Think vertical when putting together this year’s garden plan

By Lloyd Thompson
WSU Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener
February 8, 2022

Lloyd Thompson – WSU Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener – Provided photo

Gardening and plant space can be difficult to find in an apartment, condominium or townhouse. The choice of what type of plants to grow and where to grow them becomes a bigger issue than in the typical suburban yard.

As I see more and more apartments in Wenatchee, I am amazed at the number of decks and terraces that have flowers or tomato plants growing on them.

With some creativity and imagination, there can be a lot of growing space available on a small patio or terrace. I have always grown potted flowers and plants, but after looking through Pinterest and a few searches on the internet, I’m pretty excited about trying some new things out this spring. One such idea is a vertical garden.

Heat and water are my two biggest concerns to address with a vertical garden. There’s no denying that a west-facing deck, patio or terrace can get pretty hot, so plant selection is a big decision; how to keep it watered is another major concern.

My wife and I recently started growing screening plants in large pots, with our most successful being sweet potato vines. They help us add a vertical screen to our patio that not only adds some seasonal shade but also additional privacy from the neighbors. Our vines climb a trellis that we set next to our large patio pots and we direct some of the vines to grow up rather than over the pot brim like before.

The options for vertical gardening have exploded the past few years as more types of soil bag and vertical pot arrangements have come onto the market.

Using soilless potting mixes that can hold more water for longer periods of time, and weigh less than mineral soils, help with those choices. Repurposed racks and frames can provide the support for hanging the soil bags for colorful displays. The use of drip irrigation emitters and tubing can provide the means to keep your designs moist enough.

One challenge for us has been containing extra water that flows through the pots and containers so it doesn’t make a mess. I recently bought a rubber winter boot tray — it has been quite handy this snowy winter — and plan on using it to help with catching dripping pots during the spring and summer months.

I searched for vertical gardens on Pinterest and found some great ideas we want to try out. There are a lot of ideas on growing herbs that take less space and are easier to manage and can even be moved indoors during the winter months to continue growing under an LED light source.

I also loved the ideas I found on repurposing old dressers and picture frames into vertical growing areas. I have used clay pots and steel rebar to make a stacked planter that looks like the pots are tipping over into the pot below it.

Right now, I am planning out a hanging design by using an old picture frame, some hardware cloth, moss, and using sedums and other succulents that will take the heat to make summer wall art for our deck.

After spending the last few weeks surrounded by mountains of snow, the thought of planting and nurturing a vertical garden is just the thing to help bust out of the winter doldrums!

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