I live in an apartment with a fairly large balcony that gets lots of sun. I love the idea of vertical gardening, but am not sure it would work in my case? Please help.
House and Leisure put the question to Tarryn Rice, who started Wall Gardens in 2011.
‘I have always had a love of plants and derived great pleasure from the time and energy that was put into the garden in our home in Johannesburg. When faced with the prospect of moving to a house in Cape Town with no garden, we started exploring alternate ways to keep plants as part of my life. Here I discovered the potential of wall space as a blank canvas and was able to combine my passion for gardening and art. A sunny balcony is an ideal space for a vertical garden, as they are perfectly suited for urban living and people with limited garden space.
Types of Vertical Gardens
There are many different forms of vertical garden systems, with varying degrees of complexity and cost. At the top end of the scale you get large installations that use an artificial growing medium and have fully integrated irrigation systems. You also get smaller, simpler gardens like the ones we make at Wall Gardens, which don’t cost an arm and a leg. They are compact, self contained, and can be installed in a matter of minutes and moved around if needed. What you choose will depend ultimately on your space, budget and appetite for doing things yourself.
Choice of Plants
Your choice of plants is largely determined by your local climate and how much sun your wall gets. Great plants to use for vertical gardens that get lots of sun are South Africa’s wide variety of succulents. These come in many shapes, colours and textures, and I find that they are ideal for creating beautiful living artworks. These water-wise, hardy plants are also easy to maintain. You can also add herbs to your vertical garden to add a delicious, fresh dimension to your kitchen. Hardy perennial, sun-loving herbs, such as oregano, thyme, marjoram and chives, work really well. Annuals, like basil and parsley are also an option, but these need to be watered more often.
Care and Maintenance
Because your plants are growing in a contained system, periodically they will need a nutrient boost. If you have an artificial growing medium, you will need to add nutrients to the water that cycles through your irrigation system as per the supplier’s instructions. For soil based gardens, these nutrients can come in the form of worm leachate or tea, or any commercially available organic liquid fertilizer. Be careful though- usually these products need diluting and only a small amount needs to be mixed into water and fed to the plants. This can be done once a month. Your plants are also living, breathing organisms. Be nice to them and they will reward you with their bounties. Check them for pests and disease regularly, and remove dead or damaged leaves. If you see any bugs or insects eating your plants, remove them.