7 things I learned from my first attempt at vertical gardening

So the summer has passed and with the upcoming Super Blood Moon, I feel like fall has inevitably come. Time to evaluate my first attempt at vertical gardening!
For starters, here’s what our little construction looked like on our scruffy city terrace:


I’m so glad to have taken my love for plants outdoors again, even if it is on a terrace. I actually enjoyed the extra challenge of creating a suitable vertical garden with limited space and money to spend.
So here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1 – You will need a boatload of sunshine!

This was a bit of a bummer. Our terrace is east-oriented, which results in only about 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight each day during the summer months, while 6 hours is recommended as the bare minimum for good growth. This wasn’t a huge issue as it turns out, but it did result in our plants not carrying nearly as much fruit as they could have. So if you’re planning on a project, consider you might have to lower your expectations depending on the orientation of your terrace. I still enjoyed the whole experience and watching the plants grow over time, but we were very far from skipping a trip to the greengrocer’s every week.

Whilst they did look good on instagram, especially the cucumber, zucchini and eggplant didn’t really take without a decent 6 hours of sunlight, we only harvested about one fruit per plant. Maybe extra fertilizer, more space or some sort of mirror-contraption would have helped… I’ll have to look into that before next spring.

2 – The city is your warm and cosy friend

Living in the city can benefit your plants! The warmth of the walls surrounding our terrace and the fact that we are living close to the centre of Brussels makes for some welcome extra warmth. It’s always 1 or 2 degrees warmer in densely populated places in comparison to the countryside. All the stone and concrete keeps the heat close to your terrace and releases warmth at night. Cherry tomatoes and strawberries love it! Be extra careful to water your plants when the weather is dry though (in the evening so the wet leafs don’t get burnt in the sun).

3 – Plant stuff you enjoy eating

We bought a lot different varieties of lettuce this, mostly because all of the little plants at the market looked so cute and it was nice to have a few of each variety to just watch while it grew. It was sheer enthusiasm. Also we figured not all of them would make it. But yay they did! And argh I’m not at all a fan of lettuce.
I ended up making a pretty decent soup out of the abundance of leafy, curly and wavy leafs, but in retrospect, I should have utilized the space for something I would have  enjoyed more. Like the zucchini, the zucchini rocked. … Both of them.

We bought small plants at the market instead of starting from seeds. We started on this pretty late in spring, so starting from seeds was not really an option and in any case it also felt like the smart thing to do as beginners.

4 – Animal-proof your veggies

As we have tons of cats lurking around the neighborhood, including our very own Ananas, we decided to cat-proof the lowest planters with some netting, just for suresies. It also helped keeping caterpillars away from the lettuce.

5 – Try fertilizing

I don’t think we did enough of this, mostly because we never bothered to go buy or make any fertilizer, but it would have probably been better for the plants.

6 –  Put your planters to work, visually

If you have a small and not-exactly-goodlooking terrace, like we do, you might consider approaching your vertical garden as a means to make your terrace look better.

We created our vertical garden based on a pin I found, linking to a post from Man Made DIY (thank you guys ♥!) . We didn’t follow the instructions through and through (if you plan on keeping your vertical garden for some years, please do drill pilot holes!). We opted to make more of a temporary version with less screws, more nails and some random wood we had lying around. That shouldn’t have sounded as dirty as it did. Ahh well. I’m leaving it in.

We also used the wall of veggies to create a bit more privacy on the terrace, as you can see, it faces the yards and windows of our neighbors.

7 – Improvise

Have fun with it! If this is going to be your first garden  project, you might as well just go for it and improvise a bit. If anything goes wrong or some plants don’t make it, you will have learnt something new and will be better prepared the next year!
It’s much better to try and start building up some experience, maybe someday you will be able to start a big in the ground-garden with confidence and a ton of city garden-acquired knowledge!

Have fun with your green thumb!



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