Tips for your first vertical garden!
If you are one among the many who find it difficult to swallow the pesticide laden vegetables and fruits day after day, here’s presenting an option where you can grow your own food and have a bit of fun too. Welcome to the savvy and space saving technique of Vertical Gardening.
What is Vertical Gardening and who is it suited for?
Vertical Gardening is the new age gardening answer for those living in concrete jungles where space, time and money are precious commodities. Vertical Gardening involves growing vegetables or plants that are trained to grow upwards instead of outwards, thereby taking up less than one-tenth of space they would have otherwise occupied.
One can be creative and the sky is truly the limit in this case. There are examples of vertical gardens that have been grown in discarded plastic bottles, wooden crates, shoe and utility hangers, old washtubs, metal trellises, hanging baskets and shelves. Any container that can effectively hold up a bit of weight, create room for water drainage and give enough room for plants to grow upwards instead of outwards is a good container for vertical gardening. In fact, any available space that you may have for gardening will be better utilized if you take full advantage of this technique.
What can you grow?
One can pick any vegetable that would typically be grown in a garden otherwise. The technique is flexible and is suited for any container-grown plant. While most gardeners prefer to grow salads/ vegetables for their own consumption, most others like growing flowering plants and small sized fruiting plants.
Plant seeds or small plants as you would normally do, taking care to install support if you’re planting climbers. Do install support at the time of planting itself else it will cause unnecessary damage to the root system and the vines. Some of the climbers that can be grown in vertical gardens are cucumbers, green beans and peas. Among the non-climbing plants one can plant capsicum (peppers), lettuce, radishes, carrots, onions, eggplant, potato, sweet potato, parsley and other herbs.
Ideally, it is recommended that you should start off your first vertical garden with your favourite vegetable as you will naturally have a tendency to nurture it a bit more. Besides, the joy of growing and consuming your beloved, home grown vegetable will encourage you to become bolder and experiment with a lot more varieties. Don’t go all out in your first vertical garden; instead start small and you won’t get beleaguered.
Ideal Spot to grow
A balcony, a small terrace area, deck, or even an empty wall, any place is fine as long as it receives a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight per day. Remember that vegetable plants do require a good amount of sunshine. In the case of shade loving plants, you’ll need to pick a spot that is not too sunny but which does receive a small amount of light at some time during the day. Leafy vegetables like lettuce, cabbage, and greens do well in these kinds of shady areas.
Ideally, choose an area where the water source is conveniently located nearby. Besides, there should be good enough air circulation around the garden (you’ll notice a much healthier crop). Do pick an ideal height from which it is convenient to harvest your bounty and remember to keep the vegetables or fruits off the ground. Not only will you keep away the creepy crawlies and pests, you’ll also prevent mold and other soil-borne diseases from reaching the leaves, roots or the fruit. If it is possible to do so, place your garden facing southwards.
What you will need to get started
Once you have picked your spot and chosen your favourite vegetable you will need to decide which container will best suit you requirement. Some people swear by grow bags placed within baskets or crates. Some others prefer hanging baskets as these are good for vines and hanging plants. Do remember that you’ll need to water the hanging baskets often.
If you’re using shoe holders / hangers, remember to use strong hooks from which you will suspend the holder. They must be strong enough to support the weight of the compost, plants and the water. Pour water into each pocket and check for holes in places where it’s not required. However, drainage holes will be required at the bottom, so if there aren’t any, make a few small holes in the slots and fill them with a good quality compost; something which can retain moisture. Peat moss, coir pith compost or any other suitable potting mix will also do. Mix in manure or fertilizer and your vertical garden is good to ‘grow’.