Andy Fleming writing on urban homesteading

Vertical gardens allow for the maximum possible yield in the smallest possible space, making food production possible even in an urban environment. They are cheap to build, and many designs make use of recycled materials. Everyone, from casual gardeners to hardcore survival enthusiasts can use these tips to learn how to plant one. If you don’t, you’ll just be wasting valuable space.

Pick your location: Ideally, you’ll need a south facing wall. Most plants require between four to six hours of sunlight per day and south facing walls are most likely to receive this amount. East and west facing walls will sometimes work as well, but stay away from walls that face north. Next, find the closest water source. If a small garden is all you have planned, you can plant pretty much anywhere and use a watering can or jug to keep crops moist. For anything bigger, make sure you have access to a spigot or faucet which you can attach a hose to. You don’t want to have to make five or ten trips to the kitchen sink every time your garden needs water. Depending on your climate, plants can require watering five days a week…and all the back-and-forth will become a hassle.

Choose your materials: One of the best ways to decide which materials to use for the structure of your garden is to look at what you’ve got lying around. There’s a multitude of available tutorials for building a vertical garden using recycled materials and a good chance you already have everything you need to get going. For instance, almost everyone has some empty terra cotta pots in storage. If you don’t chances are a friend or family member will. You can instantly set up a vertical garden by attaching some hex wire netting to a wall using screws or nails. Terra cotta pots can then be hung from the netting using plastic zip ties or scrap wire.

Alternatively, keep an eye out for new fences going up or old ones being torn down. You can probably get some for free. Even if you don’t have the materials sitting around, you might be using them on a daily basis. You can cut up and poke a few holes in plastic soda bottles to make hanging planters that are perfect for growing herbs. Other options include reinforcing wooden pallets – which are thrown away daily by restaurants or grocery stores – stacking bricks to grow succulents, or repurposing hanging pocket organizers. When it comes to “upcycling” materials for vertical gardening, you’re only limited by your imagination. Of course, you can also purchase wall planters,, specifically designed for this purpose, but it’s far more fun and rewarding to make your own.

Pick your plants: Most vertical gardens are somewhat shallow, so it’s a good idea to pick plants that don’t require too much room for their roots. Herbs like mint, basil, watercress, and lemon balm are perfect, along with most lettuce greens. If you’ve got a good south facing wall with plenty of sunlight, you can grow cherry tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, and aloe vera in your garden. If you’re forced to plant in an area with partial shade you can still get away with growing radishes, silverbeet (also known as chard), and smaller varieties of cabbage. You can easily beautify your vertical garden with certain flowers. Begonias, Japanese iris, and hoya all thrive in partial shade and have shallow roots. The most important thing is to grow plants and herbs you use often.

Maintain and experiment: Once you’ve got seeds or seedlings in the soil, remember to check them often. You’ll want to water your garden at least five times a week, and preferably every day (especially during hot summer weather). Keep an eye out for insects or other critters that might want to chow down on your harvest. If your crops fail, don’t give up hope. Every gardener experiences setbacks from bugs, blights, and bad luck. The only unsuccessful gardener is one who refuses to learn from their mistakes.

One last tip: Experiment with new types of plants. If a fellow gardener recommends something you’ve never heard of, give it a shot. Every type of plant you attempt to grow will expand your skillset and possibly your palette. If you’re lucky, you’ll find new favorites you didn’t know existed.

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