Failure is not an easy thing to swallow.
Sometimes it ends up destroying people’s dreams.
And for some, this could be the dream of having their own amazing garden.
It could be you. It could be me. Or it could be anyone else.
You may have been starry-eyed as you started your horizontal garden. Maybe you dreamt of growing some awesome, delicious vegetables for your family.
You were so excited that you went ahead and got a big patch of land to start your garden. You bought big packets of seeds. Heck, you may even have bought yourself a big tilling machine.
But as you started working on your garden you may have been overwhelmed with the work.
It’s not easy being a gardener, is it?
There’s the daily watering and pulling out weeds that you need to do. And God knows what horrible pests or diseases you might find on your plants.
Doing this on a large garden is no joke. And you end up doing what any sane person would do.
Maybe gardening is not for you. Maybe it’s just a fantasy. Maybe your dream is just a thought.
But you know what.
It is possible to grow your best garden. It is possible to feed delicious vegetables to your family. And it is possible to enjoy your garden without being overwhelmed.
The miraculous answer you’re seeking might just be vertical gardening.
What is vertical gardening?
Vertical gardening means you grow your plants bottom-up or top-down with some form of support.
It’s that simple.
This means your garden needs less space, less watering, less weeding, and does not suffer from pests and diseases as much.
And you know the best part?
You get a much better yield from your plants than you would with regular gardening.
What are the benefits of vertical gardening?
You don’t need a lot of garden space
We know the problem with a horizontal garden. It takes up a lot of space.
You have to grow the plants in rows with a lot of separation between them so you can move about and tend to them.
The problem is most of the water, compost, and fertilizer ends up in the wasted space. And the weeds love to grow there as well.
Vertical gardening means you just use a small portion of the soil for the roots of the plants. You just need to water, add compost and fertilizer and tend to this small area of your garden.
But what if you don’t have any space? Maybe you just have a concrete patio or balcony. Or maybe your soil in the backyard cannot be amended.
Vertical gardening can help you there as well. You can grow in tower pots that stack one on top of the other. Or you can make use of containers that have a support inside the container or just behind them.
Even if you just have a wall or a fence you can mount your containers on them and grow a spectacular vertical garden.
You won’t burn a hole in your pocket
Horizontal gardening can get expensive.
Having a large area in the garden means you either water it yourself or use a good irrigation system which can get expensive.
You might not have the best soil in your garden. So you either need to amend the soil or use a raised bed with the right amount of compost and fertilizer. And these things can tend to be quite expensive when used for a large area of the garden.
The biggest problem with a large garden is with the weeds, pests, and diseases. You may need to get some organic or chemical pesticides to get rid of these problems. And they add to the expenses as well.
Vertical gardening means you have less area of the garden to take care of. This means less fertilizer and compost, less watering, fewer weeds, pests, and diseases. And more savings in your pocket.
You do need to use supports and trellises for your vertical garden. But those can be built from a cheap material such as bamboo and willow. Or you can buy some cheap ones at your local garden center or hardware store.
You can go crazy with new plant varieties
You may think you’re limited with the plants to grow in a vertical garden.
But you would be surprised at the variety of climbing plants that you can find. Whether it’s fruits, vegetables, or flowers, you can find them all for your vertical garden.
Some examples of plants that grow well as a vine include climbing spinach, snap peas, zucchini, vining melons, sweet potato vines, spaghetti squash, and tomatoes.
You could even grow fruits like grapes, kiwifruit, blackberries and raspberries in your vertical garden.
Let me tell you a secret.
When you grow fruits and vegetables in your vertical garden, they taste better. That’s because the plants tend to have more chlorophyll. And they give a better yield as well.
Your garden has fewer problems to worry about
Gardening is hard but there are a few things that can cause a nightmare to gardeners.
Weeds, pests, and diseases are at the top of this list when it comes to horizontal gardening. And that is where vertical gardening can help you.
Since the plants are growing up, the fruits and flowers are above the ground. This means that the weeds, pests, and diseases cannot get to them easily.
Since the fruits and vegetables are above the ground they don’t rot fast and don’t attract insects and diseases. And they’re much cleaner when you harvest them.
Even if the plants do get any pests or diseases, you’ll be able to spot them quickly and eliminate them before they overwhelm the plant.
A simple spray of neem oil, insecticidal soap, or a rub with a cloth may be all that it needs to get the pests off the plant.
You get a better harvest from your garden
You know the plants in a vertical garden will climb up (or down).
The good thing about this arrangement is the plants need a less amount of soil while giving more harvest.
If you have a mounted system growing vegetables vertically against a wall you just need to give about 6 inches of space from the wall so they can grow on both sides.
This also helps in proper air circulation that can help prevent fungal diseases.
A climbing variety of beans such as pole snap beans can give much better yields throughout the season. Unlike the bush snap beans that exhaust the harvest after three weeks.
It’s easy to tend to your garden
Gardening can be hard on your back.
You need to bend to take care of the plants when you want to prune them or check them for pests and disease.
Or you need to take care of keeping the soil in the best condition for the plants by adding compost or fertilizer.
Or it might be time to pluck the weeds from the garden that are harassing your plants.
Whatever be the case it can be hard work especially if you’ve some physical limitations that cause you discomfort.
That’s where vertical gardening can help.
You just need to tend to a limited area of the soil for the plants. Since the plants are growing vertically, you can take care of the pests and diseases without bending.
The same goes for adding the fertilizer where you could use foliar feeding to feed the leaves directly with the foliar spray.
It’s also easy to harvest the fruits and vegetables from the plants that have grown to your eye and waist level.
What are the types of plants to grow in a vertical garden?
You would be surprised with the plants you can grow in a vertical garden.
These could be self-climbing plants, low-growing plants, container plants, or tall-growing plants depending on how you use them.
The plants that have a vine structure are the most suitable for vertical gardening.
Some of these plants can climb on the vertical support you provide while for others you may need to tie to the support using string or twist ties.
When you’re providing support to these plants, you need to consider the weight of the plant and fruit.
Plants like cucumber, sweet potatoes, peas, and pole beans are light and can be supported using willow branches, netting, or string. But others like melons, zucchini, spaghetti squash, watermelons, and yams will need stronger support such as branches, bamboo, or wire.
There are some plants you can grow at the base of the climbing plants in the vertical garden. These plants live comfortably with the roots, vines, and stems of the climbing plants.
Some of these plants include beets, carrots, eggplants, herbs, cabbage, lettuce, onions, and peppers.
You can grow these plants in the ground, raised beds, or containers depending on your needs.
If you don’t have much space for planting you can make use of areas like your patio, balcony, or deck.
You can plant in containers or tower pots that stack one on top of another up a central column. The structure could be a central climbing plant like pole bean and several other plants around the rim.
The plants like strawberries, sweet potatoes, and spinach could be used around the rim.
There are some strong plants you can use to support the climbing plants in your vertical garden.
These could be plants like sweet corn and okra that have a strong stem.
The climbing plants that could be used with such support plants should be lightweight and include pole beans, cucumbers, and maybe even some types of melons.
How to prepare for your vertical garden
What’s the most important part of any garden?
It’s the soil.
It helps to anchor the plants to the earth and provide them with the nutrients and water they need to grow and produce fruit.
You can improve the soil by adding compost or organic fertilizer that provides it with the required nutrients and texture.
The good thing about vertical gardening is you don’t need a lot of soil. Just a narrow strip of 1 to 2 feet with a depth of 6 to 12 inches is sufficient to grow most plants.
Preparing a site that works for your vertical garden
You can locate your vertical garden on either free-standing supports or wall-mounted supports based on your needs and availability.
The soil where you plant your seeds should drain well so that it retains enough moisture but does not drown the plants. And it should have the right balance where it’s neither too acidic nor too alkaline.
For your sun-loving plants like tomatoes and pole beans, the site should get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.
It’s good to be aware of the microclimate zones in your garden because a late spring frost can kill your tender plants.
A vertical garden against the wall of the house can help protect such plants from frost by providing them sufficient heat.
Improve the drainage of the soil
You don’t want water to collect in your planting site that could drown the plants.
To check the drainage of the soil, dig a hole that is 6 inches deep and 6 inches wide. Fill it with water and check how much time it takes to drain.
If it takes several hours to drain then you have a drainage problem. And to solve this you have three options.
You can create a raised bed with topsoil of 6 inches or more that has good drainage. You can dig into the soil and install pipes that help with the drainage but this could be expensive and time-consuming. Or you could improve the texture of the soil by adding organic material like compost but that will take some time.
Choose a site that gets good sunlight
Plants need a lot of sunlight especially warm-weather plants like tomatoes and peppers.
Most of these plants need at least 6 hours of sunlight to give the best quality fruit. And the morning and noon sunlight are the best for such plants.
If you have your vertical garden on a wall and find that the plants are not getting the right amount of sunlight, a solution could be to paint the wall white. You could even consider using mirrors to reflect the light on the plants.
Try to avoid planting a vertical garden in an area with shade. Or you could use shade-loving plants in that section of your garden.
Choose a site that has frost protection
Frost can be quite damaging to your plants especially warm-weather plants like tomatoes and peppers.
You can tour through your garden after a period of frost and check which areas are more prone to it. The areas where the frost melts faster from the sun are sun traps and good for planting.
The walls of your house that are made from stone or brick tend to reflect more heat than those made from wood or aluminum siding.
Your transplants could be affected by the frost that could occur in spring. You can protect such transplants by hardening them in a cold frame for a week before transplanting.
In an early frost, you could consider picking the fruits of plants like tomatoes and peppers and taking them indoors for ripening.
Check the pH levels of the soil
It’s best to get the soil tested for pH levels as well as other imbalances.
You could do this with a do-it-yourself kit but you get much better results if you take the help of your local Extension Service.
They will provide you with exactly what imbalances are present in the soil and the steps you can take to resolve the problem.
You will get information about the phosphorus and potassium levels in the soil and what you can do if there is a deficiency. Nitrogen is not that easy to measure because it can change quickly depending on whether there was rainfall so you may get a generic recommendation.
Prepare the soil so it’s ready for planting
Your garden soil can be made up of either clay, loam, or sand.
To know what type of soil is present in your garden, pick up a fistful of soil in your hand and press it tightly. If it forms a lump that does not crumble, its’ made up of clay. If it crumbles when you poke it, it’s loam. And if it does not form a lump but falls through your fingers, it’s sand.
The best type is loamy soil because it contains the right amount of clay, sand, and organic matter. This makes it ideal for plants because the roots can reach into the soil and get the adequate moisture and nutrients that this type of soil holds.
Clay soil is not the worst but it can cause problems for the plants because the soil becomes compact. The roots of the plants find it difficult to penetrate through the soil to get the moisture and nutrients. Such soil will also cause water to collect which can invite several pests and diseases.
The worst type of soil is sandy soil because it does not hold the moisture and nutrients for the plants. They tend to get washed away by the rain or water that reaches such soil.
The soil in your garden can be amended by adding the right amount of organic compost to it.
If you have a small garden with clay soil, you could dig it and add equal amounts of compost and sand to make it the best loamy soil for your vertical garden.
If you have a garden with sandy soil, you can keep adding compost to it to make it better. You may need to do this frequently as the soil tends to wash away the organic material quickly.
You can keep adding organic compost to the soil every growing season until you get a good improvement in the soil.
What are some structures used for vertical gardening?
Your vertical garden is vertical because of the vining plants.
And the vining plants need to either crawl or be tied to some form of vertical support.
One such type of support is a trellis that is traditionally made of wood or something more durable like metal or plastic. You could use material like bamboo canes, willow whips, tree branches, or twisted metal rods to make your trellis.
The trellis is a useful support you can use in your vertical garden. You can use it either attached to the wall or as a freestanding unit.
You can either use a store-bought one or make a cheap homemade version yourself.
If you buy one from the store and it’s made of wood, remember to keep the bottom above the soil otherwise it will rot. When the growing season is done, you can store the trellis indoors to protect it and bring it out in the next growing season.
You can make your own homemade trellis if you can grow certain types of bamboo canes and willow.
One of the best bamboo for this purpose is the yellow-groove bamboo that provides strong, straight canes. You can grow some in a part of your garden but make sure to keep this area separate as the bamboo tends to spread its roots in all directions and could overwhelm the other plants.
You could even grow this type of bamboo in a container so that the roots can be restricted to the container.
The type of bamboo cane you use depends on where you are using it. For lighter vining plants, you can use canes that are 3/4 to 1 inch wide. But for heavier vining plants, you can use canes that are 1 to 2 inch in diameter.
Another plant that is useful for making homemade trellises is the willow. They grow long, straight, and flexible so you can weave them into a trellis.
Arbors and arches
An arbor makes use of a trellis structure to provide shade for a bench, hammock, or a swing.
They generally are placed against a hedge, wall, or fence and may be used at the end of a path, or to transition between two garden spaces.
Arches also make use of a trellis and are a structure used at the entrance of a garden or to connect two garden spaces together.
You can find some inexpensive arches at the garden center that are made from wood slats or wire. These can be used for annuals like ornamental gourds. But if you want to plant aggressive vines like wisteria, these won’t do.
You will need a stronger trellis and one way to check this is to grasp it and pull down on it to see if it can withstand the weight of the heavier vines.
A canopy is something that is used in front of a doorway to provide shade. It could also be used if there is a footbridge.
It has slats and beams it can be used to grow vining plants.
The type of canopy you should use depends on the weight of the vining plants. For lighter plants like climbing roses, a wooden canopy would do. But if your plants are heavy like wisteria, it’s better to use a metal canopy.
A pergola is a series of arches that are used to connect the house to an outbuilding or a garden space. It could also be used to connect two garden spaces.
In a home garden, a pergola could be used to provide a shade over the patio.
The pergola can use trelliswork to support the vines and help them climb up.
Because they are substantial, they can support a wide range of vines including wisteria, climbing roses, and clematis.
You can create a pergola using wood, stone, or metal based on the architecture you prefer.
What are some supports you can use in the vertical garden?
Your vertical garden is quite flexible.
You can have the formal vertical garden with structures like the trellis that is free-standing or supported against a wall.
Or you could have containers, window box planters, or hanging baskets up a wall.
Whatever type of vertical garden and structure you use, your plants will need some form of support. Some plants may be heavy and need stronger support while others may be light and need a light support.
Bamboo is quite versatile when used as a support. You can use it to make trellises and towers for your vertical garden. Or you could use it just to provide support to plants like the tomato plant.
Some strong bamboo varieties include the yellow-groove bamboo and the Dragon’s Head bamboo.
You can crisscross such bamboo and hold the canes together with a screw or zip ties to create a trellis.
Bamboo also works great as a support to plants in containers because you can push it into the soil. You can put it in the container or just behind the container. If you have your containers on a hard surface like a patio, you could fix the bamboo to the container with screws.
This is something that is used in construction to hold concrete. But you can build a great trellis using such builder’s wire.
Get the sheet from a hardware store depending on how much you want to use.
If you want to create a straight trellis for growing vines like pole beans or squash, you can use bolt cutters to cut it into a rectangular shape. The place it between stands or against a wall.
If you want to use it as a support for your tomato vines, roll it into a cylinder and you’re good to go.
These are common in a lot of neighborhoods and make great support for vining plants.
They are suitable to provide support for all types of vines that are edible or ornamental as well as light or heavy.
There’s a new method of vertical gardening that makes use of plastic bags for support.
These pouches are closed at the bottom and open at the top and have planting space for the plants.
You can grow fruits, vegetables, and flowering plants in these pouches as long as they are compact. So plants like strawberries, lettuce, peppers, cherry tomatoes, and parsley are suitable for growing in such bags.
These bags are quite reusable if you wash them well between each use. When the growing season is over, you can store these bags for the next season.
These pouches have outlets to drain out the excess water. But since they are suspended in air, they lose moisture quickly. So you need to water the plants at least once a day to give them plenty of moisture.
Make sure to use potting soil or home-made compost in these gardening pouches. Don’t use garden soil because it tends to be heavy and will tear these pouches.
A unique and fun way to grow your plants is using the upside-down planters where the plant is upside-down.
You need a special planter that you can get at a garden center. The planter has to be fixed firmly to the wall so that it can hold the weight of the plant.
You need to use potting soil or compost in the planter that is lightweight and fluffy. Otherwise, the weight of the soil can bring the planter down.
Using these planters is a little bit of hard work. You need to water the plants every day using a watering can or wand. You need to add the right fertilizer to the soil every few weeks. And you need to provide the leaves with a foliar spray every few weeks to keep them healthy.
The best plants to grow in such an upside-down planter are the indeterminate varieties of tomatoes. Other plants don’t seem to grow fruit as well in this arrangement.
Garden netting is one of the best support material you can use for your vertical garden.
They are available in different lengths and widths and you can cut them based on your needs. They are made from durable plastic that can be reused every growing season.
The type of garden netting you can use depends on the type of plants you want to grow. If the plants are ornamental, a thin netting can be used that also protects your garden from animals and birds.
If you want to grow fruits and vegetables, you’ll need a garden netting with a larger mesh about 4 to 6 inches wide so that you can reach the fruits during the harvest.
When you use the garden netting you need to hang it from something sturdy and keep it taut by using metal or plastic pegs in the ground.
How long your garden netting should be depends on the type of plants you want to grow in the vertical garden. It’s best to not keep the netting longer than your reach on a small stepladder.
If you have heavy vining plants, it’s better to use builder’s wire to create the garden netting than the plastic ones that are weaker.
Make sure to provide about 12 inches of planting space on either side of the garden netting so you can grow plants on both sides.
These are one of the easiest supports you can make.
You just need to get a pair of rectangular trellises and lean them against each other to form a tent.
They’re best used for growing vining plants like cucumber, squash, and melons.
You could build one yourself if you have sufficient bamboo canes. Crisscross the canes and tie them up with the help of twist ties or twine to form a pair of trellises. Then lean them against each other.
This is an old and easy method of support used in gardening.
You place three poles together to form a tripod and tie them at the top.
The poles should be made of strong material like bamboo canes and you can tie them at the top with wire, twist ties or string.
Each pole can provide support to a vining plant such as pole beans. You can add as many poles as you want to the tepee support and grow more plants on them.
How to use containers for vertical gardening?
If you don’t have a huge garden space, container gardening can help you.
You can grow many plants in containers that could be grown in a garden. And container gardening has its advantages.
You don’t need to worry about where you need to plant and you can move the containers as you please.
Plants in containers don’t suffer from weeds. That’s because the potting soil you use in containers is sterile and does not contain weed seeds. Even if you do use some garden topsoil in the container, it’s easy to detect the weeds and pluck them out.
Container gardening also ensures that your plants are not easily affected by pests and diseases that are found in the garden soil.
There is one effort you do need with container gardening and that is frequent watering. Plants in containers tend to dry out quickly so you need to water them often. This is easy to do with a gardening wand that comes with a long nozzle to separate the foliage and water the base.
Or you could invest in a hose drip system to water the plants at the turn of a faucet and save yourself some time.
Choose the containers based on the type of plants you want to grow in them. Small plants need small containers but the larger vining ones need large containers for best production.
You need to add support for these vines in the containers or place them in the soil behind the containers. You could even attach them to the container with screws.
If you use a large container with a large plant, make sure to provide some support to the container as well so it does not topple over. A few bricks at the base or burying the container in the soil will help with this.
A dish planter is a flat, wide, and shallow container that can be used to grow vining plants as well as foundation plants.
The idea of using a dish planter is to place it high on a pedestal or the edge of a balcony so that the vining plants can drape down the sides like a curtain.
You can use a combination of foundation plants like lettuce, parsley, and cabbage along with vining plants in such a dish planter.
A window box planter is useful not only on a window sill but also in balconies, patios, and railings.
You can plant a variety of plants in them based on the size you use. Large window box planters can support vining plants like sweet peas and morning glories.
They can also support foundation plants and cascading plants that you prefer.
Hanging baskets are great to grow plants under the eaves bordering a patio.
They can help you grow flowers like nasturtiums, morning glories, petunias and fruits like cherry tomatoes, strawberries, and cucumbers with their vines lowering towards the ground.
You can use baskets made from wood, wire, or plastic.
Wood baskets provide very good insulation and prevent the soil from overheating. The same is the case for wire baskets where you need to use coco fiber or sphagnum moss to create a nest for the potting soil which provides good insulation.
The plastic baskets are the worst because of bad insulation and they also look cheap.
Pots are great for your vertical gardening because they look good and are available in a variety of sizes.
This means you can plant all kinds of vining plants and foundation plants in them.
You can get them made from clay, concrete, or metal and they can be plain or fancy.
The problem with clay pots is they are fragile so you need to be careful with them. If you live in a region that gets cold, you need to empty the pots and move them indoors in winter otherwise they will freeze and crack.
How to make compost for vertical gardening?
The most beneficial ingredient you can provide your garden soil is compost.
Compost is the rich, dark brown, organic matter that contains the essential nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in addition to micronutrients like calcium.
These are essential for providing your plants with all the necessary components for the right growth of the roots, leaves, fruits, flowers. And to keep them healthy and protect them from various diseases.
You can either buy compost from a garden center or make your own. The one you buy will be incomplete as it will be made from a single organic source. So you’ll need to mix several different types.
The best compost is the one you can make yourself by adding several different types of organic matter to the compost pile.
Different ways of making compost
You can make compost fast if you use the hot composting method.
This means you speed up the process of decomposition in the compost pile by allowing sufficient heat to build up.
To do this, you need to build the compost pile in layers of green and brown material. Green material includes things like grass clippings, kitchen waste, rotting fruit, coffee grounds. Brown material includes things like sawdust, dried leaves, wood ash.
So you could have one layer of grass clippings, one layer of sawdust, one layer of kitchen waste, then one layer of wood ash.
The best way is to have the green and brown material in a 50:50 or 25:75 ratio.
Then you need to provide sufficient air and moisture to the compost pile by turning it every few days and sprinkling some water if required.
If you don’t want to spend a lot of time making compost, you can use cold composting.
You don’t need to build your compost pile in layers. Just keep adding organic matter as you want trying to keep a 50:50 ratio for the green and brown material.
Decomposition will take place but it will be slower than hot composting and eventually, you will get rich organic compost.
If you aerate the compost pile every couple of weeks or once a month, the process will be a little faster than if you leave it to work on its own.
It’s easy, practical, and inexpensive to make your own compost bins.
It’s good to have a compost bin system where there are three compartments. One can contain finished compost, the second can contain decomposing compost, and the third can be to keep adding organic matter for starting a compost.
This way you always have the composting taking place at different stages where compost is ready and another pile is being prepared.
You can make compost bins from cinder blocks where you stack the blocks to create walls. Make sure to stack the blocks with the holes on the sides to allow air into the compost pile.
It’s good to have a 2-inch base layer of crushed stones that allows sufficient space for earthworms and other organisms to crawl through.
Another option is to use wire like chicken wire or builder’s wire to form a cylindrical compost bin.
This works great if you’re using unshredded leaves that takes time to decompose because you can keep aerating the pile with ease.
The wire bin is lightweight so all you need to do is to lift it and place it next to the compost pile. Then put the leaves back into the bin and you’ve aerated the pile without the effort of turning the entire pile.
The third option is to make your compost bin from wood pallets or slats. You could use the 2×4 wooden boards you buy, you could use tree branches, or you could use leftover wood for free from construction sites.
You need to join the wood pallets to form a box structure that can hold the compost pile. Make sure to leave enough space between the pallets so that air can circulate in the compost pile.
It’s best not to use wood at the bottom of the compost bin because wood rots with the moisture in the pile. It also makes it harder for earthworms and other organisms to reach the compost pile.
If you don’t want to do the work and don’t mind spending a little money, you can get a commercial compost bin.
These bins are available in different shapes, quality, and price based on your garden needs.
A compost tumbler is one such commercial bin that has a drum placed on two legs. With the help of the handle, you can rotate the drum frequently which speeds up the composting process.
The only problem with such compost tumblers is the small size and the quantity of compost you get.
You can get large compost bins that have four sides and a lid on top. It can help you make a large amount of compost at a time. And it’s quite inexpensive as well.
How to start your own seeds for vertical gardening?
It’s a wonderful feeling to grow a plant starting from seed till it provides fruit. And you can enjoy this feeling by starting your own seeds.
Starting seeds means you save a lot of money because you get hundreds of seeds for the price of a single transplant from a garden center.
Starting seeds can help you grow a variety of plants like climbing spinach, climbing zucchini, and vegetable spaghetti that are not easily available as transplants.
Different types of seeds
A seed is a plant embryo that contains a supply of nutrients enclosed in a skin. And when you provide it the right environment, it sprouts into a plant.
Open-pollinated seeds are produced by plants naturally when bees or wind transfer the pollen from one flower to another. It is the seed that stays true to its nature between generations.
Heirloom seeds are those that have been true to their nature longer than 50 years. They are known as heirloom because these seeds have a history behind them and are preserved by generations of farmers and families.
They may have a shorter shelf life, an older appearance, and may be susceptible to pests and diseases. But they do tend to have better flavor and quality.
Hybrid seeds are those that are produced by human intervention by the cross-pollination of plants.
This tends to produce plants that are resistant to disease and provide higher yields. But the drawback is that the seeds from such plants tend to be sterile or not remain true to their nature for the next generation.
Planting the seeds
Some plants are prone to rotting when starting from seeds so it’s better to pregerminate them.
You can moisten a thin layer of napkins and place the seeds in it. Then cover them with another moist layer of napkins.
In a few days, the seeds will sprout roots and the cotyledons. You can then plant them in the garden with the leaves poking through the soil.
Some types of seeds like those of pole beans prefer to be directly planted in the soil.
You can plant the seeds to a depth three times their size or look at the instructions on the seed packet.
If the seeds are large enough you should not have problems planting them with good space between each. But if they are very small you will have to plant several together and later thin them out.
Using potting soil
Potting soil is as important as water when you’re starting seeds.
You can get good sterile potting soil from the garden center that works for starting seeds.
If you want to save some money, you can make your own potting soil using baked garden soil and coffee grounds.
Just make sure to bake the garden soil well before use so that the harmful soil organisms are killed. You can do this by heating the garden soil in an oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes.
It’s good that you can grow seeds directly into the soil but it’s even better if you can start your seeds indoors.
This helps cut down on the growing time because you can start seeds before the growing season begins and have the transplants ready.
Make sure to harden the transplants for a few days in the garden before you move them completely into the garden. This will get them acclimatized to the weather and surroundings and prevent transplant shock.
You can get the seed-starting kit from a garden center or make your own from reusable material like cardboard milk cartons or yogurt containers.
If you’re reusing pots and containers, make sure to rinse them with bleach and water before using them to kill off the harmful organisms that could have come from the soil.
You can have the seed starting take place in three steps. The first is to grow the seeds in a small container until the leaves and roots start out. Then you can move the transplants to a transplant container. And when they are big enough in a few weeks you can move them to the garden.
It’s useful to use an electric heating pad to provide bottom heat to the seed-starting trays. This is beneficial to warm season plants that need a high temperature to grow well.
Watering the seedlings
Be gentle when watering the seedlings.
Don’t use a watering can for this because you can disrupt the soil and damage the roots of the seedlings. You should use a spray bottle to spray the soil with a fine, gentle mist.
If your seedlings are under bright lights indoors, you may have to spray them with water often to keep them from drying out.
Don’t use the water directly from the well or tap if the weather is cold because the seedlings can go into shock. Fill the water in the spray bottle and let it come to room temperature before spraying it on the soil.
Hardening off the seedlings
Seedlings need to be tough enough to withstand the temperature, light, and wind in your garden.
And it’s your job to make them tough before transplanting them to your garden.
The easiest way to do this is to gradually acclimatize them. The first day you can keep them out for 1 hour. The second day for two hours. And gradually, for the entire morning.
You could also keep them overnight in an unheated garage or shed to get them used to the surroundings.
If you don’t mind spending money, you could invest in a coldframe or make one yourself. Cover the coldframe with the lid at night and remove it during the day.
Transplanting the seedlings
It’s always good to be careful when transplanting the seedlings.
If you have warm-weather plants, it’s best to wait till the last frost date has passed so there’s no danger of damaging them. For cold-weather plants, it’s OK if you plant them a few days before the frost date in your area as they can handle it.
The planting hole should be slightly wider than the seedling container and about the same depth. Tomato plants need more depth because roots can grow from the stem.
Be careful when transplanting because the seedlings can get stressed. Turn the pot or container on the side or upside down and gently slide the seedling out. Use your hands to support the seedling.
Transplants need a lot of water so remember to water the seedlings daily.
The young seedlings are also susceptible to pests and diseases. So it’s not bad to spray them with wood ash or an insecticidal soap solution.
If you’re planting the seedlings in your vertical garden, it’s good to plant them close to the support. Then as they grow, you can tie them to the support with plant ties as necessary.
You might find it easier to buy plants at your local garden center or on the Internet to transplant in your vertical garden.
When you buy them make sure the plants are in good condition. If you find any branch damage, it’s best to prune it away.
When buying at a garden center, check the stem for any pests and diseases. If possible, take the plant out of the container and check the roots.
When transporting the plants to your home, place them carefully in the car and protect them from the sun and wind.
Dig a hole that is wide and deep enough to plant the seedling. It’s best to remove some soil from the roots so that they can grow out quickly in their new home.
Controlling pests and diseases in your vertical garden
Gardening is a hobby that can be enjoyed by everyone.
Whether you work in your garden for an hour every day or the entire day. It’s possible to grow a great garden that you want.
But where there’s a garden, there’s bound to be pests and diseases that affect plants. The important thing is to keep your eyes open for such problems and take care of them immediately before they blow up.
Vertical gardening helps you with this because the plants are growing vertically making it easy to spot such problems.
Many pest and disease problems happen because the foliage and fruit come in contact with the soil. So vertical gardening helps reduce these problems because the plants grow vertically above the soil.
It’s important to have good, friable soil for your plants as it provides the right nutrients to them. And the healthier the plants, the less chance of them suffering from pests and diseases.
The best soil you can provide them should have a good amount of organic compost. And you need to keep adding compost every growing season as it keeps reducing in the soil.
If you do find your plants are suffering from a problem, it’s time to take action. It’s best to make use of natural methods or organic pesticides if required.
If you find your plants affected by aphids or slow-moving pests, you just need to prune the affected portion of the plant and throw it in a bucket of soapy water. Or you could spray the foliage with water to shake the insects off.
You can make a homemade organic pesticide with a cup each of minced garlic and pepper, a tablespoon of coconut oil, and a gallon of water. Spray it on the plants to discourage pests from attacking them.
When you work with your vertical garden, you will become aware of the insects that are present on the plants. You need to learn to differentiate between the good and the bad ones.
You can read some books or websites to know more about them. Or you could contact your local garden center or Cooperative Extension Service to get some reference.
Using beneficial insects
Your best allies in the vertical garden are beneficial insects.
They’ll help you get rid of many pests that can cause harm to your garden. They’ll also help with pollination and enriching of organic matter in the garden. They’ll help balance the ecosystem in the garden.
Some such insects include ladybugs, parasitic wasps, assassin bugs, ground beetles, and lacewing flies.
To attract such beneficial insects to your garden, you need to provide them with food, water, and shelter.
The beneficial insects love to feast on some harmful insects that are attracted to small-flowered plants. So plant some like dill parsley, mint, and lemon balm in the garden.
You can provide them with water by placing a small container in certain areas of the garden.
These beneficial insects love to nest in compost and mulch. It’s good to place straw or leaves over the soil and the garden beds for such insects.
If you can’t seem to attract beneficial insects to your garden, you could order them from the Internet. But it’s important to understand what type of pest problems you have and what insects can help get rid of them.
You should also understand the process of storing such insects and releasing them in the garden. It’s also important to keep the balance in the garden because if the insects don’t get their food they will move away.
Using insect repellants
The advantage of vertical gardening is you need less soil compared to horizontal gardening. This means you can sterilize the soil by baking at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes. This will help kill the pests and diseases in the soil.
Use crop rotation in your garden where you don’t plant the same family of plants in the same space 2 years in a row. You can split your vertical garden into sections and keep rotating what you plant in the sections every few years.
You can use row covers that protect your plants from pests and diseases while still allowing sufficient light and water to reach the plants.
When watering the plants, make sure to water just the base of the soil instead of wetting the foliage. This will help prevent fungal diseases from infecting your plants.
If you find that nothing is working for your vertical garden, you can use commercial pest-control products. But you do need to be careful because some of these could affect all types of insects including the beneficial ones.
Maintaining your vertical garden
Once your vertical garden is in place, you need to maintain it by controlling the weeds, watering, fertilizing and pruning the plants.
Taking care of weeds in the garden
There are two types of weeds that can grow in your garden: surface-rooted and deep-rooted.
The surface-rooted weeds like crabgrass and chickweed can be easily pulled out along with their roots. And you should do this before planting in your vertical garden. You can then put them in the compost pile.
The deep-rooted weeds like dandelion and thistles are not easy to pull along with their roots. Doing so will leave some of them behind and they may regenerate.
To get rid of these weeds, you’ll need to use a good mulch. A mulch is a thick covering over the soil that will suffocate the weeds of light, air, and moisture and kill them.
You can use organic or inorganic mulch. Organic mulch includes leaves, grass clippings, wood chips, shredded bark, straw, pine needles, and sawdust. Inorganic mulch includes plastic, shredded tires, and landscape fabric.
The benefit of using organic mulch is they protect your garden from weeds as well as decompose and provide nutrients to the soil. But you do need to replenish them as they break down.
The inorganic mulch like plastic is useful to keep the heat in or out depending on the color you use. White plastic will reflect the heat and keep the soil cool. So it’s useful for cool-weather crops like lettuce and spinach. Black plastic absorbs heat and keeps the soil warm. So it’s useful for warm-weather crops like tomato, peppers, and eggplant.
Watering the plants in your vertical garden
The good news about watering the vertical garden is it conserves water.
A horizontal garden has rows of plants with wide empty spaces in between. When you water such a garden, a lot of water is wasted in these empty spaces. Which also encourages the growth of weeds.
But with a vertical garden, you have plants in a very small space which means you need to use very little water.
You can water a small garden with a two-gallon watering can by putting the water at the roots of the plants.
You could use a watering hose that consists of a long hose with pores that sweat out the water slowly providing a constant supply of water.
For a large garden, you could invest in a drip irrigation system that slowly drips water and provides a constant supply. You could even have a timer that can control when you want to provide water to the plants.
The advantage of such a slow release of water is that you only water the soil for the plants. So the other areas remain dry and discourage the growth of weeds. It also avoids washing away the nutrients from the soil that happen when a rush of water hits the soil.
Fertilizing the plants in your vertical garden
Plants need the essential nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Nitrogen helps the foliage of the plants, phosphorus helps root development, and potassium helps keep the plant healthy.
Organic compost can work great to provide the nutrients required for the plants in your vertical garden. But you do need to apply it often for vegetable plants that produce fruit like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.
If you don’t use the right amount of compost, you won’t get the expected yield from your plants or they might be late in producing fruit.
The other way is to use fertilizer in the soil or the foliage. This could be chemical or organic fertilizer.
The chemical fertilizer can act fast but it has the drawback that it could make your soil toxic after some time.
It’s better to use an organic fertilizer that provides the right nutrients to your plants without causing damage to the soil. It even improves the texture of the soil by providing organic matter.
The organic fertilizer could be available as a powder form for the soil or as a foliar spray that you can directly use on the leaves of the plants.
Pruning the plants in your vertical garden
Pruning means you trim some branches of the plants for better effect.
You may find that some branches of the plant are diseased or dead and need to be pruned.
Pruning also helps if you want to encourage better growth of the plant. The pruned sections of the plant allow more branches to grow.
The plants use a lot of energy growing new foliage. If you want to grow more fruit, pruning branches encourage the plant to use energy for that purpose.
You could also use pruning to give shape to the plants. Or to help them grow in the right direction. Sometimes plants can become heavy and snap under their own weight. It’s best to prune them and help them adjust.
You can also use pruning to improve the air circulation in the plants and prevent pests and diseases.
If the branches are thicker than 1 inch, you’ll need a good pruning saw that can help you do the work with ease.
What are some vegetables you can grow in the vertical garden?
The vertical garden works great for growing vegetables.
That’s because you can get a great harvest in a small space of the garden.
When you grow the vegetables vertically, you can maintain them with ease. They don’t suffer from pests and diseases as often. And it’s easy to harvest the vegetables when they’re grown.
You’ll be surprised by the number of vegetables that you can grow in your vertical garden.
There are several types of vining vegetable plants like climbing spinach, climbing zucchini, and climbing yam. But you can also grow small plants like lettuce and cabbage as foundation plants. You can also use support plants like okra and sweet corn in your vertical garden.
If you use a vertical stack of pots you can grow many varieties of vegetables without the need of vining plants.
Pole beans are very suitable to be a part of your vertical garden.
That’s because they grow upward in a rapid twining movement that helps it wrap around poles and trellis.
If you plant pole beans in your vertical garden, you get a yield for the entire growing season. All you need to do is keep harvesting the pods allowing new ones to grow in their place.
The beans are very flavorful because the vertical growth helps the plants collect more chlorophyll.
You do need to provide good soil and moisture to the pole bean plant to be able to provide this high and flavorful yield.
The best way to grow the pole beans is to pregerminate them with a paper towel and then plant them outdoors. If you directly plant the seeds outdoors, the plants may rot in case of cold weather.
Beets are a cold-season crop that is robust and you can grow them several weeks before the last frost date.
They prefer to be direct seeded and don’t like to be transplanted.
Beet seeds are usually clumped together and the plants will grow together. You will need to use thinning to remove the unwanted plants so that the beets can become big enough to harvest.
You can harvest the beets when they become the size of a golf ball.
Cabbage is another cold-season crop that grows well even if the weather is a little cold.
You can plant them in tower pots or as foundation plants at the base of the vining plants. It’s best to choose small cabbage plant varieties that don’t take up much space like Chinese bok choy.
You can directly plant the seeds in the soil but they grow best when you start the seeds indoors and then transplant them outside about 12 inches apart.
Carrots are a cold-season plant that grows well in tower pots or as foundation plants at the base of vining plants.
You can get them in a variety of shapes from as small as a turnip to as large as an icicle. If used in tower pots, it’s best to choose the small variety.
Carrots prefer their seeds to be directly planted in the soil. They don’t like to be transplanted with the movement of their roots.
The seeds of carrots are quite small so you need to plant several of them. But plant them just 1/4 inch into the soil and later you need to thin them about 1 inch apart.
Sweet corn is not a vining plant but it grows strong and tall. That makes it ideal as a support plant for your vining plants.
The sweet corn plant is an ideal support for vines like pole beans and winter squash.
You can have sweet corn plants that mature before the supporting vines. This will give you ripe corn cobs before you can harvest the other vegetables.
Make sure to plant the seeds at least 9 inches apart in rows that are 2.5 feet apart. Plant at least three rows as this will help the pollen to fall from the tassels onto the silks and pollinate the corn.
It’s best to provide the corn plants with plenty of water until the harvest to get the best corn possible.
Cucumbers are a plant that is suitable for a vertical garden because they tend to cling to support like trellis, netting, and poles.
They are a warm-season plant that needs to be planted well after the last frost date. You can plant the seeds directly in 1 inch of soil or transplant the seedlings.
Make sure to harden the plants in a coldframe before you can transplant. And plant at least 18 inches apart.
Some cucumber plants can have heavy fruit and it’s best to make a tent from bamboo canes and grow the cucumber plants on it.
Eggplants are warm-season plants that grow well indoors before you can transplant them in the garden.
Make sure to plant them well after the last frost date as they don’t like cold weather.
They grow well in tower pots or as supporting plants for your climbing plants. You can get different colors of eggplants like white, green, pink, purple, and black.
Make sure to provide fertile soil and plenty of sunlight if you want to get a good harvest of eggplants.
There are many kinds of herbs you can grow in your vertical garden either in tower pots or as supporting plants.
Some examples of such herbs include chives, parsley, oregano, basil, and sage.
The herbs need plenty of sun and soil that drains well. You can sow the seeds directly or grow them indoors 6 weeks before transplanting them outdoors.
Melons like cantaloupe are a great addition to your vertical garden.
They’re a vining plant that grows well in warm weather with fertile soil that drains well.
Some melons can be quite heavy weighing up to 6 pounds while others can weigh as little as 2 pounds. You may need to provide additional support to the heavy melons while the lighter ones can manage on their own.
You can plant the seeds directly in 1 inch of soil or you can grow them indoors 4 weeks before the last date of frost. You can make use of black plastic mulch so that when you plant the seeds or seedlings, the soil will remain warm in the nights for them to grow well.
Peppers are not vining plants but they work great in tower pots or as foundation plants at the base of your vining plants.
They need warm weather and good, fertile soil that drains well to give the best yield. You can make use of plastic mulch to keep the soil warm and get the best harvest from these plants.
You can plant the pepper seeds directly in 1 inch of soil about 18 inches apart or you can start seeds indoors 6 weeks before outdoor planting when frost danger has passed.
The stems of pepper plants are brittle so you need to provide them with some support like a bamboo stake. When harvesting the peppers, use a hand pruner so that you don’t damage the stems and branches.
Climbing spinach is a vining plant that grows successfully in a vertical garden and is a great substitute for regular spinach.
The vine is very resistant to heat unlike regular spinach and can grow up to 10 feet tall.
You can sow the seeds 1/2 inch in well-draining soil and gets plenty of sunlight.
You get a constant harvest of the leaves because the more you pluck, the more new leaves grow.
There are 5000 varieties of tomatoes and they are growing as people grow cross-pollinated and hybrid varieties.
Tomatoes are a warm-season plant and don’t like the frost. So remember to grow them indoors and transplant 6 weeks well after the last frost date. Make sure the plants don’t grow flowers before you transplant to protect them from transplant shock.
You can also cover the plants with bushel backets or anything that holds heat at night in case there is unexpected frost.
You can get determinate and indeterminate varieties of tomato plants. The determinate varieties are bush plants that are limited in height but tend to ripen all their fruit at once and die before the end of the growing season.
The indeterminate varieties are vining plants that can grow up to several feet but you do need to provide them with support such as a bamboo cane and tie the stem with twist ties.
You could also use a wire cylinder with a mesh that is wide enough that the tomato plants can poke out and support themselves.
What are some fruits you can grow in the vertical garden?
Growing fruits in a vertical garden gives you the same benefits as growing vegetables. You can save a lot of space and get a high yield.
Fruit trees can grow pretty big so when you choose a dwarf variety or a variety that bears fruit when young, you save a lot of space.
You can make the trees grow vertically as a tight column, high hedge, or against a wall.
Fruits like grapes, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries are suitable for growing vertically because of their pliable canes that extend long distances.
You can grow fruit trees like figs and apples that can be against a trellis or a wall. This method is known as espalier.
Blackberries grow plenty in most areas of the United States. They look similar to raspberries except they are black when ripe and include the soft, white core when you pluck them.
There are three types of blackberry varieties you can find. The trailing variety grows almost horizontally, the erect variety grows stiff, upright, while the semi-erect variety has arching canes.
All three of the blackberry varieties can be grown well in a vertical garden.
The blackberry plant is self-pollinating so you just need one plant to give you plenty of harvests. You do need to provide the plant with plenty of sunlight and fertile, well-drained soil.
When planting the trailing variety keep them 4 feet apart. The erect variety can be grown 2 feet apart. And the semi-erect variety can be kept 5 feet apart.
Figs are a hardy plant that is great to grow in a vertical garden.
Being hardy means they can bear the cold weather up to a reasonable level.
They have long, pliable branches that can be made to grow vertically and trained to roof height.
They are self-pollinating and they can produce fruit in two seasons – late spring and fall.
You can grow the fig tree vertically with the help of a fan trellis that is attached to a wall. You can secure the branches of the tree against the trellis with the help of twist ties.
If you have just place for one plant in your vertical garden, choosing grapes would not be a bad idea because of the great harvest you can get from them.
You can grow the dessert variety of grapes or the wine variety of grapes based on your choice. You should check with your local Extension Service about the types of grapes you can grow in your area.
Grapes can be grown on a pole, sprawling against a wall, pergolas, arbors, or arches. Make sure to give a good support because the foliage and fruit can get pretty heavy.
Grapes can grow in a variety of soil from clay to sand but it’s good to give the soil plenty of compost so it can retain moisture. Grapes don’t need as many nutrients as one would think and it’s best to provide them with some sort of foliar fertilizer.
The trick in getting large, good quality grapes is to prune the unwanted foliage. Keep the strongest shoot and prune away the rest.
Raspberries are great for growing in your vertical garden but you do need to take care when growing them.
They grow aggressively so you need to plant them in a sunken container or raised bed and use a trellis or garden netting to hold the canes erect.
The raspberry plant bears fruit on canes that are two years old. You can know such canes because they are brown while the young canes are green or gray-green.
Once the two-year-old canes bear fruit, you can remove them so that new canes can replace them and bear fruit.
Raspberry canes can become quite heavy so you need to provide them good support with twist ties to keep the canes vertical.
Strawberries can be grown in tower pots or hanging pots so that their runners cascade down the sides of the pot and bear fruit.
There are new strawberry plants that are of the climbing variety and a great addition to your vertical garden.
You can grow strawberry varieties that are June bearers, everbearers, and day-neutral. June bearers bear fruit in spring. Everbearers bear fruit twice a year in spring and fall. Day-neutral bear fruit several times during spring, summer, and fall.
You can grow strawberries from the old root as well as seeds. It takes about 16 weeks to grow from seed to a plant bearing fruit.
Strawberry plants prefer that you start seeds indoors, then harden the transplants, and gradually move them outdoors.
It’s time to achieve your dream.
You can grow a beautiful garden that you’re proud of.
You can grow a garden that provides fruits and vegetables for your family.
And you can grow a garden that does not suck up all of your time and energy.
No more do you have to worry about pests, diseases, and weeds ruining your garden.
Start vertical gardening and enjoy the fruit of your labor.
Because you deserve it.