Have you always wanted to grow your own vegetables but thought you didn't have the space? If you can stand up, you do have the space. Vertical gardening is more than a fad; it's a space-saving convenience, a decorative wall, a way to keep tender growth safer, and a method that allows you to choose your own space and place. Vertical gardens allow for more varieties in a yard, they enable an apartment dweller with a patio to be a farmer, a cook to have his own fresh herbs and a rooftop gardener to celebrate greener pastures. Floral "living walls" can decorate the side of an old barn or garage and turn a former eyesore into a thing of beauty.
Vertical gardens have many advantages over traditional horizontal and in-the-ground gardens; there is less potential for weeds since you are starting with weed-free soil to fill the growing space; air circulates around the vertical garden more easily; vertical gardens generally take less water, maintenance and nutrients; and there is less chance for attracting soil-based pests or diseases. To begin your vertical garden all you need are seeds, soil and an imagination. Keep in mind the full growing height of flowers so that your design will not put lower varieties in the shadow of taller blooms. Some produce, like potatoes, carrots, eggplant and lettuce need slightly larger/deeper growing spaces but can easily be accommodated with proper planning. Almost all of the following suggestions will work well for a variety of herbs, produce or flowers:
Use a small A-frame ladder and containers; the containers can be either small pots or window boxes the length of a step. You can mix or match or keep the steps all the same. Don't pack soil into the containers too tightly, and allow for drainage. Use a shallow tray and mat under the ladder for an indoor garden. Place the ladder near a window (indoors) or on any flat surface (outdoors) where the plants will be exposed to light and air and have a water source. This ladder, as several other vertical bases discussed in this article, provides portability to accommodate for seasonal changes.
Normally discarded items such as old window frames, packing skids, photo frames and old dresser drawers make unique beds for vertical gardens. Pack the soil into the frame and use chicken wire or sturdy mesh to hold the dirt in place, and prop vertically and plant your seeds or already cultivated plants spaced throughout the framework. The plants will naturally seek the light. You can prop two or more frames together. Angle them and they will provide their own support for standing.
Hang burlap pouches along fencing, fill each with soil and plant your seeds for a living wall. Burlap pouches can also be hung on the side of a building like a barn, shed or garage for a wonderful and functional display. Prop a trellis into a large container for vine-growing vegetables or flowers; the vines will grow up and wind themselves around the trellis. Build a three-to-four-pole open tepee for plants that can grow upwards and will need the support. Nail empty and clean containers, such as soda bottles, coffee cans and milk cartons, to a large wooden panel. Fill each with soil (allow holes for drainage and openings large enough for plants to grow out of) and plant your seeds.
Stack varying sizes of filled planters (smallest on top) and plant seeds in the exposed soil. If you plan to grow larger produce, start with large containers for the bottom of the pyramid. Use an old barrel with several layers of holes drilled around it. Fill the barrel with fresh clean soil and plant your seeds inside the holes. You can also use a tightly wound column of chicken wire filled with dirt for a similar effect (use a heavy wooden stake to add support to the structure).
Shoe bags, spice racks, and mail sorters make ideal herb gardens in your kitchen. Line open containers with burlap before filling each with soil and planting seeds. Set these by a window for sunlight and water the plants using a small watering can with a long spout.