Vertical Gardening

Vertical Gardening

Part of Ep. 2102 The Eyes Have It

At Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville look to the sky for some vertical gardening inspiration.

Premiere date: May 08, 2013

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley Ryan:

What do you do when you run out of gardening space horizontally? Very simple, you grow up. I'm at Rotary Gardens in Janesville with the Director of Horticulture, Mark Dwyer. And we are looking at an awesome demonstration of vertical gardening. Mark, with the colors and the display you've got here, this is the most joyful demonstration I've ever seen. It makes me want to again start over in my backyard and just grow everything up. Let's talk about some of what you've got going on here.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Sure. This collection is our ornamental edible and compact vegetable display. And we're doing a lot of fun things with showing beautiful plants that have the secondary use in the kitchen. But what we also wanted to demonstrate is the concept you just mentioned and that's for those people that are running out of traditional garden space, two-dimensional horizontal space.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Flat ground.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Right. Maybe it's filled in or maybe they have very poor soils and they can't deal with that. Why not grow upwards? By doing that, with the use of containers and other structures, you can increase the volume of your growing and also have an enjoyable experience.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Well, you know, I have a large yard and I'm actually looking at some of these huge structures and thinking these would be fantastic focal points even in a big yard. So, I wouldn't limit it just to small spaces. A couple of these things I think would just set off any garden.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Right.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So, hey, you know, I would play with this. This is fun.

 

Mark Dwyer:

These large structures behind us with the real colorful tubes, those tubes are actually re-purposed PVC pipe.

 

Shelley Ryan:

You're kidding.

 

Mark Dwyer:

No, it's 8 inch diameter pipe. We drilled drainage holes and we cut some openings in the top.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay.

 

Mark Dwyer:

And they're secured on these supports and there's a couple things going on here. We've selected plants that tend to trail. And I should also mention these are elevated about 8 feet above ground level.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So watering them you need something special to get the water up there.

 

Mark Dwyer:

An extended watering wand. The watering's essential, particularly as these vegetables fill out. As with any container, watering is vital.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Right. In hot weather, daily, sometimes more than daily.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Right, right.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So, Okay.

 

Mark Dwyer:

And these plants, the selection we're focusing on cascading and trailing tomatoes.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay.

 

Mark Dwyer:

We're not picking anything that would be too heavy as it fruits or starts to come over the edges.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay.

 

Mark Dwyer:

And the intent with the supports is to guide beans up those. So instead of just supports, we're getting vegetables on the supports themselves.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So that's why you've got the strings going up the poles. Eventually you're going to have the tomatoes and cascading stuff coming down.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Right.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So these are going to be completely covered with edible, beautiful greenery.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Right. And think about the square footage of land we've used for these. Very minimal, with the exception of poking in the beans at the base. So what's nice is this elevated situation also becomes an archway as it fills in you can walk under it, pick produce, and it becomes a garden feature as well.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So fun for the kids, great for my back, and colorful. And again, a focal point in the garden. This is great.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Right.

 

Shelley Ryan:

With the different bright colors. I mean, you know, you've made the garden into like a play area.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Well that was the concept.

 

Shelley Ryan:

For big people too.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Oh, absolutely. And with PVC pipe or re-purposed materials, another example is directly behind us, these silver painted.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So that's PVC also that you've painted.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Correct.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Now do we have to worry about what kind of paint or anything or is it just on the outside?

 

Mark Dwyer:

It's just on the outside, so there's no concern there.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay. We've cleaned out the inside of the pipe with a bleach and water solution so that's sterile. There are drainage holes for drainage. Again back to the watering, it's vital.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay.

 

Mark Dwyer:

But the stack system. Imagine this in the open portion of an outdoor porch or veranda.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Oh yeah.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Where you have no traditional garden space so by hanging this and securing it, you're creating these levels of growth and this system behind us has also trailing tomatoes and some garden sage.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So it's all going to cascade down to be a living wall and a focal point again.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Perfect. They'll be a curtain of edibles that will also provide privacy and in fact some shade even on that side of the porch.

Shelley Ryan:

And food.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Right.

 

Shelley Ryan:

But just don't use huge tomatoes, like an heirloom variety like Mortgage Lifter tomatoes, because that's not going to hang real well. I mean, you need to look for the cascading varieties and the smaller ones.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Right, right. Cascaders and fruit weight is important as you mentioned. Stick with cherry tomatoes or under two ounce tomatoes.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Now you also have these colorful smaller tepees. What are you using those for?

 

Mark Dwyer:

Well, the tepees what we're doing there is training dwarf cucumbers and smaller vining vegetables.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay.

 

Mark Dwyer:

So the intent with the structures, of course they're ornamental right now with the fact that they're painted different colors, but we train the vines up these little tepees and the intent there is to minimize the space we're using, but also we're elevating the plant and the fruits as they're produced.

 

Shelley Ryan:

To keep them off the ground.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Keeping them off the ground has a lot of merit.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Yes.

 

Mark Dwyer:

They tend to ripen more evenly. We avoid a lot of the soil borne pathogens for fruits of vegetables that tend to lay on the ground. So there's some great air circulation underneath these as well.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Sure, they're happier. And again, I mean I just love the colors. I can't, you know-- But the one thing I'm really intrigued with is what's with the pallets. I usually think of those as left overs from a delivery of mulch or something. What are you using the pallets for?

 

Mark Dwyer:

Well, think about pallets and how often we see them laying around or many times they're shredded up for sub-par wood chips which are horrible for the garden.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Yeah.

 

Mark Dwyer:

But our use of pallets, which we generate here at the gardens, is to create these vertical planters. They're called pallet planters. So we've taken two and instead of the traditional horizontal use, we put them vertically, secured them. We've lined then with fabric and filled them with our nice soil mix. So we're planting the original slots and pockets on the pallets.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Oh wow.

 

Mark Dwyer:

And think about the square footage. Those vegetables would take up roughly 32 square feet on both side of the pallet if they were laid out in a horizontal fashion. But by doing it vertically, the silhouette, or footprint, of that planter is about 4 square feet.

 

Shelley Ryan:

And talk about reduce, reuse, recycle. This is a perfect idea.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Absolutely.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Any other fun ideas?

 

Mark Dwyer:

Well I will mention with the pallet planters, great for an apartment balcony incidentally.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Oh yeah. And you said back at the office you had a couple of other.

 

Mark Dwyer:

We do. We have a larger vertical planter where we're growing herbs and vegetables. And it's beautiful, doing very well. And we're re-purposing old culvert pipes.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Hey, I gotta go junk picking.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Why not?

 

Shelley Ryan:

Thank you, Mark.

 

Mark Dwyer:

You're welcome.

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