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Growing vertically is an excellent option when your space is limited and you are looking to increase your yield. There are some plants that naturally grow vertically, but there are also planters where you can “stack” your crops to save precious space. Let’s take a look at some of these.
Why Grow Vertically?
Well, there is the obvious point that I have already discussed about saving space. But, believe it or not there are other advantages to growing this way as well. Harvesting is easier. You do not have to bend down the entire time you are picking. Plants are healthier and give higher yields. There is greater air circulation around the roots and greater exposure to light.
Probably my first exposure to growing vertically was a strawberry tower. I used one of these about 30 years ago to grow my herbs. I totally enjoyed it. Today there are so many different type of vertical planters.
There are pouches with pockets sewn into them for individual plants, similar to a shoe holder. In fact I have even seen articles where people recycle and use their old shoe hangers for this. I think I would be careful with this, you want the holder to be of a breathable fabric. In my mind I see old style shoe holders made out of rigid plastic.
There are planters where it appears that pots have been strategically stacked on top of each other. A nice feature to look for in this type of planter is to see if there are any wheels or a cart below it. You may need to turn the container to get all of your plants the needed sunlight. If you are growing indoors you can probably set up your lights so that this is not a problem.
You can take an old set of stairs and add planter boxes to each step. This is a picture of a herb/flower garden combination I did a couple of years ago.
Yet another way to recycle pallets. You can close off the back, sides and bottom of the pallets with landscape fabric. Put your soil between the exposed slats and plant your plants. I would leave this lay flat on the ground for a week or so allowing the plants to become rooted and established. That way they will not droop or potentially fall out when you hang the planter.
Growing with trellises, supports
There are some plants that want to grow vertically naturally. These would include tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, etc. You should supply them with support whether you are growing in a container or in the dirt. Make sure that your support is sturdy and securely fastened. You can purchase trellises or you can recycle and make your own. I have watched my husband go into our woods and come out with three sticks of the approximate same size. He placed them in a tepee type configuration and wound this together with rope. He says this is something he learned in the Boy Scouts. I am not sure of that, but I am sure that it was virtually free (the rope was laying around but it had been purchased at one point) and the plants loved it and did well.
If you are growing these types of plants in containers make sure that you have a large enough container for the job. There are some tomato planters out there that are all set up except for the dirt and the plant. Some of them even have lights so you can use them inside.
There are quite a few hydroponic systems out there that have multiple layers. These can be purchased, but I sure that they can be a pretty easy diy project as well. These systems are great because you get more food in less space as with all of the vertical systems. But, hydroponic systems have a tendency to have an increased yield over some other growing systems. Plus, crops will grow faster, harvesting is easier, you have less pests and disease with these systems. And you will have less problems with pets and wildlife with the systems, especially if you are growing them indoors.
Be sure to plant your bigger plants, or plants that tend to droop toward the bottom of “stacking planters”. You do not want these bigger plants hanging down and shading your smaller, more upright plants.
Use potting soil that is not as heavy as regular soil. You want to use the same type of soil as we recommend with any container gardening. You want a soil that will not dry out too quickly. You need something with peat moss, perlite, etc. Something fluffy.
Be very careful about how you set up your water. Of course with hydroponic systems or stacking systems watering is usually an integral part of the set up of the system. Let’s say that you are hanging pouches and planters from a fence wall or an exterior wall on your house. You want to make sure that you have the watering set up so that it does not lay on or run down the wall. You do not want to cause any water damage or leave water streaks on the surfaces.
Plant crops with similar needs such as having the same growth rate. This will ensure uniformity in your vertical garden. Also, consider plants with the same needs regarding sun vs shade. Make sure that your containers are not shaded by another structure if they are outside.
Make sure that you hanging planters are securely fastened. Also, check roots periodically to make sure that they are not growing into siding or just becoming a problem in general.
If you are growing inside be sure to set up your system in a sunny area, or supply them with the proper type of lighting. Options available are LED (light emitting diodes) lights, HID (high intensity discharge) lights and fluorescent lighting.
“I don’t have enough room to grow my own food” is definitely not an acceptable response anymore. Take advantage of one or a mix of these vertical growing systems to grow food for you and your family year round. Tammy