Vertical gardening: 11 ways to get your vegetables to grow up

So it’s nearly summer and you’re itching to plant a garden, but your “estate” is little more than a balcony.

Don’t despair, vertical gardening can fit almost any pocket book or sunny nook.

Kelsey Forster, manager of the Long Beach Office of Sustainability’s Civic Center Edible Garden, particularly loves growing beans on her little balcony, training the curly tendrils up a trellis or sturdy bits of hanging string.


“They grow well if you pick them every day and they even create a little shade for a sunny balcony area,” she said. “You don’t need a deep or even wide area, just something 6 inches deep and maybe a foot wide.”

Forster gives regular classes about growing edibles, and always includes ideas for small-space gardeners. “Half the houses in Long Beach are multi-family,” she said, “so I figure half our families will always need tips for growing on a balcony.”

Here, Forster offers a few tips for making your vertical garden grow:

-- Soft, pouch-type containers are best for shallow roots like herbs, onions and succulents. Plants such as strawberries, lettuces and bushy veggies such as peppers like a larger, more rigid container. Tomatoes do best in large pots with some kind of support, like a cage.

-- Some kits have self-watering systems, but Forster just uses a “cute little watering can” to keep her patio garden hydrated. Don’t let your plants sit too long in standing water — that can suffocate the roots — but do find a way to contain the runoff from your plants so you don’t make a mess or drip on the balcony downstairs. Giving plants a little elevation, by perching it up on bricks or rocks inside a tray, would do the trick.

-- Use a good quality potting soil so roots can stretch and breath and make the most of their container. “‘Fluffy’ soils are best,” she said, “with stuff like peat moss, perlite and compost.”

Here are 11 of our favorite vertical gardening options:

Water efficient

The Gronomics Unassembled Vertical Garden Bed is a six-shelf unit that includes its own drip irrigation system. $176.

Living art

The Palram Terra Vertical Garden blends art with function, including a drip irrigation system. $60.

Wallet friendly

Woolly Pockets are sturdy, easy to hang and relatively cheap ($19 apiece or $60 for four).

Maximize what you’ve got

The Gro Products Free-standing Vertical Grow Systems pack a lot of plants into a little bit of space. $679.

Green elegance

Williams Sonoma’s vertical system will get your garden Instagram-ready. $299.95.

Packing them in

Infinite Cedar Plant Pyramid provides seven levels of growing space, enough for more than 70 plants. $300.

Crazy for succulents

Dig Gardens Succulent Letters and Numbers let you stuff your favorite digit with lots of beautiful plants. $30.

All in one

The ePlanters Garden Tower Composting 50-plant Organic Garden combines vertical gardening and composting into one neat 4-square-foot space.

Cover up

Beautify a bleak wire fence with the Flower Street Urban Garden Three-Tiered Hanging or Bolt-on Vertical Garden. Available in one to five tiers, starting at $149.

As easy as it gets

Easy-to-hang and easy-on-the wallet, the eight-pocket Vertical Garden Hanging Planter by Living Gallerie is great for shallow-rooted plants. $30.

It’s in the bag

Colorful Bloem fabric grow bags from Home Depot online include an easy-entry bucket to grow and harvest potatoes, and a four-pouch planter to sling over your balcony railing. $29, $18.

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