Wall gardens

Herbs and vegetables growing in a wall garden

Wall gardens – sometimes called vertical gardens or living walls – can turn any wall, fence or vertical space into a living, growing wall of edible garden. Wall gardens are particularly convenient if you have limited space, and will give you the same amount of crop as the same space in your garden, with less watering and weeding required. Include a wall garden as part of your balcony garden, indoor garden or community garden, or add one to side of your building. A wall garden will use space efficiently, cover up an ugly wall, provide privacy and beautify your home and garden.

Wall garden considerations

How much time do you have?

A low effort wall garden is absolutely possible, but your time and motivation should influence which plants you choose. How many times can you water your plants each day? Do you travel a lot? Let your answers help you decide which plants to choose and how you plan to water them.

How much sun and heat does your wall get?

Is your wall outside in direct light or inside away from windows? Does part of the wall get more sunlight than the rest? Is the sun there all day or only in the morning or afternoon? How does this change with the seasons? Although many vegetables need several hours of direct sunlight to grow, greens and herbs can get by with much less sun. Let the amount of sun exposure influence the type of plants you choose. If your wall garden is part of your indoor garden you might like to consider using a growing lamp.

Is water easily available?

Can you easily water the highest parts of your wall garden? Your wall garden may need to be watered more often than an outdoor garden, since they tend to be more compact and have less soil. If your wall is tall, or you have a lot of plants, you might like to consider an irrigation system. Don't forget to use greywater to feed your garden as much as possible and compost to reduce evaporation.

Which type of wall garden?

There are many different approaches to wall gardens, limited only by your creativity and the size and strength of your wall. If you are new to wall gardens, you might try a series of containers mounted to the wall in some way. Fill your containers with soil and seeds or seedlings and you have an instant wall garden. Containers can range from traditional pots and planters to recycled gutters, pallets and picture frames. Pocket gardens feature plants tucked into pockets made from material such as felt or canvas. Other simple options include trellises and pre-purchased mountable hanging gardens.

Top 5 wall garden tips

1. Build a solid frame

Most wall gardens consist of a solid frame, plastic sheeting to stop water leaking onto the wall, and a fabric foundation for the plants. Choose a material such as felt, which retains water and allows roots to grow through it. It is generally best to build the entire structure before hanging it on your wall, rather than adjust and tweak once it has been mounted. Building a frame to hang on your wall, whether big or small, means you can take it down more easily if and when you want to. The type of material you use for your frame will depend on the strength of your wall, whether it's indoors or outdoors, and the flooring beneath the wall.

2. Establish roots

Where your wall garden uses containers with panels rather than upright pots, take the time to grow your plants horizontally for a few weeks before planting them in your wall garden. That way the roots have time to establish themselves and will be more likely to hold the soil in place.

3. Keep it simple at first

With time, your wall garden can be a big contributor to your daily meals, but it's best to start slowly and give yourself time to learn as you go. Get started with a basil plant, a cherry tomato plant and a 'cut and come again' lettuce. Begin with the side dishes then move onto the mains after some trial and error.

4. Choose the right plants

The type of plants you choose will depend on whether your wall garden is indoors or outdoors, how much sun it gets and your lifestyle. There are many climbing varieties of fruits and vegetables – such as beans, peas, passionfruit, berries and tomatoes – that are suited to a simple trellis. Others – such as capsicum, eggplant and cucumbers – can be trained to grow up a trellis rather than sprawl over the ground by cutting off lower shoots to encourage top shoots. Speak to your local nursery about which plants will suit your wall garden's conditions and your lifestyle. Remember that your wall garden can be as small and simple (herbs in the kitchen) or large and sophisticated (full vegie patch) as you like.

5. Get your watering system right

If your wall is tall or you have a lot of plants, you might like to consider an irrigation system. Generally this involves a tube across the top of the wall that drips down throughout the entire structure. Plants that don't need as much water should be placed at the top of the garden, since that part will dry out quickly as gravity pulls the water down. Plants more suited to wetter conditions should be placed at the bottom of the garden. A fertilising system can be included in the irrigation system. Speak to your local hardware store or nursery about the systems available.

There is likely to be some runoff from your wall garden. If your wall garden is outside, you could plant a flower bed underneath it to save water. Don't forget to use greywater to feed your garden as much as possible and compost to reduce evaporation.

A sustainable diet

For a variety of reasons, including lifestyle and ethical choices, some people choose to eat a plant rich diet. To find out more visit the Better Health Channel.


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