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Got 40 inches of space? You can have a vertical garden

Slowly prop the pallet up against a wall that gets partial sun, keeping it at a slight angle to prevent the soil from falling out.
Slowly prop the pallet up against a wall that gets partial sun, keeping it at a slight angle to prevent the soil from falling out. The Washington Post

Are you a gardener who is short on space? Do you love a weekend project? Take your plants vertical.

The benefits of vertical gardening are obvious and not so obvious:

▪  Taking plants aboveground makes it possible to grow herbs, flowers and produce in places where soil is nonexistent, such as on a city balcony the size of a postage stamp.

▪  Less apparent advantages include portability. You can move your garden around to take advantage of sun or give it a break from the sun.

▪  Vertical gardens require less irrigation than in-ground plots and — perhaps the best part — little or no weeding.

▪  Aesthetically, they can lend beauty to blank or uninspired walls and surfaces.

Gardeners can make rudimentary vertical beds using wooden shipping pallets, which are cheap and durable.

Your best bet for tracking one down is stalking the “free” section on Craigslist or asking any big-box store if it has a pallet to spare. Just be sure to grab one without stamps or markings; these can indicate it has been treated with chemicals.

Just about any plant is a good candidate for vertical gardens, though non-climbing plants and those with shallow roots perform best. Place plants that don’t need a lot of water at the top and those that love moist soil at the bottom, where water pools.

Because the pallet will be heavy once packed with soil, this project is best for two people. In an ideal world you’ll let your plants take root for a week before flipping the pallet upright. But if you don’t have that kind of time, you can gingerly lift it and lean it at an angle to prevent the soil from spilling out.

What you’ll need:

▪  A wooden pallet

▪  A roll of landscape fabric

▪  Staple gun and staples

▪  3 large bags of general potting soil. You’ll need more than you think.

▪  Various plants and herbs

▪  Scissors

Built it:

▪  Lay your pallet flat, with the side you want facing front on the ground; it should have several horizontal planks.

▪  Cut three pieces of landscape fabric: Two to fit the pallet horizontally as the bottom layers and one to span it vertically to reinforce it. The fabric should wrap around the sides and bottom gap until it reaches the edge of the front, so cut more than you think you need.

▪  Pull the fabric tight and using the staple gun, staple the first horizontal piece of fabric to the pallet. You should put a staple at every point where the fabric touches the sides and crossbars.

▪  Repeat this for the other horizontal piece, followed by the vertical one. Be sure the bottom gap of the pallet is especially reinforced with fabric and staples.

▪  Flip the pallet over so that the fabric side is on the ground. If there’s any fabric showing, give it a trim. If you wish to stain the wood or paint it, now is the time. Allow it to dry.

▪  Fill the pallet nearly to the brim with soil.

▪  Using your hands or a garden hoe, form trenches in the soil.

▪  Work plants into each trench, the more tightly packed the better. Don’t forget to put the more moisture-loving plants toward the bottom.

▪  Water it thoroughly and evenly. Leave the pallet flat for a week so the soil has time to settle and the plants have a chance to take root.

▪  Slowly prop the pallet up against a wall that gets partial sun, keeping it at a slight angle to prevent the soil from falling out.

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