One of my friends proposed to me this idea of growing a “vertical garden” so that I could harvest my own “pesticide-free” vegetables and herbs. The vertical garden is, as the name says, a kind of garden which is usually planted in high-rise buildings where the amount of space to grow plants is rather limited.

Of course, my family could have just planted a horizontal garden on our property. But the idea stuck because so many sick people, especially my cancer patients, would want to grow their own herbs and vegetables themselves – pesticide-free! However, the lack of space can sometimes inhibit the desire to grow your own.

Not anymore with our vertical gardens. So how does one go about growing one?

Here are a few tips on how to grow your vertical vegetable garden:

Decide first on the type of garden you want

There are many options. One option is the “container-style garden” which means all your potted plants are attached to a wall or arranged in rows of planters or stacked.

The other variety is a “pocket garden” wherein the plants are inserted into pockets made of canvas or felt on a wall. Still, there is the large, vertical, wooden or plastic planter with lots of slots to grow the plants. Another kind of planter would be one that is recycled from wooden shipping pallets wherein wire mesh might be used to prevent the soil contents from spilling out.

Decide on this first before anything else.

Locating your garden

Setting the location of your garden depends on the kind of plants you’d like to grow there. If you’re planning a balcony garden, your balcony must be facing the east so that you can get enough sunlight when the sun rises in the east. Or if you’re using modular planters, you can set them up anywhere, anytime either outdoors or indoors.

Decide the kind of plants you’d like to grow

Aside from the easy-to-grow succulent plants, try growing simple herbs and vegetables, philodendrons (trailing variety of plants), native perennials (there are several in the Philippines), and ferns. Parsley, mint, tarragon, and rosemary are easy to grow since they can live off planters. I’ve had experience growing oregano and lagundi from a pot. Make sure of the flexibility of these plants to grow from a pot or slot in a vertical container.

Combine plants with the same habit

“Habit” here means the inclination of the plant to grow in either an all-sun or all-shade environment as well as having the same rate of growth. So as a rule of thumb, you don’t put a slow growth plant next to a fast growth plant because the aggressive one is going to overshadow, literally, or outstrip the other guy in terms of nutrients and space.

Start with the Basics

A special kind of Potting soil is important for growing plants in a vertical position. Usually, this should be the one which retains the water and holds in the moisture. Another consideration is that gravity tends to pull the water down.

Coarse and more lightweight materials should be chosen as potting material, such as pumice (a porous volcanic rock) or coarsely chopped coconut husk. These growing materials provide space for healthy root growth and allow for aeration and drainage.

Prepare everything before the Big Planting

If you’re growing your plants in a wooden pallet or container with panels, you might want to grow them first horizontally to make sure that they stand when the time comes that they are transferred to the vertical container.

Consider installing a Drip Irrigation System

Watering your vertical garden might be a bit tricky because gravity makes all the water go down. So I do recommend that you invest in a drip system that could either be a simple one or a more complicated, advanced set-up. You can install a water trough at the bottom of the plants to catch the water dripping off the plants when you water them.

Be prepared by keeping a few extras at hand

Keep a few extra plants in case some die while you’re starting out with your garden.

So now that you know the basics, are you prepared to start becoming a farmer for your hi-rise, vertical garden? Send in your comments.

Image by Rameshng / CC BY-SA 3.0