One major problem with gardening has always been how much land is needed. Plants need space to spread out so not only do you have to be careful in selecting what will grow, but you also have to worry about all the uses for your backyard. Let’s explore vertical gardening and how it is an alternative to traditional gardening.
Vertical gardening vs traditional gardening: To maximize your space, you can opt for vertical gardening, which trains plants to grow up a structure. Vertical gardening can also involve a series of containers that are attached to a wall, either indoors or outdoors.
What is vertical gardening?
Quite simply, vertical gardening is when you grow up instead of out. You can use a wall, a trellis, or another support structure, and have your plants grow upwards instead of over the ground.
There are some plants that naturally grow vertically, such as climbing flowers and ivy. Crops such as corn and even vines like squash and peas can be trained to grow up.
Vertical gardening takes this and heightens it. You can use a series of planting boxes along a wall or purchase specially-made wall hangers with pouches for plants.
The whole point of vertical gardening is to use every inch of space possible while still meeting all the needs of your plants. You can use vertical gardening outside, inside, or in a greenhouse.
What is traditional gardening?
Traditional gardening is what we normally think of with gardening. It involves placing plants in the ground, allowing just enough room for them to grow but still making the most out of the space.
With traditional gardening, you are confined by how much area you can use. For backyard gardening, this often means carefully selecting what you will plant.
Vertical vs Traditional Gardening: Difference?
It’s all about up versus over with these two types of gardening. Vertical gardening uses the least amount of ground space as all of the plants are either trained to grow up or are planted against a wall.
Traditional gardening spreads the plants along the ground so you need to be careful where you step, especially with vine plants.
You will need some sort of support structure with vertical gardening while traditional gardening allows plants to grow on the ground only.
Finally, while both vertical and traditional gardening requires soil, traditional gardening usually starts with the soil already in the ground. In contrast, many types of vertical gardening use containers, so you need to fill these with new soil.
Vertical Gardening Pros
With vertical gardening, you can maximize your space to be more efficient. As a result, you will get higher yields from your crops.
You can choose to either plant more of the same kind of plant or better diversify your garden. Whatever you choose, you will have more plants and thus more to harvest.
Easier to harvest
Bending over to pick lettuce is annoying and can be painful for some people. With vertical gardening, more of your crops are higher up, which means a lot less bending over.
You can be strategic about your planting and keep the plants you want easy access to at waist level. Then, you can put plants you only need to harvest once at a lower level to maximize your space.
Any time plants touch the ground, they become more susceptible to disease. This can be a disease that spreads through the soil or that happens when plants become soggy from the ground.
Keeping your plants away from the ground means they won’t rot as easily and will stay healthier for longer.
Plants grow faster and larger the more sun they are exposed to. On the ground, plant leaves only have one side exposed to the sun and these often compete with other nearby plants.
Vertical gardening allows for more sunshine to hit your plants which means faster growth. Your plants will also stay healthier.
Vertical Gardening Cons
The more vertical structures you have, the more you need to be aware of the sun. Even small vertical structures can block the sun, which means any plants next to them will be bathed in more shade than they want.
If you have a large wall with planters attached, you may only be able to use one structure in your yard. This will take up a lot of space and needs to have a southern exposure to get the most sunlight hours each day.
Those that use a fence or wall to attach planters need to be aware that a lot of water damage can occur. All those containers will be watered daily and even if you use drip irrigation, the water will still run out of any drainage holes.
More upfront physical labor
Even though vertical planting can make it easier to tend to your garden, you will still need to create the structures, to begin with. While some plants are small and fine with small support structures, others, like squash, need very sturdy trellises.
Then, if you want to attach pots to a wall, you will need to use a drill or very heavy-duty straps to ensure the wall won’t collapse and the containers won’t fall off.
If you have a walled garden, it is best to install some sort of drip irrigation. Otherwise, you will need to hand water very frequently as the plants will cycle through their water faster than in the ground.
Traditional Gardening Pros
Easy to start
Most yards will either have a garden already started or have a space that is easy to convert to one. Even if it is only big enough for one or two crops, you can create a mini strawberry field or have enough room for a few tomato plants.
There aren’t many constraints when it comes to traditional gardening. While you should pay attention to companion planting and crop rotation, you can plant both root vegetables and vining vegetables without worrying about support or structures.
Traditional Gardening Cons
Unless you have acres of space, your garden will probably be smaller than you want it to be. Only having ground space means you have to choose wisely when it comes to planting.
Some plants need to be vertical
Even if you don’t plan on vertical gardening, some plants just naturally want to grow up. Peas and beans usually grow up, and even raspberries have canes.
Most traditional gardens will have at least one structure in place to support these climbing plants. Without them, you won’t be able to grow everything you want.
Soil is always important when it comes to gardening but traditional gardening means you have to work with what you have and that could be compacted soil. Constantly having to amend the soil and make it drain better can leave you frustrated and overworked.
5 Best Types of Vertical Gardening
The most common and easiest form of vertical gardening is with a trellis. You can use a wire trellis or a wooden trellis and you can either buy one or make one.
Be sure to place the trellis in your garden right when you first plant. This way, the plants can be trained immediately to grow upward which means less breakage as they grow.
Do you have a large, sturdy wall that has plenty of sun exposure? This may be the perfect area to experiment with vertical gardening.
There are many ways to attach containers to a wall but the main considerations are if they are structurally sound and if your wall is okay with water exposure. You can either install pieces of wood to the wall to act as a buffer between the containers or simply secure the containers right into your wall.
Plants with shallow roots, such as lettuces, can easily grow in gutter segments. Secure the gutter pieces to the side of a wall and for proper drainage, place them at a slight angle.
While the gutters will be too shallow for a lot of plants, they will be just fine for lettuce, spinach, and some herbs.
A free-standing step garden can bring a bit of a unique design to your garden along with practicality. You can make this wooden structure by yourself or purchase it already built.
The step structure will have wooden boxes that start low and then subsequently become taller. You can create steps that are one-sided or ones that go up and on each side.
Do you have a pathway or patio that has an arbor over it? While you can grow traditional flowers over an arbor why not mix it up with some edible plants?
It’s easy to train vine crops up an arbor and having peas and even squash hang down as you walk under an arbor is a fun and exciting experience.
Best Plants for vertical gardening
Before you rush into vertical gardening, there are some types of plants that are better suited to it than others. Here are some plants that either naturally want to grow vertically or that work well in vertical containers.
Tomatoes can become quite bushy if you let them but you can also train them to grow tall and long. To do so, you want to use a string or trellis to encourage their upward growth.
While there are some varieties of cucumbers that grow in a bush, many are vines. You will need a more solid structure in place, especially if you grow cucumbers that are large.
Vine cucumbers will naturally hold onto structures around them so there isn’t much you need to do on your part. Just gently encourage the cucumbers where you want them to go and they will happily grow vertically.
You might be wary about growing pumpkins and other types of squash because they can get big and heavy. However, as long as your squash plants are healthy, they will hold tight to their stems.
The structure you use for squash does need to be extra sturdy, however. You should also pay attention to where the squash is growing so they are easy to harvest.
A very easy crop to grow vertically are peas. These plants grow best on taut string trellises and their vines are quite narrow so you can get very high yields from them.
Vertical planting that involves smaller containers is perfect for lettuce. Because they have shallow roots, you don’t need to worry about deep pots or complicated structures.
Plant different kinds of lettuce and space the planting over a few weeks. This way you will have a continual harvest for a month or two, so you can enjoy fresh salads every night.
A bright, sunny kitchen can be the prime location for a mini vertical garden. If you have a blank wall in your kitchen that gets lots of natural sunlight, you can consider installing a small herb garden.
Make sure the wall is strong enough to support the weight of the containers. You will also want to create a really good drainage system as you don’t want any dripping water on your inside wall.
Having access to fresh herbs will elevate your cooking experience and leave the whole room smelling amazing.
Finally, if you really love color and want to add more of it to your garden, consider growing flowers vertically. You can make a patchwork quilt of colors that will create a kaleidoscope or brightness in any space.
It’s best to plant flowers that have the same soil, water, and sun needs, as this will make caring for them easier. You can offset the bright blooms with vibrant foliage for a lovely contrast.
Flower walls should also take into consideration bloom time. Try to plant flowers that bloom at different times of the year so you have color from spring to fall.
Don’t let a lack of space stop you from gardening. Vertical gardening is perfect for a variety of plants, including squash, peas, lettuce, and even flowers.