The Ultimate Guide to Vertical Gardening

If you’ve spent any time on social media or the wider Internet lately, you’ll have noticed that vertical gardening has become immensely popular. Between urban gardeners and survivalists, it has grown significantly, and for good reason. Vertical gardening is a great step to self-sufficiency, especially in a SHTF situation.

Why do people start vertical gardening? There are a number of reasons.

First, it’s a great way to reduce the cost of your grocery bill. After you’ve set up a system that you can run efficiently, it becomes less expensive over time for you to grow your own food. This is great because the price of food has risen steadily since 1967.

If you’re an urban dweller, vertical gardening might be a great option for you because it conserves space. Why grow outward when you can grow upward? And if you’re a prepper, vertical gardening is a great way to take a step towards self-sufficiency (and also to conserve space – not all of us have access to many acres to grow crops on).

Traditional gardens are a lot of work and they’re easy to spot and loot. Spending a ton of time on a garden isn’t just tiring. it might be impractical in a long-term survival situation. You’ll probably have a host of other things to do, and leisurely tending to a garden isn’t on the list.

Vertical gardens, however, are much easier to maintain. They take up less space than gardens spread out across acres, so you don’t have to spend as much time moving throughout your garden (which is especially great if you personally have physical limitations), or set up complicated watering systems to maintain them. Not only that, but they are often small enough that you can tuck them away to hide them from zombies looking to steal from you, or you can move them in an emergency.

For those prepping, vertical gardening can also be a way to conceal buildings, sheds and basements. More importantly, however, you can grow the food you need when money will be worthless, and still get all the nutrients you need to survive.

What Can You Vertically Garden?

One important question to answer first is what exactly you can garden vertically. Some plants, obviously, do not adapt as well to vertical gardening. This is true of plants that have less flexible stems, like trees, shrubs, and vines.

Vines, on the other hand, can grow upward, which is a plus. Another thing to keep in mind is that the setup of your vertical garden can be altered depending on what you are growing. For example, you can use a chain set up to hang planters one on top of the other in order to grow plants that delve down into soil, or you can build a literal wall (complete with fertilizer and irrigation) that plants grow on.

So, the short answer to “What can I vertically garden?” is “Lots of things!”. In a survival situation, you might look into what vegetables, fruits, and herbs would be most helpful for your diet (and your health), but if you’re just looking to be a little more self-sufficient as an urban gardener, you can pick just about anything you want to (so long as you properly care for your plants).

Here’s a list of some plants you can vertically garden:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Leeks
  • Chives
  • Raddishes
  • Oregano
  • Asparagus beans
  • Melons
  • Pumpkins
  • Onions
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Peppers
  • Basil
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Peppers
  • Cilantro
  • Cabbage
  • …and more.

basil grown vertically

You’ll, of course, want to look up the best growing conditions for each plant, and for larger crops, you might want to set up vertical planters, which we talk more about below.

Building a Vertical Gardening Wall

The good thing about building a vertical gardening wall is that you can build it on just about any blank wall you have available, so long as it is not too large. If it is too large (read: massive), then you’ll have to worry about the weight of the plants on the wall, but for the most part, you can choose just about any vertical surface you have.

The only concern for choosing a wall should be how much sunlight it gets, because that will affect the plants. If you’re just looking to make use of a vertical surface, you can just build your vertical garden and plant what you can, but if you want to try growing something specific, you should try to choose a wall that will provide the best growing conditions.

This will teach you how to build your vertical garden apart from the wall itself – which just means that you will hang it on the wall after building it rather than building it right onto the wall. This should make it much easier for you to build it, and much easier for you to take it down if needed.

You will first build a frame the size (or less than the size) of the wall, and then cover the frame with plastic sheeting. Your frame should not be metal or wood. Metal is heavier and can rust, while wood can trap water and rot – PVC pipe is easier to put together, and will last longer.

herbs in vertical garden on balcony

Your frame should look like a large grid. This can be accomplished with long pieces of PVC pipe, elbows, and 4-way pieces. After you’ve finished building it, you’ll attach the piece of plastic sheeting.

The plastic sheet will keep water off of the wall (important if it’s a wooden wall), and will back the next layer. If you are going to attach this to a wooden wall, you’ll definitely want some form of ventilation between the plastic sheet and the wall, because while it will protect it from getting directly wet, it will still get humid.

Next, attach a layer of felt carpet padding to your plastic layer. This layer is what the plants will grow in, and will retain water for them. If you can’t access felt carpet padding, you can use any fabric material that will not rot away.

You should use at least two layers of your chosen material. When attaching it, make sure that it is tight across the plastic without wrinkles. It also needs to be secure enough that it does not fall off with the weight of the plants.

The next step is attaching your garden to your wall and setting up how your plants will be watered. This is typically done by installing some sort of tube across the top of your vertical gardening wall that uses valves and drippers to wet the fabric from the top down. It will need to emit water at least ten seconds at a time several times a day.

The goal is to keep your wall wet, but not over-water your plants. This will likely take some experimentation to get right, but a good place to start is at your local gardening and hardware store or online. After you’ve set up your irrigation system along the top of the wall, attach your structure to the wall with stainless steel hardware so that it does not rust.

vertical garden pots wooden construction

Plant Fertilization

Next, you’ll want a way to fertilize your plants. You can use a fertilizer injector with an irrigation valve and liquid fertilizer to do this – again, check your local hardware store or online for these parts. Many people also filter their irrigation water, which is another part you can buy.

After that, you can start planting! In order to plant things on your new vertical garden wall, cut horizontally into your fabric, and insert your plant’s root ball (with some soil), into the slit, then re-staple the fabric around the ball so that it is secure.

Plants that are on the bottom of your vertical garden should be more tolerant to shade. One way to plant things on a wall like this is to plant in strips. You’ll have to regularly trim your plants in order to keep them from drooping too much and over-shading the plants beneath them, and you’ll need to keep in mind that there will be some dripping beneath the garden (if your garden is situated over something like a window or door).

This type of vertical garden is great for concealing buildings, especially if you live in a wooded area or somewhere that the greenery can all blend together. It’s an excellent way to shield a bunker from prying eyes, or even just better utilize the walls of your house. There’s a ton of possibilities for this kind of vertical garden to hide from zombies in a SHTF situation – especially if you have an extended amount of time to prepare a retreat.

Pest Control for Vertical Gardens

Vertical Gardens do not have the weed problems that a ground garden would have since very little soil is used. What soil is being used for the plants is not exposed for insects, birds, or the wind to contaminate with seeds from foreign plants.

However, insects can pose a problem depending on what is grown. Most plants can withstand some homemade insecticides.

Some ingredients you can use on your plants:

1 quart of Water and Chili Peppers

Or you can use these 2 ingredients:

1 quart of Water and 2 cloves of fresh crushed garlic

Add either of these combinations into a spray bottle and applying to the plants. Be careful not to over do it, as you will shock the plant, which can kill it.

Another recipe that works:

  • Mint
  • Garlic
  • Cayenne
  • Water
  • Biodegradable soap

In a blender, add the mint and garlic. Chop fine. Add this to a pot of water along with the Cayenne pepper. Allow this to steep over night. Do not boil it, as this will kill some of the properties in the garlic.

Strain this concoction into the sprayer you intend to use. Add a small amount of the biodegradable soap to this mixture.

Make sure you really spray all the leaves well, even on the undersides.

Below are a few YouTube videos that will help you decide the best course to take for your personal vertical garden.

Other Types of Vertical Gardens

Despite how cool a garden growing up a wall is, not all of us have access to even a blank wall on which to grow things. People in apartments, for example, cannot as easily utilize the previous vertical garden. Luckily, this isn’t the only way to create a vertical gardening planter.

Below you can see a woman who created a vertical garden out of barrels:

Not only that, but there are also vertical gardens that can be made using simple latticework and hanging planters. These are great for plants that need to thrive within the soil. If you stagger your planters, you can easily accommodate for how much space each of your plants’ needs.

Here’s a few examples gardens similar to this:

Another technique of vertical gardening is aquaponics, which is the practice of growing both plants and fish at the same time in a symbiotic relationship. Yes, the systems can be set up vertically. The waste from the fish provides nutrients for the plants’ soil, while the plants provide the fish with nutrients. Any excess is for you! There are also vertical towers, gutter setups, and more.

Here’s a video of small and cheap DIY aquaponics system:

The good thing about many of these setups is that they can be moved around! If it’s cold outside, or if you need to hide your plants from looters, you’ll be thankful that you can simply pick up your garden and move it elsewhere. It’s not quite the same with the wall vertical gardens, but many of the planter setups allow for increased portability.

There are many resources on the Internet to creating unique vertical gardens. It’s an easily adapted form that can serve just about anyone. With a little bit of research, you could be well on your way to creating your own vertical garden design.

Final Notes on Vertical Gardening

Above all, when designing your own vertical garden, you want to make sure to design it with the plants you want to grow in mind. Look up where you live and see what grows best in your conditions. Or, figure out how to change these conditions to better grow what you want. The great thing about vertical gardening is that you’ll have to deal with fewer weeds and pests.

Your basic considerations, for any garden, are going to be water, sunlight, soil, and fertilizer. Each of these things will need to be carefully monitored for your vertical gardening project to be a success. Luckily, it’s much easier to maintain these things with vertical gardens because you have more control over the system, and it is much smaller.

Vertical gardening is an excellent way for both preppers and urban dwellers to provide for some of their food needs while utilizing the space they have. You can grow just about anything if you put your mind to it!

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About Teresa Fikes

Teresa Fikes
My name is Teresa Fikes. I am a Homesteader, survivalist, prepper, historian, and writer plus much more all in one package deal. I was raised on a small family farm were I was taught at an early age to survive off the land without the help of modern conveniences. I am a writer by profession and a Homesteader by Blood, Sweat, and Tears.

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