In a small garden, it doesn’t take long to run out of space for all the plants you want to grow. A solution is to grow plants vertically in a garden or on a deck, patio or wall.

Vertical gardens are created with living plants that are stacked; potted in hanging planters; or supported by trellises, nets, strings, cages or poles.

Adding heights and layers to a garden adds interest, maximizes space and increases production.

Vertical plan

All plants need the right amount of moisture and sunlight, so it’s best to start with a garden plan. Decide what type of plants you want to grow and the containers or garden space you will need.

Planning is essential to obtain high production and increase the quality of the vegetables you grow. Many websites are available to help with planning, building and purchasing items you will need to make a vertical garden.

Larger yield

It is fairly simple to create a vertical plant tower. Circle field fencing material, secure it, then fill it with garden soil and straw. This creates a planter and a good foundation for planting potatoes and strawberries that will grow down.

Trellises can be purchased or made out of sticks, bamboo canes or fencing and will help support beans, pickles, squash and peas. Plants grown on a trellis allows for more space to grow other plants.

Interplanting vegetables also gives you more produce. Plant peas in early spring on a trellis, then pole beans in the same area using the trellis once the peas are harvested.

Sun and rain

Always check to see what amount of sunlight each plant will require before planning it into a vertical garden. For instance, tomatoes need eight to 10 hours of sunlight per day to get the best results, whereas lettuce needs less.

Likewise, some plants such as lettuce thrive better if they have a consistent moist soil. Other plants need the soil to dry out.

Remember, plants grown vertically will cast a shadow, so beware of shading sun-loving crops nearby.

For best results, plant shade-tolerant crops near vertical ones. Remember, through the dry season, vertically grown plants are more exposed and will dry out faster, so they will need more frequent watering.

Containers

When planning a vertical container garden on a deck or patio, be creative but use materials that are plant friendly. Avoid treated wood products. Wood pallets are cost effective and it’s easy to use them to create shelflike containers to plant herbs. Make sure they are not treated with toxic materials by looking at the symbols displayed on them.

Pallets make good vertical planters as do wood latticework lined with black plastic and then filled with sphagnum moss or a soil mixture. You can also use containers made out of plastic or terracotta pots that are secured on stepped staircase shelves.

Recycled rain gutters, plastic soda bottles and mason jars are excellent containers to use to grow herbs and lettuce. Wall-mounted containers will take up little space while enhancing produce in your growing season.

Living wall

Living walls designed to hang on an inside wall are popular today. A live vertical wall planter hosts containers with built-in irrigation, heat and light systems. This is a special unit that can be purchased online or at a local garden store.

You can create simple wall units using string or jute macrame hangers holding baskets or plastic pots. Putting these in several layers can create a nice living wall of plants.

Creating a garden wall that is edible, or just for decoration, can breathe life into your surroundings.

Convenient

Plants grown in hanging pots on a deck or patio or on walls can produce handy vegetables while creating privacy that will enhance the property’s landscape.

Large plants with bigger root systems like tomatoes and peppers can be grown in large pots. They may need to be watered more often than when in a garden and supported with fencing to keep them growing upward.

I grow herbs in smaller pots on my deck. Patio gardening is not difficult if you have the right containers, sunlight and moisture. Caring for plants in pots is easier — there are fewer weeds and access to the plants is needed.

Plants like strawberries grow fast and extend new growth, or runners, that are hard to control.

To keep my strawberries under control this year, I will make a tower fence planter filled with a mixture of garden soil and straw. Then I’ll relocate the strawberry daughters to this tower. This will take up less space and allow the plants to expand while generating more strawberries that will be easier to locate.

When garden space is at a premium and there is nowhere else to go, reach skyward.

Kreisher is a Penn State Extension Master Gardener of Columbia County.

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