By Tim Moore
By Tim Moore
When people think of sustainable food gardens, they tend to think along the lines of raised garden beds stretching over an entire backyard. While this image is true and those with ample space tend to grow more produce than those without a backyard, it is possible even when you live in an apartment building or condo, particularly as smaller living spaces grow in popularity.
So how can you help your condo-dwelling customers successfully start a garden? What about the space needed to plant the beds of seeds? To start a garden, your customers can actually use the vertical space around their living quarters, instead of the horizontal space – this is known as vertical gardening.
What is vertical gardening?
Vertical gardening is using the vertical space around you to grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs with the help of wooden or metal structures that have been customized with drainage systems for water runoff and soil to grow the plants.
These structures go up lengthways for convenience and space-saving in smaller areas, such as a condo. While the produce output isn’t as great as it would be with an outdoor horizontal garden, they can still be plentiful enough for a small family or single person.
People who garden using vertical methods will need to set up a water system to maintain the gardens and they will want to use a store that has water pumps, along with other required materials on hand. Associates or experts that have a background knowledge of water pumps, fertilizers and support systems for vertical gardens will definitely have the advantage over a store that doesn’t carry or know their product.
The challenges of vertical gardening
Challenges happen in all projects, whether they use living plants or not! Ensure that your staff are equipped to help solve these problems. Some people reported the following challenges while using a vertical garden:
- Not enough of a slope for water drainage so the plants became soggy and refuse to grow.
- Ensure that the desired structure has holes punched into the bottom of the shelving/pails/pots to help with water runoff. Don’t want the water pouring onto the street below? Suggest installing pails at various intervals to catch the water runoff and dispose of it properly or filter it to use as fresh water for the plants.
- Not enough sunlight exposure so the plants were weak and didn’t live very long.
- Suggest that the customer pick a spot that will have sunlight exposure during the better part of the day. If this isn’t an option or their vertical garden is indoors, they should consider investing in a couple of heat or grow lamps to cure this problem.
- Not enough room for garden maintenance – weeding, watering, etc.
- The customer should try building their shelves so that they can be removed from the structure or swing out a couple of inches to perform garden maintenance. If this isn’t an option, they should ensure that there is space between each shelf for completing gardening tasks. This has the bonus advantage of allowing the plants to grow to their full size without being stunted.
Some of the best vertical gardening ideas
When it comes to vertical gardens, the sky’s the limit! As long as the garden features a watering system, ample sunlight exposure and a way to catch soil, water runoff and debris, then they are set.
Some people will use pallets to create their vertical garden’s support system, while others may repurpose metal shelving to create a haven of greenery. This style of vertical garden features deep shelves in which soil is placed and vegetables are planted.
Another popular option, especially for flowers and vines, is a gardening trellis where the plants wrap delicately around the posts of the structure for an elegant look. Flower pails can also be hung from nails on the trellis to keep the delicate plants out of harm’s way.
Another option is to nail old planks to the wall of the home and hang small flower pots from nails to grow the garden. This option would be best for herbs or flowers, as most vegetables would get too big for the structure.
If your customer lives in a small apartment building on the top floor, old gutters can be attached to sturdy chains to hang their garden down over the side of the building or fire escape. Chains should be strong enough to support the weight of the gutters, soil and water combined with the plants to brighten up that old building!
People don’t necessarily need ample horizontal space to grow a decently sized garden. They simply need a high enough space to construct garden beds, as described above, using wooden or metal materials that feature drainage holes for water runoff and sunlight exposure.
These vertical gardens work best for those who live in condos or apartments that feature either balconies and/or roof access. Keep in mind that a vertical garden requires the same nutrients, frequent watering and sunlight exposure as a horizontally raised garden bed. To help your customers succeed, ensure that their garden is the path of sunlight, especially during daylight growing hours when the plants thrive on UV rays, and a well-thought out watering system that doesn’t require dragging buckets or watering cans up flights of stairs every evening. They should consider the possibility of creating a water irrigation system that uses rain water and look into liquid fertilizers over solid ones for convenience.
Don’t let something like not having a backyard stunt your customer’s growth when it comes to having a viable vegetable, fruit and herb garden!
Timothy Moore is the lead editor of Back Yard Boss and is a lifelong backyard enthusiast.