photo courtesy of Rebecca Sweet
By Jenny Peterson
Although vertical gardening has been a trend in recent years, there are good reasons for it to become more of a permanent shift in the way we think about how we garden. Using vertical planes obviously makes sense for those who have limited horizontal space — apartment dwellers and condo owners, for example — but even those who have large properties can benefit from new and creative ideas for taking their gardens to lofty heights.
Because many people think of vegetables and herbs as belonging in perfectly straight rows in the vegetable garden, it can be difficult to envision more creative approaches to planting them. Here are some fresh vertical gardening ideas to consider trying for yourself.
Build a trellis.
Using sturdy materials like 2 x 4’s and hardware cloth, you can fashion trellises for all of your climbing and vining edibles, making more room in the ground for vegetables and herbs that tend to bush or clump. Small pumpkins, summer squash, cucumbers, peas, and green beans will love scrambling up the trellis, and they’ll be easier to maintain and harvest when their long vines are elevated. Photo courtesy of Chris McLaughlin.
If you spend any time online, you’ll see planters made from items like cinderblocks, wooden pallets, and rain gutters. Available at home improvement stores, these make very unusual and creative vertical planters. One caveat: When planting edibles, use only new, clean cinderblocks lined with plastic (punch drainage holes into bottom), and wooden pallets that have not been chemically treated.
Hang a basket.
Dangle smaller containers like these anywhere you want a vertical splash of interest. Combine lettuces and herbs with colorful annual flowers for a planting that’s both edible and bold. Photo courtesy of Chris McLaughlin.
Plant a hayrack.
Anyone who has a balcony, deck, or porch railing can hang a hayrack planter, line it with cocoa fiber or moss, and have a little herb garden at the ready. Smaller herbs like thyme, chives, mint, and parsley are a great choice—and don’t forget to add some annuals if desired.
Invest in a “living wall planter.”
These self-watering pockets allow you to grow on virtually any vertical surface. Most are fabricated from plastic, wood, or a heavy-duty felt, and are perfect for herbs, small- to medium-sized vegetable plants, and smaller fruit bushes (such as berries). Photo courtesy of Rebecca Sweet.
Reuse a rack.
Got an old utility or shoe rack lying around? Line the shelves with moss and plant herbs and vegetables to your heart’s content! Either lean the rack against an outside wall, or mount it. Watering tip: Moss drains very quickly, and many gardeners can get frustrated trying to keep their plants properly hydrated. To avoid this, add a layer of plastic with drainage holes below the moss. Photo courtesy of Chris McLaughlin.
Shop the feed store.
Animal feed is often sold in very large, colorful plastic bags* that could almost double as works of art. Make a unique vertical planter by poking drainage holes in the bottom, cutting handles into the top for hanging, then adding potting soil and plants. It’s recycling at its best! (* If plastic begins to flake off over time, replace or keep away from water sources.) Photo courtesy of Chris McLaughlin.
Plant upside down.
You’ve seen those tomato planters on TV that grow tomatoes upside down, but for a few dollars you can make your own. Start with a new, clean 5-gallon bucket and, using a utility knife, cut a circle out of the bottom that’s just large enough to feed a small determinate tomato plant through. Add a few smaller holes for drainage, then fill the bucket with potting soil and hang it wherever there’s sun.
Jenny Peterson is a landscape and garden designer living in Austin, Texas. At her website,JPetersonGardenDesign.com, you’ll find lots more design tips and DIY projects. Jenny is also an urban farmer and vegetable gardener, and is co-author of Indoor Plant Décor: The Design Stylebook for Houseplants.