How to get your vertical garden started

An old pallet becomes a creative planter at Greensgrow.

Outdoor space is hard to come by in a city, but you don’t need a sprawling lawn to spruce up your home with plants and flowers. Instead of gardening out, garden up.

With vertical gardening, you plant on a wooden pallet or metal panel, then attach it to a wall or prop it up against a deck or balcony railing. “If you can wake up in the morning and look out at what was previously a brick wall and is now full of green living plants, it changes your whole outlook on the day,” says Curt Alexander, owner of Urban Jungle, a vertical landscaping company and garden center in South Philly.

The trick, he says, is to arrange the plants so they all get enough light, which means making sure bigger ones don’t throw a shadow on the little guys.

Most types of plants, flowers, veggies and herbs will work, says David Prendergast of Greensgrow, an urban farm in Kensington. The farm, open seven days a week, has examples on display for aspiring vertical gardeners, plus a nursery, a vegetable stand and a pig named Milkshake.

Keep the bugs at bay

Incorporate mountain mint and marigolds into your pallet. Mountain mint wards off mosquitoes, and the scent of marigolds deters other bugs. 

Step by step:?How to make your own pallet vertical garden

1. Get a pallet. “You can Dumpster dive, find one on the street, go to any retail or industrial space,” says Prendergast. “They’re readily available.” Chemically treated pallets, which are painted a color, shouldn’t be used for vegetables.
   
2. Attach landscape fabric to the back of the pallet by stapling it all along the edges, putting the staples an inch or two apart.
   
3. Snake a soaker hose (made of permeable rubber, so water will seep through and get distributed evenly) along the back of the pallet.
   
4. Lay the pallet down and fill the spaces with soil, two-thirds of the way full.
   
5. Plant your plants. About 32 plants should fill the pallet.
   
6. Leave the pallet flat for two weeks to give the plants time to “get established,” Prendergast says. Make sure it’s near where you want it to wind up, because it will be heavy.
   
7. Stand the pallet up and attach it to a wall or balcony railing.
   
8. Enjoy your new green wall.


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