producing as much as you’d like. Because you’re growing in pockets, not in the bare earth, your soil has a limited amount of nutrients. Therefore, on a regular basis, you’ll need to feed them with an organic fertilizer to keep them in tip-top condition and get the maximum yield. It’s also a good idea to change the soil in the pockets every 2 years.
If you have a vertical garden of your own, we’d love to see a picture.
Don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter for tips, posts, and news, right to your inbox – and your free copy of One Week to a Greener You.