PO Box 2458, Tijeras NM 87059

Mountain Gardens--finding success with plants for the high desert and East Mountains of New Mexico

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Pot for Vertical Gardening

Happy New Year, everyone!

With the cold weather upon us, we've been catching up on our reading, trying to stay abreast of gardening trends. Commercial horticulture is going through an upheaval just now. Even the big guys are paying attention, and us little guys are running in place.

The journals tell us that the interest in fruits and veggies will continue strong, especially among young people. The market for natives and drought tolerant plants is still there and swelling (no shock there given the ramifications of global warming.) Fairy gardens and terrariums, hmmm. Shades of my youth, guess we'll pot up a few terrariums, but anyone can stick some miniatures in among the plants, and given the cost of "fairies" and their furnishings, we'll have let our customers discover their own. Living roofs are wonderful; they'll be a real boon to the urban environment where stormwater runoff needs to be addressed, along with the urban heat sink, but I think that out here in the New Mexico sticks, roof water needs to be captured, in cisterns, basins and swales, rain gardens. Seed saving is a growing trend, easy and rewarding, and I hope more gardeners will join organizations like Seed Savers and  buy from Seeds of Change.

Bel embellishes a hanging pot
It's hard to find an issue of any gardening journal that doesn't have an article or photos about vertical gardening. From the huge, expensive installations of Patrick Blanc, or the one at Longwood Gardens, to medium priced kits, to one pot hanging on a garden wall, there's something for everyone. (http://pinterest.com/joeast/--see Verticality for some great photos) There are some really clever homegrown designs out there using everything from pallets and cinderblock to hanging shoe bags. Think of what a vertical garden would do for a chain link fence!

Again, there's a lot of interest in vertical gardening in urban environments, not just as a softening of the concrete jungle, but a cooling of the heat island, capturing rain water runoff, and even growing local foods where there is precious little open ground. Apartment dwellers can utilize their balcony walls--there are big dividends to greening the urban adventure.

Suburbanites with small yards are also finding verticality practical, and here in New Mexico where courtyards are a popular, even necessary feature, there are lots of walls that hold heat in winter, and offer windshelter in the summer. But before anyone rushes out to buy one of the  multitude of new hanging wall systems, they should consider a few points.

One--make sure your container is strong enough to support the weight of soil, plant and water. Two--make sure water will not pool against the wall; moisture can penetrate sheathing in a variety of ways that can lead to rot or termites. Three--make sure the planting pockets will hold enough soil for the particular plants you want. Four--like all containers, vertical planters will need care in winter in temperate climates. Five, like all containers, their fertility will be leached by consistent watering, and veggies especially will need additional fertilizer. Think about starting small until you know you can keep up with the watering and care these hanging gardens need.

After much nagging, Bel finally caved and has started crafting some pots for us. We've already potted up the first prototype. We had to cede the far end of the greenhouse, but she has promised to drag out her potter's wheel, and show Aly and I how to throw--we have so much time on our hands! But we're going to need some beautiful pots for another trend we're fascinated by--kesheiki...but that's another blog.