Small Spaces? Think Vertical!

AUG 05

If you are like me and have a small yard, creating space in the garden is an issue. In my case, living in downtown Frederick means that I have an itty bitty yard completely fenced in by a brick wall. Standing with one hand on my hip, the other hand holding a shovel, I felt defeated by space. Then I remembered my day-planner's motivational one-liner written boldly across the page: "If you do not raise your eyes, you will think that you are the highest point" Antonio Porchi. Though it was meant to inspire a slightly different motivation, it got me to look up…literally. In my garden, there is a lot of room to "grow up." And the idea of a vertical garden took root. Space would defeat me no more!

A trendy vertical garden will make use of planters, hanging baskets and trellises. Specially designed, pocket-style planters are perfect for mounting on walls. Do-it-yourself techniques make this an affordable option and will dramatically dress up a side of a house or garden wall. Hang baskets from porches, decks, or on shepherd's hooks to create garden space above eye level. Some plants naturally lend themselves to a vertical style; trellises and arbors are perfect for these climbers. Climbing roses, clematis, honeysuckle, trumpet vine, climbing hydrangea, wisteria, morning glory, jasmine, and ivy will all creep and wind their way up just about any structure you provide. Be sure to keep up with watering; containers and hanging baskets will dry out quicker than plants in the ground.

If you enjoy a traditional style, a layered look using tall, upright plants and trees achieves a space-conscious concept. Start with taller, background plants and work your way down to low-growing perennials or groundcovers. For the most impact, aim to have at least three tiers in your garden. These layers will add depth and interest, while pulling the natural gaze of your eyes upward. If you are concerned about how deep you can create a bed, remember you don't have to plant in soldier-straight rows. Rather, stagger groupings of 3s to save some space. Choose narrow, upright varieties to really capitalize on space. The key, while shopping, is to pay close attention to the plant's mature dimensions - though it seems obvious, it's worthwhile to point out that a plant will look different in a container than it will in your yard.

And if you want to really maximize return, think vertical veggies! There are several advantages to growing your vining vegetables upright. You use less ground space, which increases your yield per square foot, you will be able to monitor and control pests better, ripe fruit will be easily spotted, and no more stooping over to harvest! The best candidates for upright growing are tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, pole beans, melons, gourds, squash and pumpkins.

So, whatever your gardening dilemma may be, options will open up to you if you think about your space a little differently and remember to look up!