How to use vertical space to grow edibles

Do you find that you just don’t have enough floor area when you venture into your small garden?

It may leave you tripping over pots, squeezing into cramped seating areas and longing to be able to grow much more in your outside space.
Yet, if you think vertically, the smallest space can offer an abundance of produce in pots if you make the most of your walls, windowsills and fences, says Mark Ridsdill Smith, creator of the popular website Vertical Veg and author of a new book, The Vertical Veg Guide To Container Gardening.
“Using containers is a brilliant way of growing food in a small space, whether it is a balcony or even just a windowsill,” he says.
He offers the following tips on ways to maximise growing potential in your vertical space.

1. Think about platforms and prettiness
“If you’ve an old ladder or plant pockets or shelves to attach to a fence or wall, you can increase the amount of vertical space,” he recommends. Think about using the rungs as shelves to display a number of pots with different edibles.
“If you just have space for one plant growing up a wall, make space for a hanging basket coming down filled with trailing edible flowers like nasturtiums and violas.
“I love growing Orach ‘Scarlet Emperor’, a bright magenta-colored leaf which tastes like spinach and is really easy to grow, while chard has different coloured stems.”

2. Make use of climbers
Veg like climbing French beans and climbing runner beans are ideal for growing in a pot up a wigwam made from three canes tied together at the top. Alternatively use coppiced sticks for a more natural look.
Attach string to your wall when growing vine tomatoes, squash and other tall plants which grow on one stem, which you can tie in as they grow.
For this to work effectively, you’ll need an attachment point above the plant, whether it is screwing small eyes into the wall above, or finding an old nail to run vertical lines down to your plants.
You can even grow tomatoes in a pot on the windowsill if you tie the string to the top of the windowsill and then tie the other end loosely round the base of the plant, winding it around as it grows.

3. Make a vertical herb garden
“You can repot supermarket herbs into larger pots to encourage growth. Split plants like parsley and basil, but you won’t need to split mint.. Herbs really are one of the easiest things to start with,” Ridsdill Smith says.
You can put them in a row on shelving on your wall, grow them in window boxes or on a balcony and pick the leaves when you need them.

4. Start off with micro-greens
“These are great for beginners. They grow really quickly, so you get a crop in about two weeks. Pea shoots are very tasty. Buy dried peas from the supermarket and sow them in a seed tray thickly and you’ll have pea shoots in two weeks,” he says.

5. Trail veg from hanging baskets
A bracket is all you need from which to suspend a hanging basket, which will provide you with trailing tomatoes and salad leaves, he recommends.

6. Grow salad leaves in wall pouches
“Salad leaves are among the easiest things to grow. There are so many different varieties – mustard, rocket, sorrel and many others. You can have this really mixed diversity of leaves which looks really pretty. Include some nasturtiums as the flowers look lovely and can be eaten,” he advises.

7. Use water reservoirs
If you have a sunny garden and want to save time on thirsty plants such as tomatoes and beans, grow them in containers with a reservoir, he advises. They are brilliant for sun-loving plants like chillies, aubergines and peppers

The Vertical Veg Guide To Container Gardening by Mark Ridsdill Smith is published by Chelsea Green. TPN/PA

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