7 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Vertical Vegetable Garden

Aug 28, 2023Plant Selection & Care

Vertical vegetable gardening is a great way to grow more food in a smaller space. It is perfect for gardeners in homes and apartments, as it allows you to maximise the vertical space in your yard or balcony. As with any gardening venture, there’s a learning curve. Drawing upon our expertise in urban horticulture, we’ll guide you past seven common mistakes of vertical vegetable gardening to help to set you up for success.

Mistake #1 – Neglecting the Need for Light

Every vegetable has its unique light requirements. When setting up a vertical vegetable garden, it’s crucial to consider the orientation of your space. Ensure that plants with similar light needs are grouped together and that those that need the most sunlight, face towards the sun.

To enhance sunlight accessibility, consider vertical garden systems on wheels. There are several vertical garden towers that will give you the flexibility to rotate your garden, giving every plant its moment in the sun. Another alternative if your garden doesn’t receive ample sunlight are LED grow lights.

Vegetable light requirements

Mistake #2 – Choosing the Wrong Vertical Garden System for Your Vegetables

There are many different types of vertical garden systems available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Different vegetables have distinct requirements and matching them with the right system can make all the difference.

For example, larger stackable or tower vertical planters and pots are ideal for vegetables that tend to grow larger or require deeper soil including tomatoes and carrots. If you were looking to use a smaller system such as a pocket planter, these would suit lettuces and strawberries.

Tomatoes in Vertical Vegetable Garden

Not Picking the Right Containers – Size, Depth, and Drainage 

Connected with choosing with the right vertical garden system, is choosing the right container for your vertical garden. Leafy greens might thrive in shallow containers, but root vegetables like carrots demand depth. Drainage is equally crucial—excess water spells root rot. Opt for pots that prevent stagnation, ensuring plant health.

Mistake #3 – Overcrowding Plants in Vertical Gardens

A desire for abundant yield sometimes leads gardeners to pack plants too close. Overcrowding restricts airflow, making plants susceptible to pests and diseases. It’s wiser to space them adequately, ensuring robust growth.

Mistake #4 – Inconsistent Watering

Gravity’s pull means water tends to settle at the bottom of vertical setups. Plants at the base risk waterlogging, while upper ones remain thirsty and may dry out. Combat this with drip irrigation or self-watering containers (which could include hydroponic planters), guaranteeing equitable water distribution.

Mistake #5 – Soil Quality & Composition – More Than Just Dirt

The right soil or potting mix can make or break your vertical vegetable garden. Urban gardeners should consider potting mixes, which offer superior drainage, are lighter, and generally free from weed seeds. Enhance these with compost or organic fertilisers to keep them nutrient-rich. Regularly check the pH and ensure your mix is within the 6.0 to 7.5 range, ideal for most vegetables.

Soil Quality in Vertical Vegetable Garden

Mistake #6 – Not Rotating Your Plants

Rotation in vertical gardening isn’t about switching pots. It’s about varying the types of vegetables you grow in a particular container over different seasons. This tactic breaks the life cycle of pests and diseases specific to certain plants. For instance, if you grew tomatoes in a container this season, consider capsicums or lettuce the next.

Mistake #7 – Lacking Sturdy Support Structures

Certain vegetables, when laden with produce, become top-heavy. Tomatoes, beans, and cucumbers, for example, benefit from trellises or stakes. Integrating these supports can prevent snapped stems and ensure fruits don’t touch the ground. They can also help to improve the safety of vertical planters in them not becoming as top heavy.

Final Thoughts

Now we should add another mistake! Don’t give up too early. Vertical gardening may take a bit of time for you to get use to it. Don’t assume that if you’ve had some plants die off that you are a bad gardener and then give up. It may take a bit of trial by error. Don’t give up if you make a few mistakes along the way.

Start off small with vertical gardening and then add to it (e.g., buy one planter or some modules, then additional ones as you have gotten into a routine and developed confidence). This is when you start to truly recognise the benefits of gardening and what you are able to enjoy from your harvest.

And here’s a wrap up of our tips to increase your chance of success with vertical vegetable gardening:

  • Choose vegetables that suit the area where you live. This will help to ensure that they are well-suited to the climate and soil conditions in your area.
  • Use containers that are designed for vertical gardening. These containers will have built-in drainage holes and will be lightweight enough to be easily moved.
  • Place your vertical garden in a spot that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight per day.
  • Water your plants regularly, especially during hot, dry weather.
  • Fertilise your plants regularly – the frequency will depend on the type of fertiliser you have chosen.
  • Monitor your plants for pests and diseases and take steps to control them as needed.
  • Harvest your vegetables when they are ripe.
  • Enjoy your fresh, homegrown vegetables!


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