Vertical gardening is ideal for gardening in the urban city areas, apartments with balcony, and they are easily accessible for gardeners with disability or elderly gardeners for ease of enjoying their hobby.
Do you live in the city? Are you confined to an apartment dwelling with little space for gardening? Do you want to grow a vegetable garden, but feel you don’t have the room? If so, then I have news for you. While limited spaces of a city life can be frustrating for the urban gardener, growing a vegetable garden is anything but impossible. In fact, with a little planning and imagination, vegetable gardens can be grown anywhere, regardless of space.
Consider growing a vertical vegetable garden. You can easily produce the same amount of fresh vegetables without taking up excess space. A vertical vegetable garden is easy to create. You can create one using shelves, hanging baskets, or trellises.
The first step is to determine what the conditions are like in the area you wish to place the vegetable garden, such as on the balcony. The amount of sunlight will be the greatest factor in determining which plants will thrive in your urban environment. For instance, if you live in an area surrounded by other buildings, balcony or patio may be shaded most of the time; therefore, you should choose your plants accordingly. Leafy vegetables like lettuce, cabbage, and greens do well with limited sunlight, making good choices for shady areas.
If you are blessed with an abundance of sunshine, your selection of plants will be greater, as vegetables thrive best in full sun. Choices here can include tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, beans, carrots, and radishes. Even vine crops, such as squash, pumpkins, and cucumbers can be grown as long as the container is deep enough to accommodate them and proper staking is available.
Fill containers with peat moss and a suitable potting mix amended with compost or manure.
Almost any vegetable that can be grown in a garden will also work well as a container-grown plant. Nearly any type of container can be used for growing vegetable plants. Old washtubs, wooden crates, gallon-sized coffee cans, and even five-gallon buckets can be implemented for growing crops as long as they provide adequate drainage.
Since most vegetables can be easily grown in containers, shelves offer the benefit of growing numerous types of vegetables on each shelf as high up as you can reach or space allows. You can position the vertical vegetable garden so that all of the plants receive adequate amounts of sunlight at the same time.
Although any type of shelving may be used, the best type is the kind with slats. This will allow better air circulation and during watering intervals, the excess water on the top shelves will trickle down to the bottom ones. If shelves are not for you, containers can also be situated on tiers, forming a vertical appearance as well. Alternatively, vegetables can also be grown in hanging baskets or along trellises.
Hanging baskets can be placed on the balcony or on suitable hangers. Numerous types of vegetables can be grown in hanging baskets, especially those with trailing characteristics. Peppers and cherry tomatoes not only look good in hanging baskets, as do trailing plants such as the sweet potato vine, but they also thrive nicely in them. Keep them watered daily, however, since hanging baskets are more prone to drying out, especially during hot spells.
Trellises can be used for the support of trailing or vine crops. A fence can also serve as a trellis for beans, peas, tomatoes, and vine crops.
Using corn stalks or sunflowers is another great way to take advantage of vertical space while making interesting pole supports for beans and other climbing vegetables. Use a stepladder as a makeshift trellis to support vine-growing plants like pumpkins, squash, and cucumbers. The rungs of the ladder can be used to train the vines while placing the vegetables on its steps for further support—this also works well with tomato plants.
Be creative and find something that works for you and your unique situation. Growing a vertical vegetable garden is the perfect way for urban gardeners and others to still enjoy a bountiful harvest of freshly grown vegetables without taking up their already limited space.
Fruit and foliage diseases are often reduced when vegetables are grown vertically. Air circulation is increased so fruit and foliage dry off faster after a rain or irrigation. Fruit does not lie on the soil surface, which reduces some fruit rot problems and damage from some pests that live in the mulch and soil surface.
Trellises are the most common way to garden vertically. Livestock panels are a good choice for trellis material. They are very durable, lasting virtually forever, and can be cut into sections with a bolt cutter, making them easier to handle. They store neatly against a fence or behind an outbuilding and are rigid enough to carry a heavy load with very few support posts.
Wire mesh fencing is another good trellis material. Mesh fence wire makes a lightweight trellis but may require wood or metal posts every 6 to 8 feet to provide support. Tomato cages are not just for tomatoes. They make excellent supports for a crop of cucumbers or pole beans, or a Malabar spinach vine. Provide a stake to anchor them or a wind will turn your vertical garden horizontal.
Lattice panels make a very attractive trellis material. They are well suited for decks, balconies or other areas near the home where appearance is more important. The main drawbacks to lattice panels are their higher initial expense, the tendency for the lattice to partially shade vegetables for half of the day when oriented north and south, and the fact that you cannot reach through the trellis to harvest veggies.
I love the appearance and durability of natural plant materials for trellis construction. Saplings and branches from young trees make a superb choice for constructing a long lasting trellis that blends into the garden well. Bamboo poles are another great trellis material especially when wired into a diagonal crosshatch pattern. However, almost any readily available material can be used.
Some gardeners prefer to use heavy twine to make a temporary trellis. Sections of twine can be dropped from a horizontal overhead support or woven into a diagonal crosshatch pattern, tying them off tightly to nails or boards. At the end of the year, the twine can be discarded along with any intertwined vine growth. If you use natural fiber twine, such as jute, it can be included in the compost pile.
Do not forget those structures you already have in the landscape that may make a good trellis support. Nothing hides a chain link fence better that a crop of pole beans, cucumbers or other vining cucurbits. That balcony railing outside your apartment or townhouse is just yearning for something to grow on it. The porch posts or ornate metalwork eave supports are also a great plant support.
You can also use old mini blinds. Just remove every other slat, attach the mini blind to the bottom of your porch railing. If you have an old crib sitting around collecting dust, take the side rails off and you can use them as a make shift trellis. Old ladders work quite well also.
Where To Place Trellises
Keep in mind that sun exposure is important for good vegetable production. Locate your trellis where the foliage will receive good sunlight, but without shading other areas of the garden. A back fence or the north side of the garden works well.
Remember too that vertical gardening can go up or down. For example, an apartment dweller might grow a crop of sweet potatoes in a large balcony container, allowing the vines to hang down over the ledge in a curtain of attractive foliage. Just make sure the pot is secured by a railing or tied to a post or a strong wind could bring on a disaster. Tomatoes can also be allowed to cascade down from a container.
Some creative gardeners have used a tall stump in the middle of the yard as a support for a large container of cascading veggies or used large hanging baskets to grow vegetables above a turf area or on a sunny porch. Garden centers sell attractive pot hangers from which a terra cotta pot can be hung from a post, wall or fence. It is not difficult to imagine a multi-tiered garden of radishes, kohlrabi, lettuce or other small greens using these hangers.
Some Final Thoughts
When considering crops for vertical gardening, do not neglect the large-fruited squashes and melons. The weight of these fruits can pull the vines off of a trellis or cause the fruit to break off, but this can be easily remedied by a simple support.
Cut old hosiery into sections about 8 to 12 inches long and tie a knot into one end. When fruits are about the size of a baseball, slip the fruit into a section of hosiery and attach to the trellis about 6 to 8 inches above the fruit. It is a good idea to tie it so that the fruit is lifted a little higher than it was originally hanging since it will drop down much lower as it grows in size and weight.
Sections of mesh bags or burlap can also be used to form “hammocks” for this same purpose. These have the advantage of not sagging as much under the weight of heavy fruit. With a little creativity, you can have a wall of watermelon or cantaloupe alongside a deck, pool or Jacuzzi.
Vertical gardening allows us to get the most out of our gardening space. So take advantage of the space below a vertical trellis. Plant a row of lettuce on the south side of a trellis of climbing cool-season peas. Use the space near the base of a pole bean or cucumber row to grow some bush squash, peppers or Swiss chard.
Give some vertical gardening a try this season. Even gardeners with room to roam will find it worthwhile – saving the ol’ back, reducing diseases and creating some great conversation pieces around your home landscape.
- Vertical gardening can provide privacy and a disguise from unattractive views.
- Vertical gardening provides excellent air circulation for the plants.
- Certain pests are not vertical crawlers and you may be able to prevent some pests from being a problem.
- You can build a vertical garden space as a shaded area.
- Many plants can be trained to climb vertical structures.
- You can grow more plants with little space. Many plants that require cooler temps and some shade, can be planted underneath the arch of the vining plants.
- Plants can be within reach for an individual with limitations who is unable to garden in a traditional way.
Many materials used for vertical gardening can be used in ground-level gardening or raised beds, such as trellises and stakes. If you are not steady on your feet, be careful about using plant stakes as you may easily trip and fall.
Plants which are grown vertically need more frequent watering, but can be remedied by using mulch at the base of the plant.