When developers want to maximize land use without increasing their physical footprint, they start building upward. The same goes for gardeners.
The concept is called vertical gardening, and though it’s recently become fashionable as city dwellers rekindle their connection to nature, it’s as old as civilization itself. And all it requires is a wall.
“Vertical gardening is very popular among people who’ve downsized to a condo, a townhouse or an apartment,” says Stacey Mann, facility manager at Lima Greenhouses/Vicki’s Garden Center. “They find ways to put things up on the wall so they have space to garden.”
As an example, she points to an upright shipping pallet. It looks ordinary enough, but Mann has made small modifications like adding a wooden back and “bottoms” to form long container rows. The rows can then be filled with potting soil and a variety of plants: herbs like thyme, oregano and parsley; edible flowers like nasturtium (its pickled seeds become capers) and pansies; and decorative flowers like grasses and cyclamen. Its sturdiness and slim profile allow the pallet to be easily screw-mounted to a wall, or attached to a fence or balcony railing prior to planting.
Another one of Mann’s ideas is to use a hanging shoe rack. “You can poke a hole in the bottom of every pouch, then you put your potting soil in the pouches. And each pouch can hold a different plant. As long as you water it, it’ll grow.”
As Mann shows, a vertical garden is limited only by your creativity. In her own home garden, she uses half-planters and old mailboxes to take advantage of free wall space on her garage or shed. She also notes that you don’t really even need a wall. A whiskey barrel and a trellis make a perfect platform for climbing flowers like clematis or vining veggies such as beans.
Once you start thinking about it, you’ll be surprised at the sheer number of vessels that can be transformed into little gardens. Mann recommends perusing photos online and scouring thrift and antique stores once you’ve been inspired. If you’d rather leave the imagining to someone else, Mann says Vicki’s Garden Center offers pre-finished pallets that come ready to hang.