Mar 272013

Summer is defined by a garden harvest – a fresh crunch of a carrot, the first pea pods sautéed in butter and lemon pepper, corn on the cob on the BBQ, juicy berries, and the list goes on.

Last summer, I opted to not set up a garden for the first time ever.  Given my very small backyard – really more of a cement patio lined by a border of grass – I reasoned that I would spend the same visiting the farmer’s market each week as I would buying soil and containers for container gardening, which is really the only style of garden my little space can accommodate.

My backyard - small, but nice and quiet.

My backyard – small, but nice and quiet.

And while I certainly enjoyed weekly outings to the farmer’s market – very little feels so “green” as a stroll through booths featuring local produce and handmade goods, I’ll admit I missed gardening.  Okay, maybe I didn’t miss weeding.  But I certainly missed the feeling of popping out my back door and picking produce for dinner.

Last winter, I stumbled across this picture, and all the pieces fell into place.  I knew I had to try this style of gardening in my itsy bitsy backyard.

vertical gardening inspiration

This style of gardening is called vertical gardening, which essentially means planting crops in a way that takes advantage of vertical space.  This comes in many forms, and it often capitalizes on the improvisational spirit of reuse/upcycling. I’ve seen vertical gardens made from clay pots hung on fences, old window sills and some chicken wire, wooden pallets leaned up against a house, etc.  Check out my gallery of vertical gardening on Pinterest to see lots of examples of vertical gardens.

Today was the day that I started the process of installing my own vertical garden.  Because I’m cheap and I live in a rental house, I wanted something simple and inexpensive. The flowers/veggies growing in the Rubbermaid container pictured above is perfect for my situation. Today, I’m going to show you how I put together my soil containers, and in a future post, I’ll talk about planting strategies.  The idea behind these posts is that anyone – even someone totally new to gardening – can follow along and grow their very own vertical garden.

You will need:

  • Containers for vertical gardening (I used 6)
  • Peat moss (1 large bag)
  • Soil (4 large bags)
  • Hose
  • Electric drill

Step 1: Survey your outdoor space for the spot that gets the most sun during the day.  This will be your ideal spot to grow veggies.

Step 2: Assemble several large containers for your vertical garden.  I used plastic Rubbermaid tubs, but you could also use galvanized buckets or  wooden barrels – anything that strikes your fancy or that you have lying around the house.

I decided on 6 containers after making a list of everything I wanted to plant.  My containers will hold: strawberries, various flowers, pea pods, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, beans, pepper, radishes, herbs, gourds, and cucumbers.

Step 3: Drill drainage holes in the bottom of your containers so that water can flow through them.  Or, if you’re lazy and don’t want to wait for your electric drill to charge, you can just stab holes into the plastic with scissors….

Step 4: Pour peat moss into one of your containers and begin the sloooow process of breaking it apart. I decided to use peat moss after consulting with my gardening expert (aka my mom) because it acts as a “filler” – it holds water, it’s cheap, and you can mix it with more expensive soil to make the soil go further.  Once the peat moss is broken apart and resembles soil, slowly add water and continue to mix until everything is moist.  Again, this takes awhile.

Step 5: Arrange containers in your yard however you want them.  Once you begin filling them with soil, they become much harder to move.

Step 6: Fill the rest of your containers 3/4 of the way full with equal parts peat moss and garden soil. Mix well so they are incorporated as opposed to two layers resting on top of each other

That’s it!  This took me a couple of hours and a little heavy lifting.  Your next steps will be planning what  goes in each container, planting your seeds, and inserting trellises into each container for vine plants.

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  3 Responses to “Vertical Gardening, Part I”

  1. Nice! It will be fun to see pictures of your garden as it progresses. There’s something about playing in the dirt that kids know intuitively. It’s good for the soul. :)

  2. I use coconut coir in place of peat moss. Either way, instead of breaking it up while it is dry, rehydrate it first in a container of water and it will fluff up and be easy to work with. That makes a huge difference!

  3. By the way, what you pictured are actually self-watering containers. What you see you at the front of each container is the overflow hole. That is how I do mine, and they have virtually no maintenance. Water is added only via a section of PVC pipe that runs down to a reservoir at the bottom of the container the and moisture is wicked up by the growing medium to the roots. It’s a combination of hydroponics and regular container gardening. There is plastic across the top of the container, which controls weeds, lets you control watering, and prevents evaporation. You can modify yours to work with that setup. Google DIY EarthBox. You will love them. =)

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