All photos: AJ Ragasa (Glasswing)
There are a lot of benefits to vertical gardening: fewer plant pests, more walkable space, and perhaps the biggest bonus, an ergonomic, back-friendly position for your body. Raising plants off the ground limits the amount you have to bend over, making it easier to care for your plants and yourself. Vertical gardening is not only great for small spaces, it also provides a way to creatively implement design ideas that you may not have thought about before.
Think of your garden in multiple dimensions to assess what usable space you actually have. Maybe you have a blank brick wall with great sun that needs some accents, or a flat concrete patio that could benefit from a splash of color and height. Whatever your garden has to offer, adding vertical elements will create some visual interest. Below are some container-gardening design ideas that work well for increasing your y-axis.
More than just useful tools to have around the house, ladders or industrial shelving carts can be used to elevate containers to a more back-friendly height. They can also be moved around the garden to maximize the amount of sun that is available. The bottom level can be used for storage (pots, soil, gloves, twine, etc.), while the upper level can house your favorite herbs and edibles.
Having a garden party? Your cart can double as an impromptu table for making and serving drinks. Snip some fresh herb sprigs for garden-fresh cocktail garnishes.
Hanging planters are great for trailing plants like mint, thyme, strawberries or nasturtiums, and keep plants off the ground, thus limiting the number of plant pests that can reach them. Outdoors, with no roof above us, we often forget to think about hanging plants. If you are lucky enough to have sturdy pipes, wooden beams or an overhang on your patio, you can hang directly from above.
Alternatively, consider using existing walls. If you are attaching hanging plants to a brick wall, you will need anchor screws and a masonry drill bit. Depending on how wide the planter is, you may also need a plant bracket extender to move the planter away from the wall.
One of the easiest ways to increase vertical height is to elevate your planter on a plant stand. Plant stands generally range from 8 to 30 inches high and will provide options for staggering your container design based on the overall height of the plants you choose. Consider placing climbing plants such as passion flower, kiwi, grapes, peas and cucumbers in the tallest planters to maximize their growing conditions.
Need a use for all that beautiful old wood you've been collecting? Attach some stainless-steel hose clamps and mason jars and make your own wood wall planter. These planters have a simple yet modern feel and can be attached to any wall with a sturdy anchor screw. Depending on the size of the mason jars you use, small, slow-growing herbs such as thyme, rosemary, oregano, curry, bay leaf or lemon balm work best. Place a layer of pebbles in the bottom of each jar to catch excess moisture. If outdoors, make sure the planter is in a covered area, since the mason jars won't allow for water to drain out the bottom.
Taken from the Japanese idea of hanging string gardens, kokedama loosely translates to "moss ball" and involves encasing a plant's roots in moss. Hanging gardens not only provide stunning visual interest, they also supply plants with the moisture and nutrition they need to thrive. Most herbs work well in this structure, but starting with smaller specimens (such as geranium, sage, mint and thyme) is recommended.
Set aside about 30 minutes of craft time for this project and be prepared to get dirty. In addition to your choice edibles, you will also need sphagnum moss, peat moss, bonsai soil, sheet moss and twine to form these lovely creations. The moss balls will need to be soaked in water approximately 2 or 3 times per week, depending on the amount of sun and how fast the moss dries out.