Vertical gardens have been around for centuries all though the designs were not as we know them today. Grape vines and fruit trees adorned the walls of ancient Egyptian Palaces, so living walls are certainly achievable in even the harshest of climates and quite capable of bringing our modern day residential and balcony walls to life.
Vertical gardens are great at providing privacy, a touch of nature and colour but they are also a great solution for growing those plants often thought to be restricted to a vegetable patch in the backyard such as varieties of lettuce and herbs. They take up less space, especially when room is scarce, and are wonderful at masking say an unattractive wall or dressing up an alfresco area.
You also have the added convenience of having your plants in an accessible location which makes maintenance and use easy and your chance of success at vertical gardening just about guaranteed.
Choosing Your Plants
Choosing your plants is like choosing a pet. Different plants require different amounts of care and it’s important to use plants that suit your lifestyle and the environment.
There are a wide variety of suitable plants that can be used for vertical gardening, the most common being succulents. Your other options include creepers, ferns, flowering annuals, herbs, natives and even trailing varieties like Devil’s Ivy.
Herbaceous plants are great at always looking lush than woody plants because the herbaceous kind are much more flexible in the way they fall. Woody varietals—like trees, shrubs, or vines have rigid, wooden stems, so they’ll grow parallel to the floor and stick out instead of flowing down nicely. On the other hand, herbaceous plants, like flowers and ferns, have soft, green stems, making an attractive vertical garden. Until you’re a seasoned green thumb, it’s best to opt for low-maintenance species before trying your hand at the needier varieties.
Environment of Your Vertical Garden
Although a vertical garden can be fixed to just about any indoor or outdoor wall, the chosen location of your vertical garden will be crucial to its success. Even a small yard or garden has variances in air, light, soil, and water known as micro-climates. If your vertical garden is being kept indoors then you’re looking at the micro-climate in your home.
Micro-climates are very important zones that exist within or around your home and are crucial to the success of any garden including the vertical variety. To determine various micro-climates in your home, you will need to consider these four conditions: Temperature, Patterns of light, Humidity distribution and Air circulation. These factors are not just for determining the location of your vertical garden but will also assist you in working out what plants will do well.
In general, you’ll want to group all-sun or all-shade plants, using ones that have the same rate of growth and characteristics. Let’s say for example you put one that has slow growth next to one with faster growth; the more aggressive kind is going to take over and shade out the other.
Types of Vertical Gardens
There are many different varieties of vertical gardens available, from DIY readymade systems to homemade ones incorporating and using wooden pallets from example. These do-it-yourself homemade vertical gardens are great and have the same vertical green effect of that of the commercial bought systems available.
The only difference is the set-up time, as you’ll want to grow the plants horizontally for a few weeks to let the roots establish themselves and help hold the soil in place. If you try to plant it vertically straight away, you’ll have to contend with gravity pulling your soil and plants out as the soil is less contained. A solution for those of us with the impatient gene would be to use wire mesh to prevent the contents from spilling.
My preferred option for the home vertical garden is the easy option of a container vertical garden, which means potted plants (terracotta, plastic or metal) are attached to a wall or displayed in row in a clip or slot in system. Due to the popularity with vertical walls, there are now engineered options in the market which are self-watering and have the planting depth and functionality of a container garden.
Some of the containers and systems available are modular, or better yet, individually removable so you can hang them outside for the summer and bring them indoors for the winter or even relocate the pots when the weather changes for the worst. The individual pots can easily click into the sturdy frame and like the frame itself, be oriented in a choice of directions.
Another is a “pocket” garden, featuring plants tucked into pockets made from felt or canvas which are lined for moisture retention. The pocket system is a simple and for the budget conscious gardener.
At first, your vertical garden might need more maintenance than a regular in-the-ground garden or container plant. These living walls are more compact and therefore have less soil, so they may need to be watered more often. Watering can be tricky and the bigger the living wall, the more likely you will benefit from incorporating drip irrigation.
The correct potting soil mix can also help retain the water and hold in the moisture and I would suggest incorporating peat moss in the soil mix which helps water retention. Another important factor is gravity, which pulls the water down. Plants that don’t need as much water are recommended for the top part of the vertical garden, since these plants will dry out first. Place the ones more suited for wetter conditions at the bottom of the vertical garden. You can also use a watering can as you would with containers, but you’ll want to be sure that water is being evenly distributed
Small scale vertical gardens have the advantages of no weeds and reduced ground compaction, so you won’t need to work the soil as hard. A vertical garden is pleasing to the eye and can transform a small space into a green area or oasis. Vertical gardening is also being investigated as a means for air filtration so you have the added bonus of cleaner air within or around your home. As people think of maximising their growing space to increase food production the concept of vertical garden farming is emerging as a viable alternative to traditional farming and can be the solution to growing your own produce in small urban city spaces.