If you have a sunny wall, you could be planting and harvesting fresh vegetables very easily without the need for an expensive system or professional skills. A DIY vertical garden can be compact enough to fit most spaces, and you can grow several types of delicious greens in small containers.
Lettuce, rocket, cress, spinach, mustard…. choose the varieties of greens you like best that don’t need large amounts of soil. Check if they can grow in the climate and light you have available. If you want to have a winter garden that is also possible, just install your wall indoors and add growing lights.
Start with the containers. I suggest plastic pots that come with an integrated hook to hang on a rod. Many times they are not sold as plant containers, but as bathroom or kitchen utensil holders. I picked a few from IKEA for only 50 cents a piece. The containers can be around 10-15 cm deep. Since we are focusing on shallow-rooted vegetables, you don’t need containers that are much deeper, and in this way you can fit more rows in your vertical garden.
When you select your containers, check what kind of plastic they are made of, because you want plastic that is safe for plants. IKEA also sells rods, but I had already some metal rods leftover from an art project so I recycled those for my vertical garden. You can use curtain rods or towel rods as well. Pick a type that can easily attach to your wall.
Punch a hole on the bottom of the pots for water drainage. Some models might come already with holes. The bottom row needs to include a dish under the containers or some other way to collect excess water. In my system I just used for the bottom row a long planter that came with a dish, but you can fashion your own solution. Leave another 10-15 cm of space between each row so the greens can grow up. The key is to optimize the system to be compact and use the most of your available wall area. When I built my system I was experimenting and left more space than that, but for the next year I will reduce the spacing so I can fit another couple of rows.
After the system is assembled, fill the containers with potting soil, and plant a couple of seeds in each one. Follow the spacing suggestion on the seed package. You can thin the seedlings later to make sure each plant has enough space to grow. You can also plant more seeds if you want to harvest them earlier as micro greens. This option also works best for a winter garden version, since the leafy greens will grow slower during the darker season.
Water your vertical garden from the top. Some of the water might overflow into the lower pots, so use less water as you move down. You can start harvesting as soon as 2 weeks, and most greens should have fully grown leaves in 4 weeks. If you want a continuous harvest, alternate planting new seeds each week in a different row. Add fertilizer and renew the potting soil every once in a while. I have a home composting system using Bokashi that works really well for replenishing the soil nutrients fast and giving a boost to my vertical garden every few weeks.
That’s it. Enjoy your fresh greens and experiment planting new varieties to find which ones grow best in your house and fit your personal taste.
The best advantages of the vertical garden for me are:
– nutritious greens picked fresh at home
– inexpensive and easy to build
– easy to care and maintain
– brings nature to your house
Lenara is garden advisor at Urban Gardeners Republic and blogger. She believes that windows, balconies, roofs and yards, small or large, can become a green oasis with delicious fresh edibles. She has a certificate in Permaculture Design and love creating sustainable and ecological gardens for urban spaces. You can read more from her at www.balcony.ga
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