Gardening 101: How to Start a Vertical Garden

Vertical gardens are a smart and attractive way to brighten up and bring a touch of nature into modern buildings. They produce oxygen and cleanse the air, they are beautiful to look at and are an excellent way to bring flora and fauna into the living space for those lacking enough ground area for a garden. 

If you’re considering starting a vertical garden and don’t know how to go about it, we’re here to help! This step-by-step guide has everything you need to know to start a vertical garden in your own home.

What is a Vertical Garden?

Vertical gardens are built along the same method of constructing actual walls. The wall functions with a green wall system installed where some have a self-watering pipe system whereas others require manual watering. A vertical garden can have many plants. It is simply a garden titled upwards after all!

Types of Vertical Gardens

Let’s have a quick look at the two different types of vertical gardens before we go ahead:

  • Indoor vertical gardens – As the name suggests, these are perfect to cover up any ugly spot in your home and they make gorgeous centerpieces. They’re an excellent way of brightening up your home with a splash of color and can look stunning if taken good care of.
  • Outdoor vertical gardens – These are placed on the exterior of buildings and are quite popular due to the fact that they require minimum maintenance. Unlike indoor vertical gardens, outdoor gardens have the advantage of acquiring direct sunlight which allows for healthier plant growth.

Starting Your Own Vertical Garden

Before you go ahead and start a vertical garden, there are some things you’re going to need. First, make sure you’ve got all your equipment and necessary tools.

Things You’ll Need

  • Materials to build a frame – PVC pipes, elbow joints or four-way joints (you can use anything you like as long as it’s not too heavy)
  • Plastic or PVC sheets
  • Stainless steel staples and screws
  • Razor blade
  • Fabric layers – 2

Step 1: Choose a Wall for Your Vertical Garden

Once you’ve got everything you need, the first thing you’ll need to do is to simply choose a wall to get started. Choose one that’s the least attractive since you’ll be able to hide most of it. A simple wall would be perfectly fine unless you’re planning on large-scale gardening in which case you’d probably need a large wall or several separate walls.

Step 2: Build a Structure for the Vertical Garden 

A structure is extremely important since it provides support to your vertical garden. For the structure, build a strong frame and hang it on the wall. This is the easiest option since it allows you to take the frame down any time you want and you can move it about easily.

Once the garden is completed, it’s going to be very heavy so avoid moving the frame about. To build a basic frame structure you can use PVC pipes, elbow joints and four-way joints as they are durable, lightweight and you can easily install them with a self-watering system.

Metal and wood can also be used but they’re not ideal since metal is very heavy and wood can absorb moisture from the plants and rot over time.

Step 3: Attach the Plastic Sheeting to the Frame

After building the structure, firmly attach a sheet of plastic or expanded PVC sheets to the frame. The plastic acts as a support for the fabric layer and keeps the water off the wall behind it.

However, if the wall you choose is made of wood, make sure to ventilate the space between the plastic and the wall to prevent the wood from collecting moisture and decaying.

Step 4: Attach the Layer of Fabric

Once you’ve attached the plastic sheeting, attach the fabric layer to the frame. The fabric is important since its where your plants will live and it’ll be holding the water they need. Make sure you have at least two layers of fabric on hand and attach them to the frame using screws or stainless steel staples or both.

Make sure you stretch the fabric across the frame tightly so that there won’t be any wrinkles and it won’t sag in places.

Step 5: Install the Irrigation System

Installing an irrigation system is optional if you don’t mind watering the plants manually. However, if you’re too busy to spend time on watering the plants, an irrigation system would be your best option. An in-built irrigation system is an excellent investment for larger and taller vertical gardens where manual watering is difficult.

Developing a vertical garden requires only basic watering tools and techniques in order to become fully operational. The simple science behind the irrigation system is to simply let gravity do the work.

Most gravity fed drip irrigation systems have emitters attached to a hose which runs from a bladder of water hanging near the garden. You can use a large upturned water bottle as a water reservoir or a rain barrel.

The gravity-fed system can be designed where the emitters sit snuggly inside the pocket where your plants are growing. Water will continue to drip from the emitters at a steady rate to keep the soil consistently moist, giving the crops what they need to produce and keep the soil from drying out.

Pass the hose through each level of plants to make sure that all your plants get equal amounts of water.

Step 6: Connect the Irrigation System to Your Water Source

The next step is to connect the irrigation system to the water source. We recommend using an irrigation water filter to purify the water so that your plants will receive the best water possible. Irrigation water filters are fairly cheap and you can find them at hardware stores.

There will most likely be runoff water from the system, so what you can do is to have a flower bed under the vertical garden to collect the excess water.

Step 7: Choose the Right Plants for Your Vertical Garden

When choosing the plants for your garden, there are several factors you’d want to take into account including humidity, wind, sun, cold and shade. If your garden is going to be left outside during the colder months, choose plants that can survive in cold weather.

If you’ve decided to go ahead with evergreen plants, you can detach the garden and store it in a cool and dry place during winter.

Step 8: Plant Your Plants!

Using a razor blade or any kind of cutting tool, make horizontal cuts in the fabric. You’ll need this to insert your plants. Clean off as much soil as you can from the roots of the plant and gently insert it into the cut.

Attach the fabric securely to the plastic sheeting using a few staples (3-5 staples would be fine and make sure they’re stainless steel). Your plants will be fixed firmly in place and ready for growing. And that’s it, you’re done!

History of Vertical Gardens

Vertical gardens, also known as living walls, bring a long history of gardening and architectural innovation. Although it’s not clear when they first appeared, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon stand out as an ancient marvel.

These gardens supposedly draped over terraces like a green mountain, showcasing an early form of vertical planting.

In medieval Europe, people trained fruit trees to grow flat against walls in a method called espalier. This saved space and helped the trees get more sunlight. Later, during the Renaissance, this approach beautified and served practical purposes in castles and monasteries.

French botanist Patrick Blanc made a huge leap with this idea in the 1980s. He developed the modern green wall, taking plants and covering entire building facades. His innovation made vertical gardens a fixture in modern cities.

These living walls now bring nature into urban spaces, improving air, saving energy, and supporting wildlife. They’ve become a signature element in cities, blending art, nature, and practicality as more people crowd into urban areas.

FAQ’s about Starting a Vertical Garden

1. What is a vertical garden?

A vertical garden is a gardening technique that involves growing plants vertically on a wall or other vertical surface, using various systems such as pots, pockets, trellises, or hydroponic structures.

2. What are the benefits of a vertical garden?

Vertical gardens can help maximize space utilization, improve air quality, reduce urban heat islands, reduce water usage, provide insulation, and enhance the visual appeal of buildings and landscapes.

3. What are the best plants for a vertical garden?

The best plants for a vertical garden depend on factors such as the available light, climate, size, and orientation of the wall, and the desired aesthetic and function. Some popular choices include succulents, herbs, ferns, climbers, and flowering plants.

4. What materials do I need to start a vertical garden?

The materials you need to start a vertical garden vary depending on the type and scale of the project. However, some essential materials include a sturdy wall or frame, suitable plant containers or pockets, potting soil, a watering system, and appropriate hardware or mounting brackets.

5. How do I maintain a vertical garden?

Maintaining a vertical garden involves regular watering, pruning, fertilizing, and pest control, depending on the specific plant species and growing conditions. You should also monitor the structural integrity of the wall or frame and adjust the watering schedule and nutrients as needed.

6. How do I choose the right location for a vertical garden?

Choosing the right location for a vertical garden involves considering factors such as the available sunlight, wind exposure, drainage, accessibility, and the weight-bearing capacity of the wall or frame. You should also consider the visual impact of the garden on the surrounding environment.

7. Can I build a vertical garden indoors?

Yes, you can build a vertical garden indoors using various techniques such as living walls, shelving, or tiered structures. However, indoor vertical gardens require special attention to lighting, ventilation, and moisture control to ensure optimal plant growth and health.

8. How long does it take to see results in a vertical garden?

The time it takes to see results in a vertical garden depends on the plant species, growing conditions, and the size and complexity of the project. However, most plants will start to show visible growth and fill out the wall within a few weeks to a few months after planting.

Wrapping Up

As you can see, it’s not that hard to start a vertical garden at all. In fact, it can be a lot of fun if you’re ready to make the effort to set it up. Once you’re done, you’ll surely enjoy watching your garden grow and the best part is, you won’t even have to spend much time on it.