It’s the term on every modern gardener’s lips, but what is the vertical gardening trend and why is it useful? To help decipher this break in traditional gardening, we’ve put together a handy guide to the flexible planting system.
What is a vertical garden?
Put simply, a vertical garden is a vertical area used for growing plants and crops. Taking it one step further than a climbing plant or trellis, these gardens are often favoured in urban backyards where space is limited. A vertical garden requires a strong support system and a solid wall or surface to attach it to, and offers the chance to be even more creative with your planting. These flexible planting systems are usually soil-less and can bring natural beauty inside the home or a gorgeous green ecology to a bare wall outside. They can be small or large-scale and work especially well on a balcony or in a courtyard, though there are no real limitations with the modern green wall.
Is there more than one type?
Yes, there are a range of vertical gardens:
- The green wall – This type of garden, also known as a living wall, is a self-sufficient vertical garden structure that is attached to a wall. Vegetation roots itself to the structure and usually receives moisture by a built-in drip irrigation system, rather than from soil. A green wall usually consists of a frame, waterproof panel, irrigation system and plants. This style of vertical planting can be an expensive option.
- Pallet planter – This is more of a DIY project to upcycle a disused old pallet, but it’s still vertical and space-saving. You can either modify it to hold plants inside, or attach pots to the outside.
- Gutter garden – Reuse an old gutter system and turn it into planters fixed to a fence or wall – just don’t forget to drill a few drainage holes. Spacing the gutters evenly apart in horizontal rows looks most effective. You can also create a hanging gutter garden in this way, using steel cables to separate and hang the guttering, rather than fixing it to a solid surface.
- Hanging pots – A hanging clay pot vertical garden works especially well for balconies. Use a threaded rod and a series of flanges to space out and secure your pots before planting.
Make your own
Whilst there are a range of high tech vertical gardens and planters, there are also some fun DIY options including this easy pallet planter project to try at home.
To make a pallet planter you’ll need a few tools, namely a pallet, potting soil, your choice of plants, landscape fabric, a staple gun and brackets for mounting, if you choose to hang it. Leaning it up against a wall is also fine.
1. Prepare your pallet by removing any loose nails and sanding down any sharp spots. You can paint it with weatherproof paint if you wish.
2. Staple your landscape fabric securely around the back, sides and bottom of your pallet.
3. Lay the pallet flat on the ground and insert plants in the top of the planter to cap it. Pour your soil into each open pallet slot and pack it down tightly to stop it from falling out.
4. Plant the rest of your chosen vegetation into each open slot, you should aim for 6-10 plants per row, depending on size.
5. Once your plants are covering each opening and the soil has been compacted out of sight around them, you can then water and raise your pallet to its resting position. This is ideal for growing flowers and other non-edibles.
Why do it?
Vertical gardening is a simple yet effective solution to a lack of space. It can also bring a number of environmental benefits, including increasing oxygen, filtering pollutants and increasing biodiversity. If you’re growing any herbs or crops, then harvesting will certainly be easier from a vertical planter or green wall, whilst general plant maintenance is much simpler, as is the ability to reduce pests and disease, particularly with soil-less planters.
To introduce a vertical garden into your outdoor space you’ll need a sunny spot, empty wall space, a strong surface for mounting and the correct mounting height to ensure maintenance and watering is easy.
You’ll also need to consider the type of plants you want to grow, as not everything will be suitable. Ferns, geraniums, verbena, nasturtiums, succulents and a range of herbs and salad plants are all a good choice.
· Ideal space-saver – Vertical or hanging gardens take up very little space, perfect if you only have a balcony or small yard to work with.
· The sky’s the limit – Available in almost any shape, size and colour; a vertical garden, living wall or hanging planter can be made to measure to suit any space or style.
· Works indoors – This style of gardening isn’t just for outside, living walls and hanging pots also look good inside the home.
· Gardening made easy – No matter what type of vertical gardening you choose, it will be easier than tending to a regular backyard. Less pruning, easy watering and harvesting, and fewer pests to contend with, especially with a soil-less or indoor living wall.
· Attractive – One of the biggest selling points for a vertical garden besides being a space-saver is its appearance. You can really release your creative side and turn plants into a work of art.
· You’ll need a solid structure – Vertical gardens require a solid wall surface to hang from like brick. Fencing is likely too weak.
· Expense – Some green walls require expensive built-in irrigation systems that can take gardening from thrifty to pricey very quickly.
· Damp – It’s important to choose your mounting surface wisely as green walls without an irrigation system will need watering by hand or hose, and can cause the surface behind to become damp on a regular basis. Brick should be fine but other painted or porous surfaces could weaken.
· Be careful of chemicals – The ever-popular pallet planter is a great idea for recycling, however, it might not be suitable for growing edibles as some industrial pallets contain chemicals in the wood which can seep into the soil and affect the herbs or veggies you plan on growing and eating.
· There are limits – Not every plant is suited to growing in these confined vertical conditions, so some research and compromise on what you grow is necessary.