Through research, trial and error, we have tried a series of different planting methods to see what has worked well in our garden. You name it, we have probably tried it. Raised bed? Yup. Even tried wattling to create the raised bed edges, as well as using pallets to raise them above the ground. And the stone walls in our garden were perfect for trying a hanging vertical garden.
All our various methods were made using recycled materials and worked to varying degrees. We made almost no changes, except for a relocation of some of the pallet planters. And some simple amendments to the vertical garden as a result of lessons learned.
Vertical Garden Review
In our original vertical garden, we tried 3 variations of recycling plastic milk bottles.
Some of our bottles were hung sideways, with a hole cut out of the side for the plant. A few were stacked like a tower, with water running through like a drain pipe. And the rest were hung vertically, top end down, with the opening cut from the bottom (now the top) of the milk bottle.
What Didn’t Work
The horizontal bottles, although looking more aesthetically pleasing, were an unmitigated disaster. Soil dried out quicker and they also had less root development area.
The tower of bottles was an even worse disaster. Water pouring through, particularly in a heavy rain, simply drowned the plants.
The singular vertical bottles were much more successful, giving more room for root growth. We even planted tomatoes (singular plants) in them.
There were some issues with a few of the bottles draining badly. This was dealt with by checking the drainage holes were not blocked, increasing the number of holes or even removing the cap to let water drain if necessary. (Remember to put the cap back on so soil doesn’t fall away!)
So end result, go vertical in your vertical garden.
Going Blue in our Green Garden
Depending on the type of bottle being recycled, you may have to replace some or all the following year. Some plastics become brittle after prolonged time in sunlight, which was the case with out plastic milk bottles. And hence why we ended up replacing them.
We switched to blue plastic bottles. Why? Mainly because we had a spate of trying magnesium water (very popular in France). These happen to come in pretty blue plastic bottles. Also, we were curious to see if the darker plastic made any difference to the growing of the plants.
How To Make a Vertical Garden?
Collect washed and rinsed plastic bottles. Using a sharp knife, with care, cut the bottom off the bottle. (If you wish this can then be saved and used for other projects). You can try cutting the bottle with scissors. It is more difficult, but safer.
Drill or punch 2 ‘hole punch’ size holes, on opposite sides of the bottle. (You can use sharp scissors or a large needle.) Do this at both top and bottom ends of the bottle. Be careful of slipping with the drill bit or whatever you are using.
Hanging a vertical garden
You will want to hang the bottles on something. I did this by stringing a wire between 2 old metal bars that had already been attached to the wall. Depending on your vertical space, you need to figure out how and where you string your wire (or use wood, or a steel rod). Just make sure it is very solid, and has reasonable tension. There will be quite a lot of weight put on it.
Cut 2 pieces of garden twine, or any left over strong string, the same length. With the cap end pointing down, thread a piece of string through each of the holes at the top. Tie these over the top of the wire you have strung up. Hang as many or as few bottles as your wall wire allows.
Of note, the bottom holes you put in are for drainage.
Add soil part way up your container, if you are adding an already existing plant, then top up with additional dirt. Fill it to the top if you are planting seeds. Give it a watering to help it along. Et voilà, there you go, your hanging vertical garden.
Various Other Vertical Gardens
You could do this inside or out, but if inside, be aware of how much light your garden will receive. I have seen people use poles in the window, giving the plants lots of natural light. This way looks particularly lovely.
There are lots of ideas and suggestions out there of ways to build a vertical garden, here’s just a few: Real Simple, Popular Mechanics and Rodales Organic Life. You can also buy various planter pockets, though they are obviously more expensive than recycling bottles. Florafelt and Wallygro make some interesting pocket systems.
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