Tips for Vertical Gardening
There is something about nature and greenery that works like a magnet for humans. Fresh greenery and flowers are a soothing balm to the human mind and city-bred people travel long distances just to be able to revel in nature, unhindered. However, for those living in high rise apartments in cities where space is precious, having access to your own backyard garden can become challenging. However, it’s not impossible, as proved by French Botanist Patrick Blanc in the 1980’s when he created the first modern vertical garden.
Also known as living walls, vertical gardens are a wonderful way to reduce the heat island effect in cities where the vegetation is less and air pollution is more. This green practice is not only applicable at home, but also on public spaces in the city including flyovers, pillars, barren walls, building facades, etc. Vertical gardens are especially useful in urban areas where space is less, but the demand and need is great.
Vertical gardens can not only improve the aesthetics of your home, but also improve the indoor air quality, attract nature’s diminishing population of pollinators – bees and butterflies, as well as provide a source of food. Vertical gardens can also act as natural living screens when you grow them on grills. Aside from this, vertical gardens can help in blocking out and reducing noise pollution.
With so many benefits to them, people are increasingly turning towards setting up living vertical walls. You can successfully pack in a lot of natural greenery into a smaller space this way and add to the earth’s green cover. Vertical spaces like bland, boring walls and metal grills provide the ideal canvas for creating upright gardens. For those urban gardeners who want to know more about setting up, installing and maintaining green walls, here are some simple gardening tips to help get you started:
1. To begin with, you need to decide on what type of framework you are going to use. The primary structure consists of a sandwich of three layers. The wall being used should ideally be clad with ceramic tiles to prevent seepage and convenience of maintenance. Alternatively, you could just layer the wall with a thick plastic sheet to protect it from moisture. A plastic frame can then be fixed onto the wall, while leaving enough space behind for cleaning. A base frame consisting of a series of light-weight plastic pots will then have to be attached on to the main plastic frame. Finally, a drip irrigation pipeline setup with a lateral supply of running water has to be included from the rear side of the plastic frame.
2. The second factor to consider when setting up a vertical garden is the direction the wall is facing. Check how much direct or indirect sunlight the wall is exposed to, and for how long, on a daily basis. Based on the amount of sunlight received, you can decide on which plants to grow on your vertical garden. Keep in mind that flowering plants need more sunlight than non-flowering plants.
3. A special mix available in local nurseries is used for growing the plants in your vertical garden. Soil is heavy and its use is generally avoided in vertical walls. A rich, non-sticky and lightweight growth medium consisting of coco peat and compost is used instead in the small plastic pots. This admixture has to be kept moist at all times and can supply nutrition for growth for a specified period of time only – after which it will need to be replaced.
4. Depending on the type of plant and the size of the planter, each plant won’t require more than a liter of water per day. Some of the other factors that will determine its water requirement include the amount of sunlight received – and whether it’s direct or indirect, the local seasons and prevailing pollution and dust conditions outdoor. Vertical gardens with more sunshine will require more water when compared with those that are mostly in the shade.
5. For those who want to grow vertical gardens indoors, there is a high likelihood that the air conditioning could suck off substantial amounts of moisture from the pots. So even though there won’t be much direct sunlight to dehydrate the planters, the air conditioning can contribute substantially towards loss of moisture.
6. The best part of vertical gardens is that they require minimal maintenance – aside from regular watering. There is minimal cleaning involved, but you will need to check regularly for insects and cobwebs between the wall and the plastic framework. Once in a while you might be needed to pluck off dead leaves, etc. On an average, vertical gardens have a life ranging from one year to about four years, after which you will need to start afresh.
7. Do note that it’s not just decorative plants that can be grown in vertical gardens, but edible food too! You can easily plant annuals and perennials in these plastic planters and they will grow equally well. Vertical gardens can also be used to grow your daily-use herbs like mint, coriander, celery, parsley, spring onions, spinach and even aloe vera!
8. It is easy to buy vertical garden frames online/offline and have them installed professionally. Alternatively, you can do a DIY and use window grills or wooden frames to hang your pots. It isn’t very expensive and works well on balcony walls. The planters used should be just around 4-6 inches in size as heavier ones could easily topple off. The lighter the planter, the better it is!
9. You can also get custom-made frames from your local welders or carpenters. Do keep in mind that the rods need to have a flat surface and shouldn’t be round. The rods should also match the size of the hook on your planters. For new gardeners, it’s better to begin with drought-resistant plants such as cactus and aloe vera as they require minimal maintenance!
All the best with your new venture!