Upcycled Vertical Garden Ideas that Make the Most of Small Spaces

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Small space gardening is all the rage and rightly so! It is amazing how many types of veggies you can grow in a very little space when you grow them upwards. While many plants are naturally inclined to trail – others need a little coaxing at first, but will happily comply as long as they have great soil, plenty of sunlight, enough water, and a good support system.

While you can grow an abundance of food using vertical growing systems, there is so much more to enjoy about vertical growing. Many vertical growing projects serve as attractive points of interest for patios and decks, while others are useful as living privacy screens.

Vertical vegetable gardening is any gardening space with veggies that go up rather than out. A vertical garden can be as simple as providing a trellis for vine vegetables to cling to and grow. It can also be much more complex and involved. You can even create an entire vegetable patch that grows more in the vertical space than the horizontal by using baskets, pre-made vertical beds, scrap wood, even old wooden pallets.

Vertical gardening makes it possible for anyone to grow an abundance of fresh and delicious food in a very, very small space.

You don’t have to break the bank when it comes to creating a beautiful vertical garden. There are numerous structures that you can use in a vertical garden on a budget. Here are a few to consider.

  • Bedsprings: Old bed springs make a great trellis structure for upward growth.
  • Screen door: Turn that screen door you aren’t using into a climbing structure for plants.
  • Wooden Ladders: Attach ladders to a sturdy structure and thread some wire in between for an eclectic growing structure. Alternatively, use a freestanding ladder for the center of your vertical garden.
  • Water drums: The metal cage on the outside of a water drum makes an excellent growing platform.
  • Gutters: Attach numerous gutter pieces to a fence or wall for an eye-catching vertical display.
  • Soda bottles: Create small, growing containers out of a plastic bottle and hang them from a wall or a fence. This is an excellent idea for lettuce or herbs.
  • Hanging shoe holder: You have probably seen these or maybe even have one lying around. A vertical shoe holder provides plenty of room in the shoe pockets to grow plants and can be easily attached to a wall or fence.

Large vertical gardens

For a more extensive vertical garden, and one that will support larger containers and plants, you’ll need to do some more construction work. Use something sturdy for the main support, like a wall, fence, or garden structure such as an arbor or trellis. If you’re very handy, build a frame of any size to fit whatever space you have. Attach containers and pots to your structure.

One simple idea is to create a frame using wood, metal pipes, or scrap PVC with chicken wire between vertical posts. Hang pots from the chicken wire and let vines grow up from the ground.

Tips and Tricks for Success

Creating and growing a vertical garden can be as straightforward or as complex as you want it to be. Regardless of how far you go with it, these useful tips will help you succeed.

  • Plan ahead: Even if you have a quick jolt of inspiration, avoid rushing right to the hardware store to purchase materials.
  • Plan your vertical garden: Measure the space, plan the structure, make a list of what you need, and decide on the veggies you’ll grow before you make a move to build and create anything.
  • Work with your space: Let what you already have guide the creation of your garden. If you have a sturdy fence in a sunny spot, use it. If your space is limited to a balcony or small patio, create a garden that will work in the space you have.
  • Consider the light: The majority of veggie plants like a least 6 hours of sun. When you are deciding where to locate your garden, keep this in mind. Also, consider how your new garden may throw shade on other plants you already have.
  • Keep roots cool: While the sun is important, you have to be careful that plant roots don’t get too hot. In a container, roots receive radiant heat from the sun, unlike plants in a conventional garden. If you live in a sweltering climate, it is wise to consider some afternoon shade for plants. This can be accomplished by moving plants to a shady area or erecting a shade cloth.
  • Containers matter: If using containers, remember never to plant vegetables in metal containers, they radiate too much heat. Neutral colored pots are best. Be sure that pots have plenty of drainage holes. Cover drainage holes inside the pot with a piece of mesh fabric to keep insects out. Be sure to select containers that reflect the mature size of the veggie plant. Plants that do not have enough space to mature will become rootbound and unhealthy.
  • Don’t crowd: Veggies need space to grow. Pay attention to the space distance recommended for your plants and follow this when planting. Putting too many plants in one space will result in crowding and competition for water and nutrients, which will result in stunted growth and small fruit.
  • Soil mix: When preparing for planting, it is critical to consider high-quality soil that contains a lot of organic matter. Don’t ever take soil from your garden as it could contain seeds and remnants of bacteria that might impact plants. Choose a high-quality lightweight soil mixture.
  • Water: Veggies require quite a bit of water, but not too much. Root rot and disease will set in if you overwater. To know when to water, stick your finger down into the soil to your knuckle. If it feels dry, it is time to water. Never water plants when they are in full sun. Two things happen when you water in the heat of the day. The first is that your plants will boil with the radiant heat of the day, and the second is that your watering will be entirely ineffective as most of it will evaporate. The best time to water is in the early morning hours or just after sunset.
  • Mulch: Add a one-inch layer of lightweight mulch to all vertical veggies beds or pots. This mulch serves as a protective layer – it keeps the soil and roots cool, retains moisture, and also adds a nice decorative touch.
  • Growing zone: Familiarize yourself with what grows best in your region, when to plant and what challenges you may face. There is nothing more frustrating than planting something out of season or out of your growing zone.

Are you ready to start growing up?

-Susan Patterson

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