The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Vertical Gardening

Unlocking the Potential of Your Vertical Space: The Essentials of Starting a Vertical Garden

Welcome to our Beginners Guide to Vertical Gardening

This guide is tailored especially for those of you who are considering or planning to start a vertical garden but find yourselves unsure of where to begin. We’ve designed this guide with beginners in mind, as we understand the challenges of navigating this new territory.

Vertical gardens are an innovative solution to common gardening challenges, particularly in urban settings where space can be scarce. Not only are these gardens efficient and space-saving, but they also bring about a unique aesthetic appeal that can transform any dull wall into a lush, green beauty.

Throughout this guide, we’ll explore the concept of vertical gardening, why it could be an ideal choice for you, and how you can embark on your own vertical gardening journey. We’ll dig into the various vertical gardening systems and advise on which plants are most suitable for this style of gardening.

So, if you’re ready to dive into the world of vertical gardening, let’s get started!

Getting Started with Vertical Gardening

What is a Vertical Garden?

Vertical gardening is a unique way of growing plants upward on a wall or stand-alone structure instead of the conventional horizontal method. It’s a smart and space-saving approach, particularly beneficial in urban areas with limited garden space.

There are two main types of vertical gardens to consider:

Wall Mounted Vertical Gardens
Container-Style Vertical Gardens:

These vertical gardens consist of stacked or wall-mounted containers, planters, or specialised vertical garden systems (like towers). The containers can be attached to a wall, hung from a structure, or arranged in freestanding towers.

This type of vertical garden is ideal for people with limited ground space, as it maximises the vertical space available. It’s the equivalent of building apartments rather than houses to use the airspace above the ground more effectively. These gardens are often used for growing small plants, herbs, flowers, and certain types of vegetables.

Freestanding Vertical Gardens Work Well in Balconies
Climbing or Trailing Vertical Garden:

These gardens involve plants that naturally grow upwards or trail down, using structures such as trellises, fences, arches, or pergolas for support. So in effect, you are using the structures, to help to “train” the plant where you want it to grow.
Climbing plants, including many types of vegetables (like beans and cucumbers), flowers (like climbing roses or morning glories), and vines are commonly used for this type of vertical garden. This method is advantageous because it can create a natural, lush green wall or privacy screen, and also improve the aesthetic appeal of a space.

Choosing between the two types depends on your available space, your gardening goals, and the kinds of plants you’d like to grow. Make sure you keep these in mind as we go on to explore more detail.

Why Choose Vertical Gardening?

Now, you might be asking, why go vertical? The advantages of vertical gardening extend far beyond saving space, although that’s certainly a significant benefit. Vertical gardens allow you to:

  1. Grow organic produce: With vertical gardening, you can cultivate a variety of vegetables and herbs, providing fresh, organic produce right at your fingertips.
  2. Create a stunning visual appeal: Vertical gardens transform bare walls into vibrant, living canvasses, contributing to the aesthetic appeal of your home or space.
  3. Improve air quality: Plants naturally filter the air, removing toxins and producing oxygen. A vertical garden can thus enhance your indoor or outdoor air quality.
  4. Therapeutic benefits: Gardening has been shown to have numerous mental health benefits, including stress reduction and improved focus.

Interested to learn more? There are many more benefits of vertical gardening which we have covered in greater detail and we are sure you will be amazed at the many reasons to consider a vertical garden.

Vertical Garden Systems Allow Great Versatility in Garden Design

Assessing Your Space and Needs

Before setting up your vertical garden, it’s crucial to evaluate your available space, light conditions, and your personal gardening goals.

  • Space: Vertical gardens can be adapted to various spaces - from a small balcony to a large wall. The space available will guide your choice of vertical garden system, plant selection, and garden design.
  • Light and Climate Conditions: The amount of sunlight your space receives daily and its exposure direction are key determinants in choosing suitable plants. Equally important is your local climate. In Australia, we enjoy diverse climate zones, each of which supports a unique array of plants.
  • Goals and Objectives: Why are you starting a vertical garden? Do you wish to grow organic vegetables, add aesthetic appeal, increase privacy or all of these? Defining your objectives will help inform your plant selection and garden design.
  • Challenges: Every space comes with its unique challenges - whether it's limited sunlight, a small area, or unsuitable walls for mounting. Identifying these challenges upfront will allow you to find suitable solutions as you plan your garden.

Getting Started with Vertical Gardens

So, you’re ready to take the leap into vertical gardening? That’s great! Let’s take a closer look at the fundamental steps to kickstart your vertical gardening journey:

  • Green Walls: Also known as living walls, these are either freestanding or attached to existing walls. They are made up of a growing medium and a water delivery system, suitable for a broad range of plants, from ferns to flowers and certain edible crops.
  • Climbing Plants: Utilising existing fences, trellises, or pergolas, you can train climbing plants to create a natural green wall. This is an affordable option, particularly if you already have these structures in place.
  • Pocket Gardens: This system features pockets made from fabric or plastic, hung on a wall, to hold the plants. It’s an excellent option for those with limited space and budget and allows a variety of plants to be grown.
  • Freestanding Vertical Gardens: These are stand-alone units, often featuring tiers or shelves to hold pots. They provide the advantage of portability and flexibility, allowing you to move your garden as needed to chase the sunlight or protect it from harsh weather.
  • Vertical Garden Towers: These are specially designed for vertical gardening, typically in the form of cylindrical towers with pockets or slots to hold the plants. These towers can be highly space-efficient and suitable for a range of plants, from herbs to strawberries and even tomatoes.
  • Repurposed Vertical Gardens: These involve using old furniture, pallets, ladders, or other items and repurposing them as plant holders. This approach can add a unique aesthetic element to your garden and is a great way to reuse and recycle. Get inspired by these upcycled vertical garden projects.

Each of these systems has its own advantages and can be used to create a stunning vertical garden that matches your needs and preferences. Explore our detailed guide on different vertical gardening systems for more information.

Understanding Soil and Growing Mediums for Vertical Gardens

A crucial factor in the success of your vertical garden is the choice of growing medium. There are different types of mediums you can consider depending on your chosen system, the plants you wish to grow, and the level of maintenance you are comfortable with. Here are a few options:

Wall Mounted Vertical Gardens

Soil-based systems:

Traditional soil is a common choice for many vertical gardens, especially those using pots or planters. It’s a natural medium that provides a good balance of water retention and drainage. However, weight can be a concern with soil-based systems, especially for wall-mounted gardens. Also, you need to ensure good quality, nutrient-rich soil for your plants to thrive.

Wall Mounted Vertical Gardens

Hydroponic systems:

Hydroponic vertical gardens use water infused with nutrients, eliminating the need for soil as they use a special medium to help hold the plant in place. The roots are in a water solution permanently and this approach can be more efficient as the plants can directly access the nutrients, and it avoids soil-borne pests and diseases. However, these systems can be more complex and expensive to set up and maintain, and they require a reliable power source for the water pumps. Compare soil based and hydroponic garden systems and discover their manay advantages. Hydroponic vertical garden systems are readily available in Australia and our product reviews will make it

Wall Mounted Vertical Gardens
Aeroponic systems:

Similar to hydroponics, aeroponics suspends the plants in the air, and nutrients are delivered via a fine mist to the exposed roots. Aeroponics differs to hydroponics as the roots are only These systems can be highly efficient but, like hydroponics, they can require more initial setup and maintenance. There are many suppliers of aeroponic systems in Australia and our product reviews will help you choose what best suits you.

Wall Mounted Vertical Gardens
Aquaponic Systems:

This system combines hydroponics with aquaculture (raising fish) in a symbiotic environment. The fish waste provides a natural nutrient source for the plants, and the plants help purify the water for the fish. Aquaponic systems can be highly sustainable and productive, but they require careful balance and monitoring.

Each of these systems has its own pros and cons, and the best choice depends on your individual circumstances and goals. Consider factors like the type of plants you want to grow, the amount of time and effort you can commit to maintenance, and the initial setup cost. It might also be worth experimenting with different systems to find out which one works best for you.

Irrigation for Vertical Gardens

Vertical gardens, especially when growing in mediums other than soil, require specialised irrigation systems. The irrigation method should ensure that all plants receive adequate water, regardless of their position in the garden. Drip irrigation or self-watering systems are commonly used in vertical gardens, while hydroponic, aeroponic, or aquaponic systems have built-in water delivery mechanisms.

Drip Irrigation Systems for Vertical Gardens

Ensure your chosen irrigation method fits the growing medium and the plants you wish to grow, and that it can be adjusted to provide the right amount of water. You will need to plan this out when deciding on the type and the local/ layout of your garden Overwatering can be as harmful as underwatering, leading to root rot and other problems.

To get a detailed understanding of the different growing mediums and their suitability for various plants, explore our in-depth guide on soil and growing mediums in vertical gardening.

Selecting Plants for Your Vertical Garden

When starting a vertical garden, one of the most crucial decisions you will make is selecting the right plants. The success of your vertical garden heavily hinges on this choice. It’s paramount to choose plants that are perfectly suited to your specific conditions. Factors such as the amount of sunlight available, your local climate, and the orientation of your garden can significantly impact the health and growth of your plants.

Evaluate Your Space and the Growing Conditions when Planning a Vertical Garden

If you’re unsure of what plants are suitable for your vertical garden, consider the following guidelines:

  1. Evaluate your growing conditions: Before selecting plants, assess your space thoroughly. Note the amount of sunlight received daily, the direction your garden faces (north, south, east, or west), and whether the garden is sheltered from the wind and extreme weather. This information will guide your plant selection process.
  2. Choose plants according to light conditions: All plants have different light requirements. For instance, most vegetables and flowering plants need a minimum of six hours of sunlight each day to thrive. On the other hand, many herbs and leafy greens can tolerate partially shaded conditions. If your vertical garden is situated in a low-light area, opt for shade-tolerant species such as ferns, ivy, and certain varieties of hostas and begonias.
  3. Consider plant size and growth habits: Keep in mind the mature size of the plants and their growth habit. Vining plants, climbing plants, and trailing plants are natural choices for vertical gardens. They can easily climb, spread, and drape, covering your vertical structure in a sea of green. However, non-climbing plants can also work in a pocket and container-style vertical gardens.
  4. Consider the growing medium: Different plants have varying soil or growing medium preferences. Match the plant’s soil requirements with the appropriate growing medium in your vertical garden. For example, many herbs and vegetables prefer well-draining soil rich in organic matter, while succulents and cacti thrive in sandy or gravelly soil that drains quickly. Certain plants, like lettuce and spinach, can do well in soilless or hydroponic vertical garden systems. Always research the specific needs of the plants you’re interested in to ensure they’re a good fit for your chosen vertical garden system and growing medium.
  5. Think about maintenance needs: Some plants require more care and attention than others. If you’re a beginner or want a low-maintenance garden, opt for plants known for their hardiness and ease of care. Many herbs, succulents, and ferns fall into this category.

If you’re just beginning your vertical gardening journey, starting with plants known to be easy to grow vertically can lead to early success and motivation. Herbs such as mint and basil, leafy greens like lettuce and spinach, and climbing vegetables like beans and tomatoes are all excellent choices. These plants are not only easy to grow but also provide a bountiful harvest or beautiful aesthetics, enhancing your enjoyment of the garden.

As you become more comfortable with vertical gardening, you can gradually start to experiment with a more diverse array of plants. Whether you’re aiming to create a lush, green living wall, a practical kitchen garden, or a vibrant display of flowering plants, the sky is the limit.

Remember, plant selection is not a one-size-fits-all process. It requires thoughtful consideration of your unique circumstances. By selecting the right plants for your vertical garden, you set yourself up for gardening success.

Take a deeper dive: For a more comprehensive understanding of plant selection and care in vertical gardens, explore our detailed guide on this topic. It will provide you with additional insights and advice tailored to your gardening journey.

Preparing Your Vertical Garden

Once you have chosen your gardening system and plants, it’s time to prepare for the installation of your vertical garden.

Organic Fertiliser on Potted Plant

  1. Site Preparation: This is the first crucial step. Depending on your chosen vertical gardening system, you’ll need to install it following the manufacturer’s instructions. For wall-mounted or free-standing systems, ensure that they are secure and stable, as they will need to support the weight of the plants, soil, and water. If you’re going for a container or a pocket garden, arrange them in a way that maximises your available space.
  2. Plant Placement and Spacing: The way you position and space your plants will significantly affect their health and growth. Plants with similar light requirements should be grouped together. The amount of space required between plants will vary depending on whether you are growing your plants in soil or by hydroponics or aeroponic systems.  Hydroponics and aeroponics often require less space between plants compared to traditional soil planting because these methods provide nutrients directly to the plant’s roots. eliminating the need for extensive root systems to seek out nutrients as in soil-based systems. It’s important to note that while you can plant more densely, there still needs to be adequate room for each plant to receive light and air circulation to avoid issues like disease and stunted growth. Ensure that each plant has adequate space to grow without being overshadowed by its neighbours. This can involve staggering plants in a checkerboard pattern for maximum light exposure.
  3. Soil Preparation and Fertilisation: For many vertical gardening systems, you’ll need a special soil mix or growing medium. This mix should be light and well-draining while also providing enough nutrients for plant growth. Incorporate a slow-release fertiliser into your soil mix before planting to give your plants a nutrient boost.
  4. Supporting Structures and Trellises: For climbing plants or vines, you’ll need supporting structures such as trellises, netting, or wireframes. These can be incorporated into your vertical garden design, providing your plants with something to cling to as they grow upwards.

Planting and Maintaining Your Vertical Garden

After all preparations are complete, you’re ready to plant your vertical garden. Here are some guidelines on how to maintain it: Pruning Plants is an Important Part of Maintaining a Vertical Garden

  1. Planting Techniques: The planting technique will depend on your chosen system and the types of plants. For pocket or panel systems, you can usually simply insert the plants into the pockets. Climbing plants may need to be carefully tied to supports to help guide their growth.
  2. Watering and Irrigation: Consistent and adequate watering is essential for a healthy vertical garden. As vertical gardens may dry out faster than traditional gardens, they might require more frequent watering or even a dedicated irrigation system. Some vertical systems come with built-in irrigation features for easy watering. If you have opted for hydroponic or aeroponic gardens, you will use the nutrients in your water to ensure your plants grow.
  3. Pruning and Trimming: Regular pruning and trimming help maintain the health and aesthetics of your vertical garden. Remove any dead or diseased parts promptly, and prune your plants to promote bushier growth and prevent them from overgrowing their space.
  4. Nutrient Management: As plants grow, they absorb nutrients from the soil, depleting them over time. Replenish these nutrients by adding compost, worm castings, or a balanced fertiliser. Regularly check your plants for signs of nutrient deficiency, such as yellowing leaves or slow growth, and adjust your fertilising regimen accordingly. Ongoing maintenance of nutrient levels is required for hydroponic gardens to ensure they are successful.

Troubleshooting and Common Challenges

Despite your best efforts, you may encounter some issues with your vertical garden. Here are some common challenges and how to address them:

Monitoring Plants for Disease and Pests is an Important Part of Vertical Gardening

Pests and Diseases: Like any garden, vertical gardens can attract pests and diseases. Regularly inspect your plants and act promptly if you notice any signs of infestation or disease. For more detailed information, explore our Guide on Pest Control.

Inadequate Light or Temperature Extremes: Plants in vertical gardens may be exposed to more sunlight or wind than in traditional gardens. Ensure your plants are suitable for your conditions, and consider protective measures if necessary.

Drainage and Moisture-Related Issues: Proper drainage is essential in vertical gardens to prevent waterlogging, which can cause root rot. If you notice the water is not draining properly, you may need to adjust your irrigation practices or check your system for blockages.

Plant Health Issues: If your plants are not thriving, they may lack essential nutrients or suffer from stress, such as overwatering. Review your care practices, and consider seeking advice from a local nursery or gardening community.

Expanding Your Knowledge and Resources

As you embark on your vertical gardening journey, there are many resources available to support you:

Further Reading: There are countless books, websites, and blogs dedicated to vertical gardening. Do some research and find resources that resonate with you.

Online Communities and Forums: Online communities, like gardening forums and social media groups, can provide a wealth of knowledge and advice. Plus, it’s a great way to connect with fellow gardeners and share your experiences.

Local Gardening Groups or Classes: If you prefer face-to-face interaction, consider joining a local gardening group or attending a gardening class. Not only will you learn more, but you’ll also meet like-minded individuals.

Inspiration and Ideas: Looking for design ideas for your vertical garden? Browse garden centres, gardening magazines, or websites like Pinterest for inspiration.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Vertical gardening is an innovative approach to gardening that offers several advantages such as space-saving, potential for organic produce, and aesthetics. Choosing the right vertical gardening system and plants suitable for your conditions are crucial steps. Regular maintenance and troubleshooting issues as they arise will ensure the success of your garden.

Take Action: It’s time to take action! Start planning your vertical garden, considering your available space, and the goals you want to achieve. Remember, every gardener started as a beginner, and with time and practice, you too can have a thriving vertical garden. Use information on our website to help guide your vertical gardening journey.

Sign-up for our Newsletter: We’ll be regularly adding new content to this website to make it more valuable as you are getting started with vertical gardening. Stay up-to-date with the latest tips, guides, and product reviews by signing up for our newsletter. We also share exclusive content and updates with our subscribers.

FAQ Beginners Guide to Vertical Gardening

Are vertical gardens hard to maintain?

The maintenance of a vertical garden largely depends on the design and the type of plants used. In general, vertical gardens can require more attention compared to traditional gardens due to their unique structure. They often require regular watering, as they may dry out faster. Pruning, trimming, and pest control are also important to keep your vertical garden healthy. So while not necessarily hard, they may demand more frequent care.

What is the best way to water a vertical garden?
The best way to water a vertical garden depends on the size and design of the garden, and the plant types. For small vertical gardens, manual watering might be sufficient. However, for larger vertical gardens or those in dry climates, a drip irrigation system can be a more efficient watering method. This helps ensure that water gets to all plants evenly and can be timed to provide regular watering. But remember, overwatering can be just as harmful as underwatering, so monitoring your garden’s water needs is important.
How do you start a vertical garden?

Starting a vertical garden involves several key steps:

Choosing a Vertical Garden System: Consider factors like available space, budget, and gardening goals when selecting a vertical gardening system. Options can range from container-style gardens and freestanding towers to climbing or trailing vertical gardens.
Selecting Plants: Choose plants that are suited to your specific conditions, including the light, climate, and the orientation of your garden. Starting with easy-to-grow plants can be a good idea for beginners.

Understanding Soil and Irrigation: Depending on your chosen vertical gardening system, you might need to consider special soils and irrigation methods. Vertical gardens often require more frequent watering due to faster drying rates.

What should I plant in a vertical garden?
The choice of plants for your vertical garden should be influenced by the local climate, the amount of sunlight available, and your gardening goals. If you’re new to vertical gardening, it can be advisable to start with easy-to-grow plants like herbs (e.g., mint, basil), leafy greens (lettuce, spinach), and climbing vegetables (beans, tomatoes). As you gain experience, you can experiment with a wider variety of plants.

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