VERTICAL GARDENING: THE ULTIMATE SPACE SAVER

In a small garden, balcony or courtyard, the idea of a wall garden is appealing on many levels. Vertical gardens give you more room to grow plants, they add interest to an outdoor area and they are the perfect way to disguise a plain or unsightly wall.

With more people living in high-density areas, it’s easy to see why vertical gardening has become so popular in recent years. As green space dwindles, people are seeking new ways to bring nature into their lives without compromising precious living space. And while growing space is limited with a vertical garden, you can harvest a great deal of herbs and small vegetables from a well-positioned wall garden.

No matter how small your vertical garden is, it can have a significant impact on the health of your city. Any increase of green space in built-up areas helps to clean the air and reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect, which occurs when there aren’t enough plants to counter the amount of heat that buildings absorb. Another benefit of wall gardens is that they muffle sound, which makes them ideal for apartment living.

L to R: scotscapelivingwalls.net, Parkroyal on Pickering, Photo by Shakkai Green walls are vital for preserving the health and sustainability of cities.

L to R: scotscapelivingwalls.net, Parkroyal on Pickering, Photo by Shakkai

Green walls are vital for preserving the health and sustainability of cities.

RELATED READING: WHY WE NEED GREENER CITIES

 

Getting started with vertical gardening

The current green wall systems available for homeowners have come a long way in short amount of time. There are a number of easy-to-install systems designed to minimise water consumption and even those sold at local nurseries and hardware stores now have their own in-built irrigation systems. That’s not to say, however, that you can’t get creative and build your own wall garden.

When transforming a wall into a living, breathing part of your garden, the first thing to decide is what type of garden will suit you. Wall-mounted structures are great for the insulation of your home, but they may not suit rental properties or walls and fences that can’t support their weight. These vertical gardens are made using frames with felt pockets or a series of planter boxes that attach to the wall.

If a wall-mounted garden isn’t suitable for your space, you can still create a lush backdrop using a freestanding vertical garden or a planter box with a trellis to support vegetables or climbers such as ivy. Freestanding vertical gardens typically consist of a bracket that supports a number of stacked pots. The benefit of these is that they are portable, so you can use them to divide a space, take them with you when you move or reposition them as needed.

Larger vertical gardens in commercial buildings will need input from gardening experts and, in some cases, the building’s engineer.

Image: SmogShoppe The use of ivy between these vertical gardens hides hard surfaces to create a feeling of abundance.

Image: SmogShoppe

The use of ivy between these vertical gardens hides hard surfaces to create a feeling of abundance.

The best plants for a vertical garden

Wall gardens substantially increase the planting area at your disposal, which is an exciting prospect in small spaces The secret to successful vertical gardening is to choose plants with shallow root systems that match the conditions of the garden – consider the amount of sun the garden receives and how much room the plants have to grow.

Ornamental

  • Ferns

  • Succulents

  • Begonias

  • Bromeliads

  • Hoya

  • Cast iron plant

  • Philodendrons

Edible

  • Strawberries

  • Herbs

  • Asian greens

  • Lettuce

L to R: sortra.com, livingwallart.com, i.imgur.com Plants transform drab walls into living pieces of art.

L to R: sortra.com, livingwallart.com, i.imgur.com

Plants transform drab walls into living pieces of art.

Wall garden maintenance

While space will determine the scale of your vertical garden, so too will your commitment to maintaining it. Vertical gardens dry out even faster than pot plants, so they do need regular watering. This is where an irrigation system is handy, in order to ensure your plants are regularly getting the right amount of water.

In some instances, your vertical garden may need a waterproof membrane between it and the wall. Most freestanding systems are designed to contain water, however this is something to look into for wall-mounted gardens.

Finally, remember that growing plants in a vertical garden is much the same as growing them in pots. Over time your plants will take all of the nutrients from the soil, which means you need to be diligent with fertilising and regularly replenishing the potting mix.

RELATED READING: A GUIDE TO CONTAINER GARDENING

 

Important tips for installing a vertical garden

  • If you are using pine as the frame for your vertical garden, make sure it is marked ‘HT’, which means it is treated with heat rather than chemicals. Pine treated with chemicals can be used to grow ornamental plants, but should never be used for edible plants.

  • Ensure your system has adequate drainage.

  • Where possible, try to position your garden on a north-facing wall.

  • Think about the height of your vertical garden – if it’s too tall, you may have difficulty harvesting herbs or watering it.

  • Ensure that your wall can support the weight of the garden. If you aren’t sure, it is safest to consult a gardening professional (like us)!

  • When building your garden from scratch, you will need to secure it to the wall in stages. Planter boxes are heavy once they are filled, so you need to account for this when working out how to assemble and mount the wall garden. 

  • Vertical gardens require a lot of water, so consider installing an irrigation system to reduce maintenance.       

Related reading: Realising the value of your outdoor space