There’s no doubt about it, your garden is never big enough. So when you run out of space for flower beds, veg beds, herb beds or collections of containers. Vertical gardening is the next option.
The idea of vertical gardening is that you make use of space that you normally wouldn’t be able to garden in. Maybe you have stepped planters or strawberry towers, but the idea being that you create growing spaces in what would otherwise be, well air.
We jumped into this a few years ago trying out an idea we were starting to see pop up on instagram, YouTube and other social media sites. We even saw it appear on some of the gardening tv shows. Cheap, easy, low skill and vertical. Turning an old wooden pallet into a strawberry garden along our garden fence.
Our initial idea had been to make this our strawberry growing area, freeing up the raised bed we were already using in order to be able to grow other crops.
Now we do have a fair bit of experience of growing in containers and baskets and what not, so from the get go I knew that we were going to have to manage things carefully. The planting pockets in this planter are quite small, so this means it doesn’t hold a lot of soil. Priority one then was really nutritious, good quality potting soil.
I also took into account that given the size of the planting space, it wasn’t likely to hold moisture well, so we treated this like we did our hanging baskets and we added moisture retaining crystals to the mix.
Year one, I have to say, I loved the little space this new planting wall created for me. It created the most gorgeous little oasis of green and I loved sitting out there in a nice day.
It wasn’t perfect though, we’ll it was picture perfect, it was just that the strawberry harvest was really disappointing. Whereas we had been used to getting huge bowlfuls of strawberries from our raised bed, we were getting one of two strawberries a time from the planter wall. By the end of the season, our entire strawberry harvest had been less than thirty strawberries.
Over the course of the season, my experience had been that the wall planter just wasn’t taking in as much water from rain fall as we’d hoped and it wasn’t holding the water when we watered manually. As we were also feeding these nutrition hungry plants using soluble fertiliser, the watering aspect became a massive chose and no mater how careful we were, it never seemed to be enough.
But we weren’t giving in this easily. The strawberries didn’t work for this space, so we thought we’d try something different. The next year, we tried growing a mix of herbs, alpines and succulents. The idea being that these plans liked to be in much drier conditions.
Again, when things were going well it created an oasis of colour. Again that corner of the garden was somewhere we choose to sit on a sunny day and just enjoy our surroundings.
As well as the greenery, we now had flowers too.
It all started really well and we thought we’d cracked it. But a few months in we started seeing the tell tale signs of the plants struggling. The herbs became really woody, with very little new growth ( you know, the stuff you eat). The alpines shrivelled and dried. The succulents lasted the longest and did the best, but eventually those too gave up.
We didn’t give up though. We decided that instead of trying to created a productive or even ever green area, we would instead focus season by season. We would treat this as simply a beautiful space, if we could have it as a green, maybe even colourful space that we replant when necessary then that’s the attitude we’d take.
So here we are again, the start of the season and this year we’re focusing on the soil mix in the pockets. Instead of making our own, as we do with the rest of the garden, we’ve bought some of the fancy stuff from our local garden centre. You know what we mean. The type that makes all sort of promises on the packaging, and we’ve planted up with lots of Aubretia and phlox to add colour and hopefully some cascades of colour.
We’re not ready to give in with our planter experiment yet, but we have accepted that it’s maybe not as simple as it looked on social media.