Add Space with Creative Vertical Gardens: Part 1
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Small Garden Design Idea: Maximise Vertical Spaces
Why should you utilise this clever design idea in your garden? Because, no matter what size your garden is, I firmly believe you can improve the productivity, beauty and functionality by maximising vertical space.
What is Vertical Gardening?
Simply put, vertical gardening creatively utilises a structure to maximise the growing space and exploit the potential of both the vertical and horizontal planes. Think outside the square: 3D gardens with colour, shape and texture not just flat designs!
Traditional in-ground garden beds have very limited potential. However, growing ‘up’ or ‘down’ and ‘stacking’ techniques provide you with loads more options.
“Vertical gardening is an innovative, effortless, and highly productive growing system that uses bottom-up and top-down supports for a wide variety of plants in both small and large garden spaces.” Derek Fell, author Vertical Gardening: Grow Up, Not Out, for More Vegetables and Flowers in Much Less Space
Vertical Gardens: Solutions to Common Problems
Vertical gardening also provides solutions to a wide variety of challenges for many gardeners including:
reducing the impact of urban living problems like air pollution, noise and lack of privacy;
allowing you more choice in what you can grow in a small space;
minimising pest and disease problems; and
makes gardening more accessible for those with health or mobility challenges.
Examples of Vertical Garden Structures
There are many different types of structures and trellises you can use.
Vertical garden structures fall into three broad categories:
Ones that plants can grow up; Ones they can cascade down; or Those that are stackable, allowing you to layer plants.
This post features ‘bottom-up’ vertical garden planting options for you. Check out more vertical garden space solutions in Part 2.
Growing Up! (Bottom-up Planting)
Most climbers and vines can be trained to grow up supporting structures. These plants attach themselves naturally with curly or sticky tendrils. There are a wide variety of structures suitable for growing gardens vertically upwards. Here are some examples:
Usually lattice or wire frames or similar structures. Often made from timber, metal or plastic. These are generally supported on a fence, wall or building. They can also be added to a raised bed or planter box.
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Are two trellises joined together overhead in the shape of an ‘A’. They are sometimes hinged to form great support. Generally made from timber and wire, A-frames are great for growing climbing vegetables in compact spaces. The design is only limited by your imagination. Check out these ideas:
Are a one-sided trellis, positioned at a low angle to the ground. They are held up by poles going in the opposite direction. You can also grow shade-loving plants in the shady microclimate underneath. This allows you to take advantage of the shade produced by the plants growing on the lean-to.
Arches and arbors
These are multi-functional structures that provide a focus and attractive design feature in the garden. They also increase your vertical growing space. Positioned correctly to draw you through and beyond, they can also create a sense of mystery and interest to the garden design.
“Arbors and trellises are much more than handy structures for training vines or easy solutions for a blank wall or fence. Besides offering small-space gardeners another place to garden, they can add significant curb appeal to your home. They act as room dividers and focal points … and … help define intimate spaces. Elegant or ornate, traditional or contemporary, arbors and trellises are one of the easiest ways to add a third dimension to your garden.” Susan Morrison, Author ‘Garden Up! Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces‘
Photo: Johanna Parker Design
Walls and wall pots
Walls are the perfect framework to support trellises of different kinds and attractive garden art. Wall pots are semi circle shaped, with one flat side for fixing against a wall. Due to their compact size, they won’t hold large plants and are best suited to succulents.
An often forgotten and unused feature of the garden, boundary fences provide valuable ‘wall space’. You can hang trellises, planters, wall pots, baskets, garden art and even brackets with shelves. Unattractive fences can also be hidden with a living green wall or splash of colour.
Posts and columns
Balcony, verandah and deck posts can be softened with a climbing plant that gently winds around, creating an attractive feature.
Tree trunks & plant supports
Tall trees like mature palms with straight plain trunks provide another opportunity for climbing plants to grow vertically. Sweet corn stalks and okra both have strong stems. They can also be used as supports for growing edibles like pole beans, cucumbers and other climbers.
Tepees or pyramids
Tepees or tripods are made with three or more long narrow poles (e.g. bamboo, wood, plastic or metal). These come to a point and are often supported with lashing (string, baling twine or wire) near the top to form a pyramid. The poles of the tepee are splayed apart until it is self-supporting. It can be strengthened with regularly spaced horizontal poles or twine for further support. Then position in a pot, the soil or a raised bed. Learn how to make your own tripod at Jane’s Delicious Garden.
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Poles and stakes
These are the simplest form of vertical gardens. They are just inserted in the ground or pot and used with a soft garden tie.
Pergolas and gazebos
Overhead structures supported by timber or metal upright posts. They can be multi-functional, not only providing shade and beauty but also vertical space for climbers – either in the ground or in planter boxes. Hanging baskets can also be hung from horizontal rafters.
External walls and rooves are being used more frequently as growing areas to optimise urban space, insulate buildings against heat and provide shared community rooftop gardens.
Strawberries and other herbs and edibles are grown in a simple vertical pipe system filled with soil and planted in holes up the sides or terracotta pots with ‘pockets’ for planting.
Pyramidal frameworks customised for use in the garden, generally with three or four legs and reaching a point at the top. Many are stunning garden features in themselves providing vertical dimension and a focus for the eye. They are well suited to growing attractive flowering climbers.
Herb spirals are a clever design system, most commonly used in Permaculture gardens. This vertical garden design imitates a spiral, much like the shape of a snail shell. The design maximises the edge and a wide range of herbs can be grown in microclimates, ranging from hot and sunny at the top to wet and shady at the bottom.
There are many ways you can use plant cages. Some are filled with soil at the base and then planted with potatoes. Then covered with more compost or straw mulch as they grow. Others are like the ones below, sitting on top of the soil or pots to contain the plants as they grow, providing them with an internal climbing frame. Wire cages are a compact, frugal design idea for micro gardens.
A trelliswork made from horizontal wire, usually flat against a wall or between vertical support stakes. The branches of the fruit tree are trained to extend horizontally and tied to wires or hooks in a variety of shapes (the most popular, a fan).
Espaliered trees have a more formal, symmetrical shape and despite the minimal space required, bear more fruit, earlier and for a longer time. Vertical branches grow leaves; horizontal branches grow fruit. This clever technique should be used for a bountiful harvest in all micro gardens!
Vertical Gardening Video
Watch this really practical video on ‘Growing Vertically in Small Spaces – Examples of Vertical Gardening Trellis Methods‘ as John from Growing Your Greens visits a local community garden and shares with you some excellent examples of vertical gardening in the real world.
Want to save space with more vertical garden options?
Find out more vertical garden solutions to grow plants down and using stackable planters in Add Space with Creative Vertical Gardens: Part 2. For more ideas and tips, read 12 Reasons Why You Should Garden Vertically and 15 Helpful Design Tips for Vertical Gardens. You can find more Clever Design Ideas in the Container Gardening category.
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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2010. https://themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.
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Maximise your growing space, minimize pest/disease problems, improve functionality + solve common problems like access with vertical garden structures.