Updated: Feb 12, 2021
Vertical gardens (also known as green walls) are gardens that grow up instead of on the ground. These gardens have been in human cities for centuries. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World implemented a dramatic system of these terraced gardens throughout the city.
In addition to being an object of history, vertical gardens can do much for us today and in the near future in the way of climate resiliency. The climate crisis will continue to disproportionately affect BIPOC and low-income families, who will be forced to deal with health impacts as well. With the impacts becoming increasingly worse, there will be record numbers of low-income and BIPOC families that will be food insecure (and definitely will not have access to organic, healthy foods). Vertical sharing gardens will help improve climate resilience in a community by allowing the people most affected by the climate crisis to have access to fresh produce and potentially lower the health impacts of lacking nutrition. The gardens also have the potential to give the community access to fresh produce, remedying food deserts.
The benefits of vertical gardens will offset some of the effects of climate change by improving air circulation and decreasing the amount of stormwater runoff in local water systems. Some of the additional benefits of vertical gardens over regular gardens are that they can control weeds, grant more gardening space, reduce rot on fruits and vegetables, are easy to harvest and check for pests, allow seniors to garden without straining their backs, and act as a cooling barrier by absorbing energy.
However, to have a successful vertical garden, you must take several considerations into account. To prevent root rot, you must make sure there is water drainage, but the plants must also be watered more frequently, as the vertical gardens dry out more often. Drips and micro-irrigation can be good choices to prevent the gardens from drying out. There also should be air circulation if the garden is indoor. The plants can get heavy, so the structure of the vertical garden must be able to support the plants. Some of the lightest plants are beans and peas, which can twine to the supports. Other options for heavier plants include making a sling or tying them.
Different plants call for different structures. Climbing plants require only a wall to grow on. However, consider that if the plants cling, they may damage paint, wood, or mortar. Plants with tendrils do best in trellises or tripods. Plants that twine need a wire or string to support them.
Your imagination is the only limit for making your vertical gardens successful and integrated into your life. But we know that it can be hard to get started, so here are some instructions for a sample vertical garden project.
If working with kids, create a 15-minute presentation describing the scientific process through which plants function, the purpose of vertical gardens, and options of plant varieties.
Create a planting plan including the structure for the vertical wall (fences, arches, gazebos, wire cages), types of plants you want, and the needs of your plants (soil type, light, temperature, humidity).
Construct the structure for the plants with hanging pots, water bottles, or other materials. Consider setting up an irrigation system to keep the soil moist without having to constantly water. If necessary, drill or poke holes in your planters.
Install the plants into the system you designed.
Plant Care Plan
Designate who will water or monitor the plants.
Ensure plants receive the appropriate amount of water and sunlight
Check for pests and diseases
Monitor produce output
Sharing Garden Aspect
Points to consider: how many produce items can someone take per day, who will have access to the garden, how will people access the garden
Publicize the garden on social media and local platforms