Taking plants above ground makes it possible to grow herbs, flowers and produce in places where soil is nonexistent, such as on a city balcony.
Are you a gardener who is short on space or time? Take your plants vertical.
Ben Friton founded Can YA Love, a Washington, D.C.-based company that gives vertical-gardening classes around the world.
During Friton’s travels through East Africa, he saw makeshift upright growing systems made from burlap sacks in areas with barren or contaminated soil or little space or water. These sack gardens feature bags filled with soil, with holes cut for plants such as kale and chard.
“Some benefits are more obvious than others,” Friton says. An obvious example: Taking plants aboveground makes it possible to grow herbs, flowers and produce in places where soil is nonexistent, such as on a city balcony the size of a postage stamp.
Less apparent advantages include portability. When Friton realised the sun wasn’t hitting the plants in his back yard, he built a vertical garden and moved it to where it could get proper sun. Vertical gardens require less irrigation than in-ground plots and — perhaps the best part — little or no weeding. Aesthetically, they can lend beauty to blank or uninspired walls and surfaces.
The patent-pending structures Friton works with through Can YA Love are made from fencing and straw. Gardeners can make more rudimentary vertical beds using wooden shipping pallets, which are cheap and durable. Just be sure to grab one without stamps or markings; these can indicate it has been treated with chemicals.
Friton says just about any plant is a good candidate for vertical gardens, though non-climbing plants and those with shallow roots perform best. He advises that you place plants that don’t need a lot of water at the top and those that love moist soil at the bottom, where water pools.
Because the pallet will be heavy once packed with soil, this project is best for two people. In an ideal world you’ll let your plants take root for a week before flipping the pallet upright. But if you don’t have that kind of time, you can gingerly lift it and lean it at an angle to prevent the soil from spilling out.
What you’ll need:
– A wooden pallet
– A roll of landscape fabric
– Staple gun and staples
– 3 large bags of general potting soil
(You’ll need more than you think.)
– Various plants and herbs
(From the top down I used succulents, Vinca major “Variegata,” petunias, basil, rosemary, mint, ivy varieties and dusty miller.)
Step 1: Lay your pallet flat, with the side you want facing front on the ground; it should have several horizontal planks.
Step 2: Cut three pieces of landscape fabric: Two to fit the pallet horizontally as the bottom layers and one to span it vertically to reinforce it. The fabric should wrap around the sides and bottom gap until it reaches the edge of the front, so cut more than you think you need.
Step 3: Pull the fabric tight and using the staple gun, staple the first horizontal piece of fabric to the pallet. You should put a staple at every point where the fabric touches the sides and crossbars.
Step 4: Repeat this for the other horizontal piece, followed by the vertical one. Be sure the bottom gap of the pallet is especially reinforced with fabric and staples.
Step 5: Flip the pallet over so that the fabric side is on the ground. If there’s any fabric showing, give it a trim. If you wish to stain the wood or paint it, now is the time. Allow it to dry.
Step 6: Fill the pallet nearly to the brim with potting soil.
Step 7: Using your hands or a garden hoe, form trenches in the soil.
Step 8: Work plants into each trench, the more tightly packed the better. Don’t forget to put the more moisture-loving plants toward the bottom.
Step 9: Water it thoroughly and evenly. Leave the pallet flat for a week so the soil has time to settle and the plants have a chance to take root.
Step 10: Slowly prop the pallet up against a wall that gets partial sun, keeping it at a slight angle to prevent the soil from falling out.