Vertical gardening is one of the latest trends in gardening, as real estate lots continue to shrink and yards are increasingly eaten up by outdoor living spaces. With sustainable practices on the rise, more and more homeowners are getting their hands dirty and growing their own food. For homeowners who don’t have a lot of space to plant a garden, however, planting up instead of out is often the best option.
Vertical gardeners use a variety of materials and methods to extend their gardens toward the sky. Trellises, arbors and pergolas have been commonly used for this purpose since long before vertical gardening had a name. Many homeowners have also begun using their fences for vertical gardening – wood fences, vinyl fencing and especially the ubiquitous chain link fence can all become support structures for vertical gardens. This serves a dual purpose by allowing the garden to expand upward while also beautifying a boring or unattractive fence.
Fence Materials for Vertical Gardening
Depending on the gardening techniques you use, just about any fence materials can provide a support for climbing plants. However, some are better suited for the job than others. It’s also important to keep in mind the size and weight of the plants you grow on your fence, especially when it comes to edibles; you don’t want any overly heavy plants weighing your fence down. In fact, French botanist Patrick Blanc, the inventor of vertical gardening, recommends using a metal frame or concrete wall for vertical gardens.
Here’s a look at some of the most common fencing materials and how they fare for vertical gardening:
Chain link fencing.
A chain link fence provides the ideal support for a vertical garden. Its mesh design provides plenty of toeholds for climbers, and the galvanized metal won’t rust or rot from direct contact with your plants. In fact, vertical gardening is a common way for homeowners to hide an unsightly chain link fence. You can simply train your plants to grow up your chain link fence; peas, vine cucumbers, and pole beans all fare well in this type of environment.
Vertical gardening techniques for wood fences are a bit different, as plants continuously hold moisture, which can cause wood fences to rot. The safest solution for vertical gardening on a wood fence is to buy flowerpot brackets, which can be screwed into the fence boards. Then use the pots to create a vertical garden. Be careful not to add to much weight to your fence, however; for best results, use plastic gardening pots, which are lighter.
One advantage vinyl fencing has over wood is that it’s impervious to moisture. On the other hand, its smooth surface doesn’t provide much foothold for climbing plants. When vertical gardening on vinyl fencing, you may need to lean a small trellis or other structure against your fence to encourage plant growth.
For homeowners with wood or vinyl fencing, a pocket garden can provide a viable solution to these vertical gardening challenges. The pocket method involves using an item that looks much like the pocket shoe holders you hang onto your door, but they can be hung on vinyl or wood fences instead. The pockets are then filled with dirt and plants.
Vertical Garden Plant Ideas
Some of the easiest munchies to grow on a chain link fence include pole beans, peas, cucumbers, grapes and the lighter (in weight) varieties of melons, winter squash and gourds. Add splashes of color to your fence’s vertical garden with plants such as climbing roses, wisteria, honeysuckle or clematis. Use slings, which you can make from scraps of fabric, to tie the vines in place along the fence so they don’t have to bear so much weight alone.
Use the pocket gardening method for strawberries, succulents, bulbs, hydrangea, azaleas, ferns, Japanese andromeda or lettuce. Vertical gardens are also great for themed varieties of plants. Theme gardens can include an herb garden, tea garden, perfume garden, spring or summer flowers, flowers that grow from bulbs, plants that are the same color or from that are from the same species.
Once you grow a vertical garden, you’ll wish you had more space along your fence for more. Water your vertical garden from the top of the fence, keep up on its maintenance and enjoy the flora for seasons to come.