Land for gardening is often difficult to come by, especially for apartment dwellers. But if you are lucky enough to have even a small outdoor space, such as a patio or balcony, you can optimize your gardening capacity by utilizing the concepts of vertical gardening.
Vertical gardening maximizes the space available by allowing plants to grow vertically thereby allow more plants to occupy a horizontal space. In this way, even those will small outdoor spaces can participate in sustainable gardening and enjoy the benefits of fresh herbs and vegetables.
Vertical gardens can be rather elaborate, works of art, and expensive to build. But there are many do-it-yourself alternatives that are rather simple and cost-effective. For those who are not so handy a few ecologically conscious companies are proving commercial off the shelf products that are easy to use and to install.
One of the easiest do-it-yourself methods available is to use a hanging canvas shoe organizer; be sure to use the type with pockets rather than with shelves. You can cut the shoe organizer to a size that will work best for you. If you plan on hanging from a porch railing you may want to shorten it but if you plan on hanging it against a wall you may want to keep the entire length. Fill each shoe pocket with high quality potting soil and then add plants. Herbs and greens work especially well.
Another option to create your own vertical garden on the cheap is to use a wood pallet. Make sure you find a pallet that has been heat-treated and not chemically sealed as the chemicals may contaminate your plants. Wood pallets are generally easy to find and you can most likely find a few for free at the local grocery store; just be sure to ask the management nicely.
Simply line the back of the wood pallet with landscape fabric or other suitable material and attach to the wood pallet. A staple gun works well but you can also use nails. Fill the space between the wood pallet and the landscape fabric with high quality potting soil and then add the plants. Taller plants should be placed on the upper row to allow for maximum growth while strawberries work quite well for the lower slats.
Another option is to reuse plastic bottles attached to a wood pallet. The base of each bottle is cut to allow for a large circular opening while the lid is removed from the mouth of the bottle. The cut bottles are turned upside-down and attached to a wood pallet or other similar structure. Make sure to align the upside-down bottles so that water from the upper row will flow into the “pot” below. Fill each upside-down bottle with soil and plant herbs or other small to medium size vegetables or berries.
For those who are not inclined to tackle any type of building project there are products that are available for purchase that will allow for easy installation of your vertical garden. Vertical planters come in a variety of styles and sizes and can be found on virtually any hardware store. Living wall kits are also available by various retailers and consists of prefabricated wall mounts that you just need to add soil and plants. Another option is called walley and is a modular living wall system available from woollypocket.com. All of these options will enable you to get the most garden from your small space.