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Your Full Hands-On Guide to Vertical Gardening: Tutorial, Ideas, and Designs

Vertical gardening has become all the rage in recent years, and for good reason; as people are looking for ways to maximize limited space, either in apartments, offices, or suburban yards, vertical gardens provide a way to grow more in less space.

Whether you consider yourself to be an avid gardener already or are just starting out on your gardening adventure, container gardening has many advantages that make it a great option. Let’s look at some benefits of a vertical garden:

  • Perfect for small spaces: Since the planter stands vertically, you don’t take up precious floor space on your patio or in your home. 
  • Privacy screening: Maybe you want to create a barrier between your neighbor’s deck and your own, block an exposed window without losing all the light, or cover an unsightly utility box without losing access. Vertical gardens are a unique way to solve tricky problems.
  • Easier to maintain: Container gardening is less messy, takes less space, and increases accessibility. 
  • Improve air quality: Plants filter the air to increase oxygen levels and remove impurities from the air. When you grow plants indoors, whether in your home or office, you can make your space fresher and healthier.


How to Start a Vertical Garden

If all the benefits of a vertical garden appeal to you, consider these six factors before starting your own:

  1. Think about placement: When thinking about how to grow a vertical garden, the first consideration to decide is where you want to put it. Will the planter be indoors or outdoors? Some plants will only grow well indoors year-round depending on your location. 
  1. Think about portability: Would you like to be able to move the planter to different locations, or take it with you when you move? Or do you prefer a permanent structure?
  1. Think about plant zones: If you are planting outdoors, what plants grow well in your area? Usually, your local nursery will only sell plants suited for your area, but it is best to understand what will and won’t grow before choosing. 
  1. Think about light requirements: Does the area receive lots of sunlight or very little? If you are unsure how much light the area receives, spend a few days studying it. Most plants are labeled for either full sun, partial sun, or shade
  1. Think about commitment level: How much time can you devote to your garden? Are you looking for a simple solution or a new hobby? How easy will it be to maintain your garden in its location?
  1. Think about your goals: Do you want to grow edible plants or colorful flowers? Do you want plants that will screen an area quickly or provide an interesting feature? Do you want year-round plants or seasonal growers?

Vertical Garden Planters

Now that you have considered the basic questions, it’s time to have some fun creating the garden of your dreams. If you have spent any time searching for vertical gardening ideas, you know there are countless ways to choose, design, or build a vertical structure. If you are looking at how to build a vertical garden, here are a few favorites:

  • Gutter gardens: If you would like an inexpensive, funky display, gutters can be a fun option. Drill holes and string them together, or build a wooden frame to attach them for a more stable wall. Be sure to add drainage holes. 
  • Portable gardens: If you want to move your garden around or take it with you when you move, portable gardens are a smart choice. You can purchase pre-made freestanding gardens, or create your own from recycled materials like crates, bottles, and burlap sacks. 
  • Pallet gardens: Pallets offer a rustic look to any space. For a DIY living wall, stand a pallet on end, add a cross piece of wood to make planter boxes out of each slat, and either screw to a wall or simply prop it up on a surface. Pallets can be painted for a personal touch or left unpainted for a weathered look. 

How to Grow a Vertical Garden

Planting a vertical garden may seem daunting, but with some prep beforehand and smart plant choices, you can have a successful green wall. Let’s start with some planting basics:

  1. Start with good soil: Container gardens have limited space and limited resources, so by starting with rich, organic potting soil, you give your plants a great start at life. Note however that some plants, like succulents and some indoor plants, prefer rocky, well-draining soil. 
  1. Mix plants with the same habit: For the most successful garden, make sure the plants you choose have similar needs. That way, every plant thrives in the environment you can provide. 
  • Lighting needs: Is your garden full sun, partial sun, or shade? Choose plants that do best in the lighting available. 
  • Water needs: Some plants are heavy drinkers, while others will actually die in excess water. While most do best in moist, well-drained soil, don’t try to mix plants in the same container with different water needs. 
  • Feeding needs: Some plants are heavy feeders, while others will become leggy or under-flower with too much fertilizer. 
  • Spacing needs: An important factor in vertical gardening is the space each plant requires. Although you can plant containers more closely than in the ground if you keep the soil well-fertilized, some plants will overtake the whole planter if allowed. Choose smaller varieties or slow growers if you want to have several kinds of plants in the same box. 


Vertical Garden Ideas

There are so many ways to use a vertical garden in creative ways. Here are 5 ideas and 25 plants to try in your vertical garden. 

Vegetable Garden

For a fun edible garden the whole family can enjoy, plant your vertical garden with easy-grow vegetables and fruits that don’t require too much space:

  • Baby carrots: Baby carrots don’t require the depth of regular carrots. Plant from seed and thin seedlings for optimal growth. 
  • Lettuce: Lettuce is the perfect vertical garden plant. Many varieties will grow well into the summer, provided they do not receive too much sun. 
  • Patio tomatoes: Patio tomatoes are a variety of tomato designed for small spaces. Tomatoes can be trained to grow vertically or allowed to dangle down the side of a container. 
  • Sugar snap peas: Little ones love to pick and eat sugar snap peas. For a full experience, plant seeds with your children, watch them grow, and pick the sweet, juicy snap peas together for snacks. 
  • Strawberries: Ever-bearing strawberries will provide a couple of harvests of lovely red fruit. Perfect for vertical gardens, strawberries grow from runners that will quickly fill containers with pretty leaves and edible delights. 

Fresh Herb Garden 

Herbs can be grown indoors or outdoors for fresh, aromatic cooking. If you would like to keep the garden going year-round, place near a window indoors with easy access to the kitchen. Some best growers:

  • Basil: A mainstay in Italian cooking, basil grows best with adequate water and sunlight. Its rich smell will add another element to indoor gardening. 
  • Cilantro: Cilantro is best grown from seed in a continuous cycle for the freshest harvest. Plant in multiple pots and keep rotating for a whole year of Mexican dishes. 
  • Parsley: Parsley is a biennial plant, meaning it grows for 2 years. The first year is the best for flavor, and the second year it produces seeds. Grow as an annual for cooking. 
  • Mint: Nothing says summer like fresh mint mojitos, so why not grow some mint in your garden? Many varieties of mint are available, including Mojito mint and Chocolate mint.
  • Chives: Chives are delicious added to baked potatoes and salads. Chives grow in an upright pattern, almost like grass. For a continuous harvest, just cut what you need. 

Indoor Botanical Garden

When growing plants indoors, you have so many interesting, tropical choices. If you would like to create a masterpiece of textures and colors that also cleans your air, make a combination of any of the following:

  • Pothos: Pothos is the easiest indoor plant to grow, requiring very little care to quickly spread its large leaves in long vines over the edges of containers.
  • Orchids: For the more dedicated gardener, orchids make a statement in an indoor vertical garden. Orchids like a warm, humid environment. 
  • Spider plant: With long fronds of variegated leaves, spider plants easily grow and spread, developing baby “spiders” that dangle down from the mother plant. These can be propagated to begin new plants. 
  • Ferns: With so many good choices, there is a fern to satisfy every gardener. Explore the options and choose your favorite. 
  • Bromeliads: Bromeliads are an easy tropical plant to grow in your vertical garden. Bromeliads grow in large rosettes in a variety of colors. 

Mini-English Cottage Garden

English gardens are known for riots of color and informal planting combinations. To have a full-sun seasonal cutting garden, or to attract beneficial insects and butterflies, try:

    • Climbing roses: No English garden would be complete without climbing roses. Plant miniature roses for a petite look to match the vertical garden. 
    • Cosmos: Cosmos grow easily from seed or starts and flower dependably throughout the season. Their lacy leaves add visual interest to the garden as well. 
    • Nasturtiums: Nasturtiums require very little care to thrive, trailing over the edges of containers with masses of hot-colored flowers. Fun fact: nasturtiums are edible—add flowers to salads or pickle the green seed-heads for a caper alternative.
    • Sweet Peas: Sweet peas grow on delicate looking vines that will either trail down the edge of a planter or climb up it with tendrils. An early spring flower, sweet peas make a lovely start to the season. 
    • Pansies: One of the first flowers available in the spring, pansies will flower for most of the summer and provide a lovely mass of color, often in purples, yellows, and whites. 

    Succulent Garden

    For a low-water indoor garden, plant a variety of succulents in an interesting pattern for a major wow factor. Succulents grow in various shapes and patterns. Here are some top choices:

      • Sedum: Sedums come in many colors and shapes. Most flowers with yellow or pink blooms and spread easily to hang over the side of containers. 
      • Haworthia: Growing in distinctive rosettes of spiky leaves, haworthia is an easy-care succulent that will provide some upright growth in your planter. Try Zebra Haworthia.
      • Aloe Vera: Known for its healing properties, aloe vera develops long, thick stalks that can be used for treating sunburns. 
      • Echeveria: Also known as chenille plant, echeveria leaves are covered in a soft fuzz and often tipped with color, such as Ruby Echeveria.
      • Jade: Jade plants grow long stems covered in fat leaves. Easy to grow, jade plants have a shiny surface and bright green color. 

       How to Maintain your Vertical Garden

      You have designed, created, and planted your vertical garden. Now what? For healthier plants, plan to give your garden some basic care:

      • Water regularly: Depending on the plants’ needs, plan to water on a schedule. Some plants, like vegetables and flowers, require moist conditions and may need water daily, while others, like succulents, prefer to dry out before watering again. 
      • Fertilize with liquid fertilizer: Liquid fertilizer is applied every time you water, so it keeps the plants supplied with necessary nutrients in low doses all the time. 
      • Check for disease and insect pests: Although container gardening usually has less problems with disease and pests, they are not completely immune. Watch out for powdery mildew and aphids, two common assailants. Both can readily be managed with applications of Neem Oil or other organic topical treatments. 
      • Maintain the vertical planter: Check periodically for rot or other damage to the planter, and if possible, move to a sheltered location if not in use during winter.

      In Conclusion

      Vertical gardening is a fun, easy way to add color and life to a small outdoor space or indoor room. By first deciding what kinds of plants will thrive in the environment, you can then choose from many design options and planting combinations. Caring for your creation is a breeze, too, when you follow simple steps to maintain your vertical garden.

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