Here’s how to build a vertical garden

The following post is an excerpt from Mainland Aggregates Blog

The_Ultimate_Guide_to_Building_a_Vertical_GardenAt first glance, one might not think that small spaces and gardening are much of a match, but the revolutionary idea of vertical gardens is quickly changing that perception.

Urban gardens or apartments have limited space available, but you can still grow flowers, herbs and vegetables, if you decide to set up a vertical garden.

Setting up a vertical garden may take a lot of work, but don’t get discouraged.  The fruits and veggies of your labor will be well worth the effort.

You have two options when deciding to build a vertical garden:

  1. You can call in a specialist, like a botanist, an urban greening specialist or a bio wall designer, which will make your job very, very easy. He will do all the planning and the work and you will just have to take care of the wall afterwards.
  2. Or you can do it yourself. A successful garden is earned through a trial and error process. There are books that can teach you, but experience will be your best professor.

Here is a list of books that will help you through the whole process: Books to Check Out
vertical garden book collage

Things to consider:

  1. What do you want to grow?
    Flower, vegetable, herb, or fruit?
    For more information on what grows best in vertical gardens, check out What Should You Grow?
  2. How much time, money and labor will this take?
    Tending a vertical garden may require a lot of time from you.  Harvest amounts depend on the square footage of your garden.One grower in California produced 500lbs worth of greens in one year from a 5 by 20 foot section. She grew vegetables and herbs such as tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchinis, basil and lettuce.This grower spent 8 hours initially to prepare her growing space.  Another 30 minutes of daily hand watering for a few weeks, until her plants were large enough to use the irrigation system.  And for the rest of the season, she spent 1-1/2 hours each week tying, tending and finally harvesting her vegetables.
  3. Where will you set it up?
    – Determine whether the vertical garden will be inside your house, or outside on the garden, lawn, terrace, or balcony.
    – How long does the sun shine on your location? Plants need as much sunlight as possible, so if your terrace doesn’t get much direct sunlight, you might not have the results you hoped for.
    – If you choose a location near a window, you may want to consider pest control.
    You will be building racks to support the plants, which will lean or attach to the wall.
    – Think about the irrigation system you need to put in place and how you can set that up in relation to the water pipes inside the house. Make sure not to flood your neighbors.
  4. How much will it cost? Most vertical gardens are inexpensive. There are several types you can try, such as PVC, wood, metal or plastic, but none of them are pricy.An outside vertical garden can cost somewhere between $50 and $300.  Inside gardens will be more expensive because you’ll need to waterproof the area.A DIY garden will always be cheaper than one designed and erected by a specialist. Don’t be afraid to do it yourself. It’s not too difficult.
nybotanical

Patrick Blanc’s Waterfall at the New York Botanical Gardens

Building your Vertical Garden:

  1. Build the Frame
    A vertical garden is made of three layers, closely attached together – the frame, the plastic sheeting, and the fabric.  You will want to build the structure before you hang it, which will make it easier for you take down.The frame can be built with PVC pipes which are sturdier, lighter and less expensive than metal.  You can build the frame yourself, using ¾ inch PVC pipes, elbows and four-way joints.  Tools and kits may be available at your hardware store.Alternately, you could use a system of wooden stacked vertical garden planters.  But wood may not be the best choice because it requires pressure treating for water protection and may still rot.
  2. Add the Plastic Sheeting
    Use expanded PVC sheets, which will act a back-up for the layer of fabric, and which is easy to attach. If you are installing on wood wall instead of a PVC, you will need to ventilate behind the wall.
  3. Add the Fabric
    Carefully attach the fabric firmly to the frame, as this is the actual layer in which your plants will be seeded and grow and which will hold the water they need.We recommend felt carpet padding, but you can use any material that holds water and doesn’t rot.To build it:
    – You will need two layers of fabric.
    – Attach the layers directly to the frame with galvanized screws of stainless-steel staples.
    – Make sure the layers are pulled so they don’t have any wrinkles or creases.
    – Attach it firmly so that it can hold the weight of vegetables and water.
  4. Add the Irrigation System
    It’s not possible to water vertical gardens manually like with horizontal gardens. You will need an irrigation system that will keep the fabric and the plants moist at all times.We recommend calling in a plumber or specialist for this step.  Even if you’ve chosen to do this project yourself, we recommend bringing in an expert so that you don’t parch your plants or flood your house.Some water will leak at the bottom of the vertical wall. You can add more plants below the structure to capture the excess water.
  5. Add a fertilizer injector
    A fertilizer injector will sprinkler liquid fertilizer on your plants all year long. It will make this process more time-efficient and spare you some manual labor.
  6. Work on the design
    You’ll want to think about the appearance of your wall before you start planting.  Here you have endless possibilities.  If you are growing decorative plants or flowers, it will be easy to give your vertical garden any shape you want, just keep in mind vegetables are heavy.
  7. Plant your plants
    With a sharp knife, make a small horizontal cut in the fabric of the installation.
    Thoroughly clean the plants root of any soil or debris in order to keep the roots from rotting.  Insert the plant into the slit you just made.
    With staples, attach the fabric to the plastic back, in a not too tight, but close semi-circle, in order to create a stable and protective envelope around the plant.

And that’s it!

Pick your own red ripe tomatoes from the vine for salad, make a strawberry pie with your own fresh fruit, or read a book in the shade of your flowery, natural wall.  A vertical garden is a rewarding return to nature in the middle of the crowded city.

Check out this DIY video from PopScreen on How to build a Patrick Blanc style vertical garden: