Growing Vertical

Backyard art. Smoothie garden. Privacy screen. The ultimate in wall art, indoor or out.

Vertical gardening continues to offer opportunities that challenge the imagination and skill of backyard gardeners, especially those living with space-challenged yards.

An interior or exterior wall, a fence, a free standing multi-tier planter or trellis, or dedicated construct all serve as palettes for this living functional art.

Crates, shelves, or a repurposed pallet1 – wheeled or stationary – can also be used.

vertical gardening wall

Beautiful example of vertical gardening (

It seems that little is off limits when it comes to growing vertical as long as the plant and produce are properly supported:

  • Food – from leafy vegetables to gourds to berries to vining produce (peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peppers)
  • Non-food vines
  • Herbs -culinary and medicinal
  • Annuals
  • Perennials

Start with an idea, type “vertical garden*” into any search engine and browse the resulting thousands of pictures for inspiration.

Is your goal to cut grocery costs, set up at the local farmers’ market, create a niche in living artwork, or to simply decorate a corner of your world?

It is important to understand the growing pattern of your plant choices – how they hang or climb – do they fall straight or fan out and up?  Are ties or stakes needed?

Understand too how the plants are affected by sun and climate and how the garden as a whole will ride out a mid-Atlantic winter.

As the popularity of vertical gardens grows, how-to’s have become plentiful online. DIYers make use of pvc pipe, wire cages, bottles, bamboo, and stakes or poles of wood or other material.

Popular Mechanics2 has a tutorial on constructing a large wall garden, complete with irrigation system, plastic sheeting, moisture-bearing fabric and stainless steel fixtures.

If that’s too ambitious, there are simpler gardens that require nothing more than a collection of potted plants and a backless bookcase. Maybe a can of paint.

vertical gardening using hanging bottles

Inspiration for a vertical garden (

For those who prefer to save their energy for planting and cultivation, ready-made planters are increasingly available from mainstream to specialty stores, with prices ranging from $20 to $700. Building vertical planters could be a revenue stream.

Beyond the artistic use of space, there are practical benefits to growing vertical:

  • increased crop production
  • improved air circulation which removes damp conditions that enable unwanted fungi and pests to get a foothold
  • enhanced visibility, making it easier to enjoy the view and to watch for potential problems
  • reduces the amount of water needed for watering
  • less taxing on knees and backs
  • an end to dirt-encrusted produce
  • easily translates to indoor gardening – out of the heat, humidity, pollen, and poor air quality of a mid-Atlantic summer

From simple to complex, ornamental or practical, vertical gardening is an excellent option for bringing life to a small space.

vertical gardening with gutters on side of house

Rain Gutter Garden (


  1. How to Build a Vertical Garden or Living Wall. Matthew Ashman. eHow. July 2015
  2. How to Start a Vertical Garden. Danielle Beurteaux. Popular Mechanics. July 2015.

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