Many vegetables have deep root systems that aren’t suited for vertical planting, but leafy greens and herbs grow well. Find seeds at local seed banks, at the farmers’ market or from your own organic produce.
The best plants for this kind of garden are those that climb – like pole beans, sweet peas and vining tomatoes – or that can be trained to grow up supports, such as trellises, arbors, pergolas, posts or gazebos.
Trellis or Fence
A trellis or fence serves as an ideal foundation for a vertical garden. A trellis can be built from materials found around the yard, such as bamboo poles (look for them in a local stand or pick up some at your hardware store) and old window screens, or it can be constructed out of repurposed items like a piece of scrap wood, an A-frame, a sturdy tree branch or even cattle panel fencing.
Vegetables that benefit from a vertical garden include beans, squash, cucumbers and tomatoes. To ensure that the plants will grow well, be sure to choose varieties with a vining growth habit, not bush types.
Companion planting also works well for vertical gardens, with quicker-growing crops like radishes and lettuce planted beneath taller vegetables to avoid competing for sunlight. Herbs and annual flowers like geraniums, petunias and nasturtiums add beauty and bursts of color to the vertical garden, too. Succulents are also ideal for a vertical setup because of their water-storing abilities and low maintenance requirements.
Hanging Pots or Sleeve Garden Systems
Growing a variety of plants in hanging containers allows you to use vertical surfaces like walls and fences that may not be suitable for traditional gardening. You can even use repurposed items, such as a ladder or a recycled planter box.
Herbs and other leafy greens grow well in this type of container, as do flowering plants like geraniums and nasturtiums. Vegetables, such as beans and peas, are also ideal for this setup. Cucumbers, squash and other vine-producing vegetables can be grown this way, too.
If you have a tall, sturdy garden wall, you can create a full vertical garden by using pots or other creative containers such as mason jars and small tin pails. Many of these systems include spaces for soilless potting mix, so other types of plants can be grown, too. It’s important to water these systems more frequently, since the potting mix can dry out more quickly than conventional garden soil. A watering wand helps, and grouping plants with similar watering needs together can make this chore easier.
Train Plants Up Trellises
The traditional garden trellis can make an ideal vertical gardening structure for many different vegetables and herbs. Trailing plants, like ivy and ferns, also work well to fill in gaps and add visual interest.
A little forward planning is key to a successful vertical garden. Plants on a wall drenched in sun, for example, will require a selection of drought-tolerant species, while a shaded spot may need a mix of shade lovers like ferns.
Since some of the plants in a vertical garden may be out of reach for regular watering, consider a drip irrigation system. The system pumps a nutrient solution up to the plants and uses gravity to distribute the solution throughout the garden. If you’re working with a trellis or another type of vertical garden that will be permanently installed, it’s important to choose sturdy materials, but also consider constructing the structures from lightweight materials that can be easily shifted around and disassembled when needed.
Vertical Planter Boxes
Vertical planters can make the most of limited garden space, whether you’re growing herbs, flowers or vegetables. Choosing a support that’s proportional to the size of the plants you intend to grow is important. For example, plopping ten foot-long climbing vines in a four foot-tall planter will look overpowering. You also want to ensure that your supports can withstand the weight of your plants as they mature.
Hanging pots and sleeve garden systems provide another way to add more plants to your vertical garden. Choose pots that are the right size for your plants – basil and other herbs fit well in pocket-sized felt planters, while small annual flowers and perennials will thrive in standard sized containers.
A living wall is a great way to beautify a fence, patio or other outdoor surface with a cascading plant display. Plants like wave petunias and creeping phlox fill in between stacked planters to create a stunning display.