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Don’t have space to expand your garden? Look up! Even if you have limited room in your yard—or lack a yard altogether—you can still enjoy growing beautiful plants and flowers by going vertical.

Vertical gardens are one of the hottest landscaping trends for 2017. Trellises, planting walls, and other vertical structures add interest and variety to the landscape. They are a great vehicle for creative expression as well as a practical way to solve the problem of limited space.

A vertical garden can be as complex and breathtaking as a stories-high green wall on a skyscraper to something charming, intimate, and easy like a wooden-pallet-turned-planter leaning against your garage wall. You can build a free-standing vertical garden or use an existing wall. If you are going to attempt the creation of a vertical garden yourself, you can use found objects; purchase kits; or raid your local hardware store for materials. You can even incorporate water features or create a vertical garden as a living piece of sculpture.

To prevent creative overwhelm and help you create a garden you’ll be truly happy with, keep the following principles in mind as you plan your vertical garden:

Start with a clear vision of your goals. Before you plan your vertical garden, ask yourself what you want to accomplish. Why do you want a vertical garden? Here are some reasons people grow them:

  • To beautify an ugly wall
  • To grow vegetables and/or flowers in a limited space
  • To improve the energy efficiency of a home with a structure that blocks the wind and/or sun, or creates a cooling “green wall” effect
  • To create a conversation piece
  • To build a beautiful, living privacy screen

Keeping your ultimate goals in mind as you plan will help you create a vertical garden that truly meets your needs.

Gather vertical gardening ideas. Consider how each of the following vertical gardening ideas might fit with your plans and goals:

  • Vertical container garden – Attach multiple containers to a frame or wall to create a vertical planting matrix. You can purchase identical containers for a uniform look, or utilize found objects—anything from old boots to driftwood—for whimsical appeal.
  • Hanging vertical garden – An easy but striking approach to vertical gardening is simply to hang multiple planters from a balcony, porch, pole, or even a tree.
  • Pallet garden – Discarded wooden pallets make charming, rustic upright garden planters that fit nearly anywhere.
  • Tower and pyramid planters – A number of ready-made vertical garden planters are available on the market. You can also build your own.
  • Gutter garden – One innovative idea is to attach lengths of gutter to a frame or existing wall, one above the other. Fill them with soil, add plants, and voila—instant vertical garden!
  • Trellises and arbors – Don’t forget these good, old-fashioned options. They can make lovely screens and accent pieces in your yard, and are ideal for use with edible and ornamental climbing and vining plants.

And these are just starting points!

Consider your inputs. Like any home improvement project, a vertical garden requires an investment of time, money, or both. Different approaches also require more or less creative input. Do you have more time than money, and/or enjoy a creative challenge? Consider searching for found objects you can use to build your vertical garden structure. Do you just want fast results? You might want to explore ready-made vertical gardening solutions. Or, perhaps your vision will require an investment in both materials and time. It’s a good idea to set a budget for the project before starting to build your garden. Don’t forget to budget for the plants themselves!

Don’t forget irrigation.  When planning your vertical garden, keep in mind that your plants will need regular watering. Depending on the reach, size, and frequency required, there are many ways you can accomplish this, from a simple watering can or hose to an automated smart irrigation system.  Many successful vertical gardeners swear by drip irrigation. Just be sure the water can reach all levels of your garden frequently enough to keep your plants healthy.

Choose appropriate plants. Regardless of your vertical garden’s structure, it’s critical to choose plants that will do well in that environment. When choosing plants, consider their function (edible or ornamental), appearance, and especially their requirements for sun/shade, water, and fertilizer. Keep in mind that vertical gardens usually leave plants more exposed to cold and air then traditional gardens do. Your plants may need more and/or more frequent water. It is especially important to choose healthy, robust plants and cultivars that will thrive in your local area. Your local landscape professional can help you select appropriate species and varieties, and point you towards the best growers in your area.

Place and prune your plants appropriately. One thing to watch out for in a vertical garden is that the upper levels of your garden can sometimes shade out the lower levels. Place your plants with the sun-loving ones near the top, and prune as needed to prevent undue shading. Also keep in mind that the top part of your garden will dry out more quickly, so it’s best to stick with drought –tolerant plants in the upper levels.

Beware of moisture issues.  All plants need water, and your vertical garden is no exception. But moisture can rot wood and corrode metal, and can also lead to mold growth. If you’re planting a vertical garden panel against a wall be sure you protect the wall with appropriate moisture-proofing and/or vapor barriers. It’s a very good idea to consult with a landscape professional familiar with green walls and/or indoor gardens before affixing any vertical garden structure to your home or other building.

As you can see, the sky is literally the limit when it comes to vertical gardening possibilities. Whether you’re looking for a simple, fun way to bring beauty to a small space, or want to create a crowd-stopping statement for your home or commercial property, you are sure to find a vertical garden solution to fit your needs. If your ambition doesn’t match your abilities, contact a landscape professional who can assist you bring your dreams to reality.  

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