How to Set Up a Vertical Garden?- Optimize the Space in Your Garden

Translated by Nick R

In our previous blog about outdoor plants, I mentioned some types of gardens in which you can grow your plants. This time, I want to talk in more detail about one of them, the vertical garden.

This garden is one of the most attractive options for its easy construction, its benefits, and the little space it takes up. The latter is extremely valuable since you don’t always count on a sufficiently wide area.

Would you like to embellish the wall of your terrace or balcony by using this garden?

Well, here I’ll explain what a vertical garden is, its benefits, the different types, the materials you can use to build it, and how to do it. And finally, I’ll mention some of the plants that go well in these gardens.

What are vertical gardens? 

A vertical garden is also known as a green wall. It consists of a vertical facility in which you can grow different types of plants. It can be placed both inside and outside the home.

There are several ways to build one, either with pallets, plastic bottles, felt bags, on a wall, or, even hydroponic.

It provides huge benefits for the environment since it makes the air purer, and for you as you’ll have at hand edible plants available.

However, you must consider a couple of aspects so that your garden can be perfect and the plants are not affected.

Location 

As you already know, each plant has specific requirements for light, temperature, humidity, watering, substrates and so on. This is why you should know clearly what types of plants you want to plant. It’ll be easier for you to place the vertical garden if so.

Some plants, such as roses or bougainvilleas like direct sunlight and are resistant to it, so it’ll be convenient to keep the garden on sunny and warm terraces.

Other plants, such as hydrangeas, do very well in semi-shade. You can place the garden in a space where the plants receive partial light, either the first light in the morning or the last light in the afternoon. Preferably, avoid direct midday light, as it can burn young plants.

Finally, we have those plants that prefer shade, such as the hybrid variety of tuberous begonias. You have the possibility of fitting that shady patio or the inside of your house for a vertical garden.

Keep in mind the proper temperature and ventilation for the garden. The walls store heat and then expel it; this process is beneficial for the plants, as long as it is not in excess.

Ventilation is also essential for plants as it can prevent the spread of pests such as aphids or mildew. However, rough drafts or thunderstorms can cause a lot of stress to the plant. Keep the fresh air regulated so that the plants stay undisturbed.

Substrate and watering 

Each plant requires a specific type of substrate for its proper development and growth. This can be rich in nutrients, fertile, light, and guarantee good drainage, aeration, and humidity, etc. For this reason, it’s essential to know what type of substrate works best for what you have in your vertical garden.

Apart from the substrate, some plants benefit from fertilizer or compost. Don’t shy away from using it in your vertical garden. You can use liquid fertilizer, sold in nurseries, and add it with the water or fertilizer pellets.

Once you have clear what plant you’re planting, the location and the substrate, you’ll focus on watering. This also varies from plant to plant and according to the local climate.

In hot days you may need to water the plants at least twice a day, and on colder or rainy days, the frequency will be much less. Additionally, you can employ the drip irrigation system or the manual system with a hose or watering can.

A tip that will help you to know whether your plants need water or not is to check with your finger. Just carefully dip your finger 1 cm into the soil to identify if it is wet or dry. Avoid waterlogging and long periods of drought as not all plants can withstand them.        

Care 

It’s not just a matter of planting plants in a vertical garden and letting them take care of themselves. It’s necessary to always keep an eye on them, in case they lack water or need a little more or less light, fertilizer, and so on.

You need to check if the plants need pruning, or transplanting, if it needs you to remove the withered leaves or if they’re being attacked by pests and diseases. In the latter case, you can employ homemade insecticides to remove those annoying visitors and protect the plants.

It’s also imperative that you inspect the garden structure, the irrigation system (if you have one), the pots and the ropes that hold them, as well as all those garden elements. This way, you make sure that everything is going well or, if there is any inconvenience, you can give a prompt solution.

Benefits of vertical gardens 

As I mentioned at the beginning, vertical gardens offer a number of benefits for both the environment in which they’re located and for you. Next, I’ll tell you about them.

  • They regulate the environment’s temperature, indoors or outdoors.
  • They retain dust, CO2, and other pollutants from outside.
  • They absorb sound waves and minimize noise.
  • You can save money on heating and air conditioning with these gardens.
  • They can absorb rainwater and then return it to its natural cycle.
  • You may grow aromatic plants, fruits such as strawberries, and vegetables such as lettuce, among others.
  • You can optimize space if you don’t have a large area for your plants.
  • They increase the feeling of wellness because an environment with plants helps to lower stress levels and promotes relaxation.
  • They help increase productivity due to the positive effects of plants on people.

Types of vertical gardens 

Vertical gardens are not only those we see on house or building facades, forming a green wall style and in bags. They’re found in other presentations as well.

Garden of contained earth 

It’s the most common since it consists of using elements such as pots, plastic bottles, or pallets with soil. In these, the plant is sown, which can take the necessary nutrients from the substrate that you have used.

Taken from Pinterest
Taken from Pinterest

Hydroponic garden 

In this type of garden, plants are placed in a tubular structure, which can be made of PVC. Here the roots are attached and the plant’s nutrients are supplied by water.

The water is supplied into the tubes by a pump and for as long as it’s needed. Then it’s collected to be reused because it still contains the nutrients, and in this way, the resource is not wasted.  

Taken from Pinterest
Taken from Pinterest

Wall garden or pergola 

It’s one whose plants are planted in the ground or in a pot, and its branches attach to vertical elements: an example of these is climbing plants or vines. This creates a green wall that provides all the benefits I mentioned before. The best thing is that they only require watering where their roots are located.

Taken from Pinterest
Taken from Pinterest

Materials and construction of vertical gardens 

You can build your vertical gardens with different materials, and here I’ll tell you about them and how you can build your garden.

Vertical garden with wooden pallets 

The use of pallets in gardening has gained a lot of popularity in recent years as it provides a rustic and eye-catching touch to the garden. The European pallet is used because it’s easier to handle given its weight of 22kg and its measures of 120 x 80 x 14.5 cm.

A great advantage is that these pallets are free of potentially pollutant substances, which makes them perfect for growing herbs and vegetables, for instance. The pallets contain between 78 and 81 specialized nails, which consist of rounded edges that don’t cause any injuries and ensure the structure’s stability.

How can you get the pallets? 

These pallets can be bought new or already used; my recommendation is to buy them used but in good condition. They could be expensive if you get them new.

You can find used pallets in construction sites, building sites, and other places of this kind. If you’re lucky, you can buy them for a fair price or even they can be given to you as a gift.

It’s fundamental to adapt the pallets for plants or pots.

Once you have the pallet, you must decide if use it to hang the pots there or to plant the plants directly. If you decide to hang pots, you must first apply a protective varnish for wood or lacquer. This way, you can preserve the wood for longer with its spectacular look.

After applying the varnish, let it dry for 1 or 2 hours, and while you wait, you can clean the items you want to hang on the pallet. Feel free to use any container you want to grow your plants in. It just has to be outdoor resistant (if applicable), have holes for drainage, and be suitable for the plant.

How to secure the pallet? 

To attach the pallet, you can tie a strong chain around the railing of your balcony, if that’s where you want to place it, and the pallet and tighten it with a screw and a nut. If you wish, you can also hang it to the wall with some resistant supports or put some kind of legs to the base.

If you prefer to sow the plants directly on the pallet, you can do it at the bottom, in other words, at the base of the pallet. Place the pallet vertically with the lower side towards you, as this is where you’ll be working.

Then, below and on the sides of the 3 sections where the legs are located, you’ll screw 3 planks. This is to form a kind of drawer in which you’ll sow the plants.

You cover the wood of the pallet with plastic (polyethylene or polypropylene) to protect the wood so that it lasts longer. Then add a layer of expanded clay or arlite to help with water draining, and the substrate for the plants you’re planting.

Don’t forget the drainage holes in both the plastic and the planks. You can anchor the pallet to your wall or fix it with legs to keep it at floor level. It all depends on your taste and space.

The size of these pallets can vary, so don’t worry if you find one that is larger or smaller than the standard sizes. They’ll work the same way, only their capacity will change.

Vertical garden with recycled material 

Nowadays, we’re a little more aware of the consequences of discarding countless polluting products. We know that many materials have the option of being reused.

And an excellent option is to use them again to create pots in which we can plant our plants. Plastic bottles, tetra packs, pots that are no longer used at home, and even old clothes can work for this purpose.

The best thing is that they can also be used to create vertical gardens. These containers can be hung with hard chains or ropes or attached to anchored hooks on the wall, inside the pallets drawers, in the corners of the stairs, or on the ladders.

At this point, you can let your imagination fly and arrange these containers as you wish. Keep in mind what conditions your plant needs and the environment the container will be exposed to.

You can cut the plastic bottles in half and use both parts, or you can also cut one side of the bottle and leave the rest complete. Tetrapak bottles can be cut off only at one end or one of the edges.

It’s not difficult at all to adjust these containers to give them a second use, therefore helping to avoid polluting the environment. In addition, your garden will look stunning.

Taken from Pinterest

Vertical garden with bags 

For this garden, you can use different fabric materials that will do the job as bags. There is also the option of buying them in nurseries since they already have the necessary conditions for the plants.

However, you can always create the bags yourself. Geotextile, a waterproof and flexible fabric, garden canvas, or felt can be used. Take a piece of fabric, fold it in half, leaving a little room for the strings, and sew the ends together.

The backside can be a little wider than the front side. This way, the bag will be better adapted to the plants. Once you have the seam ready, you may proceed to make the drainage holes and hang the bags. Ropes or an anchored structure to the wall will work.

Once the bags are in place, you’ll add the appropriate substrate for the plants you want to plant there. Keep in mind the requirements of these plants, watering, light, substrate, pruning, and so on. This way, you can guarantee their correct development in the bags.

These bags can be placed inside or outside your house, either on the walls or on the balcony railings. You can have one row of bags or several tiers. The style and material will depend on your taste and the needs of the plants.

Taken from Pinterest

Hydroponic garden 

The first thing to consider for the construction of this garden is the location where it’ll go. It must be a resistant wall and be protected against humidity.

You’ll create the starting base that will support the hydroponic installation with the help of a frame. And provide a distance of at least 10 cm from the wall.

The dimensions will depend on how big or small you want your garden to be. It’s crucial to have a pump that takes the water with the nutrients from a reservoir and transports it through the pipes where the plants’ roots are located.

The drip irrigation mechanism is used to supply all the plants evenly and not waste water resources. At the other end of the system, you must place a drain to collect the excess water with the nutrients that weren’t absorbed. It needs filtering to prevent the irrigation system from becoming clogged or damaged.

The roots of the plants in the system should not be very long, and they need to be able to develop in an inert material such as felt or perlite. The water and nutrients are absorbed through this material.

They don’t have to be exclusively water plants; in these gardens, you can have lettuce, spinach, mint, celery, lavender, valerian, and others.

In addition, you must give them the care they need. It’s not about letting the system take over the whole process.

7 plants that you can sow in vertical gardens

PlantCharacteristics
Carnations Description: it blooms from May to August. It’s a perennial and aromatic plant. 
Maintenance: they’re easy to care for,  they don’t require fertilizers and watering should not be very constant if not required. It needs a permeable substrate with proper drainage. 
Location: They can be placed on top of walls and in sunny areas.
Echeveria Description: it has rosette-shaped leaves and orange-yellow flowers. It’s a perennial plant. 
Maintenance: they don’t need constant watering as they’re succulents. They can be kept in perfect conditions indoors. The substrate must be permeable.
Location: They should receive good sunlight.
Welsh onion Sowing: they should be sown outdoors in March and transplanted 4 weeks later. They’re annual plants.
Maintenance: it’s important to remove excess onions so that the new ones have enough space to develop. They require fertilizer, watering and plenty of sunlight.
Harvest: can be harvested from May to October for consumption.
Chard Sowing: they can be sown from March to April in open field. Then they should be transplanted into pots 15 cm deep. It’s an annual plant.
Maintenance: it should be fertilized several times, watered as needed and placed under strong sunlight.
Harvest: harvesting is done from May to November. It’s best to harvest the leaves from the outside to the inside, only 1/3 so that they grow back.  
Nasturtium Sowing: they can be sown outdoors from May to June. In April they can be grown indoors. 
Maintenance: you can place them in sunny or semi-shaded areas. They require fertilization. They’re annual plants, climbers and watering will be when they require it. 
Harvest: you can eat the flowers. Their seeds can replace the capers.
Red raspberry Sowing: autumn varieties should be sown in September and October. The summer ones, in May. The soil should be rich in humus and mulch. 
Maintenance: plant it in large pots and water it constantly. They need fertilizer annually and pruning to remove old shoots. It’s a perennial plant and requires plenty of sunlight.
Harvest: depending on the variety, it’s harvested from summer to autumn.
Strawberry Sowing: garden varieties are sown in August and wild varieties in April and May. They need fertilized soil and can be placed in semi-shade or direct sunlight. 
Maintenance: abundant watering, and pruning to remove old leaves and fruits. It’s a perennial and aromatic plant.
Harvest: can be harvested in autumn.

We’re now at the end of this blog about vertical gardens. I hope you have found helpful information and that you start creating your own garden. No matter what type of garden or material you choose, what matters most is that you know your plant’s needs.

Do not wait any longer to have this wonderful vertical garden. You already know all the benefits it brings and how easy it is to build one. Hands to work!
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