Starting My DIY Vertical Garden

vertical garden wall

When it warmed up outside and the plants began poking their heads above the ground and growing leaves again, I started thinking about fixing up our yard. Last year we didn’t do much other than put in some raised vegetable gardens and try to keep the grass mowed, so it needs a lot of work. One area that wasn’t very attractive was the side of the garage. The garage is behind the house, where it backs up to an old-fashioned alley. One side of the garage borders the back yard, and I got the idea in my head that it would be the perfect spot for a vertical garden.

I’ve been in love with vertical gardens for what feels like a long time, and I blame the internet. It would regularly show me images like this:
vertical_garden_1

(from here)

Or this:
vertical_garden

(from here)

How can you not want a beautiful wall of greenery after looking at those? Of course I’m not the only one who feels that way, and I shared some more inspiration and DIY links here. There are pre-made vertical garden systems like Woolly Pockets and Florafelt, but I calculated it out, and they would cost thousands of dollars to cover the side of our garage (and that’s without plants or soil!)  Not really the best use of our money right now. But just look at this sad wall crying out for a lush coating of green plants:

garage wall
The entire back yard was grass when we moved in, but I actually dug out the garden bed at the foot of the wall last summer. The area is always shaded, so I planted it with woodland shade-loving plants like ferns, heuchera, and bleeding hearts. They added a bit of interest to the yard, but didn’t do anything to cover up the dingy old garage wall.

So obviously a DIY solution was in order. When I was at Ikea recently, I noticed some new products that I thought would work for a vertical garden hack. The ÄPPLARÖ line is designed to be used outdoors, and it features a wall panel that I thought would be perfect for hanging planters. Of course you could buy wood and build your own version of the wall panel, but the advantages of buying it from Ikea was that it came stained for outdoor use, it came with six hooks, and I didn’t have to deal with hauling, cutting, and assembling wood. I did have to buy additional hooks, though. The LILLÅNGEN over-the-door hangers/hooks fit over the top rail.

Next I needed planters. Again, if you’re more hardcore than I am, you could build your own wood planters (though you’d probably still want plastic liners to help prevent rot). I bought 15 of these plastic window box planters with the idea that I could just slip the hooks under the edge of the planter rim. I tried it out and it seemed like it would work just fine, even with soil in the planters.

But then I added plants and water, and the planters started to bulge out in the middle. I was worried that they wouldn’t hold up in the long-term, so I had to figure out a solution. One way to deal with it would be to add Ikea’s wall panel shelves. They cost $10 apiece, though, and I was worried that they would stand out too much. Plus I preferred for the planters to tilt outwards, rather than sit flat on a shelf. So I bought 2×1 boards ($3 each) and built each planter a wooden collar that fit around the top rim. The cutting, screwing, and staining of that wood ended up being the most time-consuming part of this project. So if you’re in a hurry, you might want to use the shelves.

Here’s the start of my vertical garden:
DIY vertical garden

Already I think it’s an improvement over the bare wall. It doesn’t look much like the walls that inspired it yet, because I just planted it. But as the plants grow and fill in, I’m hoping that they’ll cover up the boxes and frames.

vertical garden

vertical garden

vertical garden 2

My favorite part of this project was picking out and arranging all of the plants, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them grow and flourish. Since there’s no direct sunlight in this area of the yard, I went for a shady woodland look. Here’s a list of some of the plant types I included:

Ferns (Japanese tassel fern, Western sword fern, painted Japanese fern, Alaskan fern, autumn fern, jeweled chain fern, deer fern, Korean rock fern, Wallich’s wood fern, Hart’s tongue fern, and probably a few more)
Heuchera (a couple of different colors)
Bleeding heart
Mondo grass (black)
Creeping jenny (green and chocolate)
Acorus grass
Corydalis
Epimedium
Aguilegia

Here’s a list of the other supplies I used for this project:
ÄPPLARÖ wall panel (5)
LILLÅNGEN over-the-door hangers/hooks (5 packages of 2 each)
Plastic window box planters (15)
2×1 boards (15)
Wood stain
Outdoor screws
Potting soil (about 12.5 cubic feet)

I’ll be sure to post updates on it as it grows and (hopefully) fulfills my vertical garden dreams.

11 thoughts on “Starting My DIY Vertical Garden

  1. Rachel that is just beautiful. I want one for my yard! Wish I could have gone plant shopping with you. You are welcome to raid some of my plants also. Such a great solution to the garage wall. Can’t wait to see them grow on your blog. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Lance Mannion says:

    So glad I found this post, my yard/garage situation is almost identical. I started to copy your idea to the tee, I’ll have to post my results when I’m done.

    • Thank you! That’s a good idea to do strawberries vertically. I’m sure you could build something from scratch that would work well, and I bet it’d be good for other sorts of fruits and veggies, too.

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