Is anyone else amazed at the number of vertical gardens on The Block Sky High this year?! Everywhere you look on the exterior of the building there is a vertical garden, which has greatly contributed to the building achieving a huge 8 Star Energy Rating. The contestants have also jumped on the vertical garden bandwagon, with 4 out of 5 couples installing at least one in their Loggia. I myself am a huge fan, and since I live in an apartment I’m always searching for ways to add life and a bit of greenery to my dull concrete fortress.
This past week I have been visiting my parents in Queensland and my mother mentioned to me that she wanted to make some improvements to an old pine decking board privacy screen in their backyard visible from the kitchen and dining area of their home. On closer inspection, yes it definitely needed some work, but I also wanted to make it a bit more aesthetically pleasing than just fixing up the decking boards…this is where the old faithful vertical garden sprung to mind.
When deciding on a design I knew it had to be cheap, easy to maintain, and most of all, easy to construct mostly by myself. I’ve always been one for concealing or integrating where possible, so I knew that keeping the existing decking where I could would be important. I also had to work out a way of removing some of the decking in the middle of the structure (without taking the whole thing apart) so I could make the vertical garden slot in nicely and have most of the materials concealed by the remaining decking boards. I also had to admit that my workmanship as a solo DIYer using power tools was bound to be a bit shonky.
I decided to make a box (backboard with 4 sides) out of Form Ply and then screw pieces of rain guttering that would serve as my plant trays (repurposing guttering, perfect!).
So here we go, Dani’s DIY Vertical Garden…
You will need
Form Ply (the Ply with the black coating, it’s better for areas exposed to the elements)
Rain Guttering (new or secondhand)
Screws (approx. 40mm long & 15mm long)
Circular Saw (if hardware store is not able to cut Ply for you)
Tin Snips (if guttering is not cut to length)
Plants of your choice
Find a Location for your Greenwall
This might be the only vacant wall on your balcony (if in an apartment) or in my case an existing decking board privacy screen that was screaming for some life.
Decide the Size of your Greenwall
In my case, I wanted the greenwall to be centered on the existing screen, so I measured the distance between the two central posts (there were 4 in total) that determined my width of 1200mm.
Next I decided I wanted there to be three decking boards on top and underneath of the garden (so it looked framed) that determined my length of 1400mm.
This made my greenwall 1200mmW x 1400mmH x 180mmD.
The depth of your greenwall (Ply sides) will depend on the width of your guttering. Mine is 180mm wide by approx. 80mm deep (high). You can also opt to make your guttering trays jut out a little from the box for extra effect, but I decided to keep mine flush.
Write a List of Materials and Hit the Shops
For a greenwall that is 1200mmW x 1400mmH x 180mmD you will need:
Roofing Company or Demolition Company
7 x pieces of rain guttering cut to 1166mm long – I didn’t have any lying around so first I phone a demolition company, but they didn’t have enough so I then phoned a roofing company (Tropic Roofing in Townsville) and asked if they had any off-cuts. The guys were super nice and even cut it down to size for me.
The number of trays you have will depend on how high you make your greenwall, so when working out the number of trays you will need to use:
Height of guttering tray + min. gap of approx. 100mm (space between trays) / height of greenwall
For 1400mmH x 1200mmW greenwall with 80mm high trays it works out to be 7 trays.
– 1 x box of 100, 40mm weather resistant screws
– 1 x box of 50, 15mm weather resistant screws
– 1 x piece of Form Ply (1200mm x 1800mm) cut to: 1200mm x 1400mm (This forms the backboard)
– 1 x piece of Form Ply (600mm x 2400mm) cut to: 2 x 1400mm x 180mm (this forms the two sides) and 2 x 1166mm x 180mm (this forms the top and bottom pieces of the box)
The 1166mm accounts for the 17mm thickness of the Ply down either side.
If your hardware store is unable to cut the Ply for you, then you will need a circular saw to cut it yourself at home. Be careful when measuring and remember the old rule “measure twice, cut once”. You may need assistance when cutting the ply, I did.
1 x Large bag of potting mix
10 x plants for each guttering tray, I based my plant quantity on each plant having 120mm of space
The plants are the expensive part, so do your research as to what might be more cost effective and suitable for your climate. My greenwall location meant the plants would see half sun/half shade and I also wanted to have a mixture of herbs, natives and tropical plants.
It’s nice to have a mix of tones as well, so get some different tones of green and try throwing in some purples or even yellows.
Construct your Greenwall Box
Screw, with 6 screws from the back evenly spaced, your two side pieces of Ply (1400mm x 180mm) onto the backboard.
Screw, with 4 screws from the back evenly spaced, your top and bottom pieces of Ply (1166mm x 180mm) onto the backboard.
Screw, with two screws evenly spaced, where the two side pieces of Ply overlap the top and the bottom piece to fix it all in place.
Hang your Vertical Garden Box
If you are hanging your greenwall on a timber fence it’s easy enough to screw through the front of the backboard onto the fence in a couple of places to secure it. If you’re hanging your greenwall on the side of a house or wall, or if you’re just concerned about the weight, then click for super easy step-by-step instructions on how to make a French Cleat.
In my case, I cut away the internal pieces of decking with a circular saw and slotted the vertical garden box into the gap and fixed the two sides of the box to the existing pine posts.
You may need some assistance lifting your box into place as the Ply is quite heavy.
Install Rain Guttering Plant Trays
When measuring, sit your bottom tray flush with the bottom of your greenwall box.
If your trays are also approx. 80mm deep, from there, measure up 180mm and that will be the position of the top of your next tray.
From there, keep measuring in 180mm increments and fix the top of your trays in line with those measurements.
Allowing 180mm overall gives you 80mm for your tray, and then 100mm space between that tray and the next.
If your trays are larger or smaller than 100mm then allow for their size, plus approx. 100mm when working out how many trays you will need.
I originally wanted to paint my trays black so they would blend with the box, but my parents liked the look of the silver so I left it for them. In a few weeks, once the plants grow, you will hardly even see the trays.
Arrange your Plants and Start Planting
Arrange your plants on the ground so you can see what goes with what and if you want to do any patterns on the greenwall with colour and variety.
Empty some soil into the base of your guttering tray, pot 10 plants per row (in your preferred arrangement) and fill the rest of the tray with soil to the top.
It is beneficial to plant the plants slightly on an angle to encourage growth towards the sun; otherwise the greenwall may feel too cluttered.
I decided to do every second row in herbs, meaning I have 4 rows of herbs and 3 rows of other plants. The plant arrangement is really a personal thing as to how you want them to look. I like things neat and even, so I kept either the same plants, or same colour leaves to one row.
I couldn’t get 10 of some of the herbs so I had to mix it up a bit and combine multiple herbs per tray but I tried to keep them fairly similar in colour, appearance and family. I broke up all the green rows with some yellow/green leaves and some purple/green leaves and selected quite different plants to give some more variety and make it a bit more interesting to look at.
Water, Stand Back and Admire
Now all you have to do is give your plants a nice soaking, then stand back and admire your hard work.
For my greenwall, as the existing structure was slightly out of square from weathering over the years I had some gaps that needed to be concealed and tidied up a bit. I decided that “picture framing” my greenwall with new pieces of timber decking was the way to go and it really finished it off nicely… Although this also meant I had to paint the entire existing structure again.
I also planted new plants in the garden bed at the base of the screen and filled with chip-bark.
My Plant List
Row 1 – Two Varieties of Parsley
Row 2 – Liriope Evergreen Giant
Row 3 – Rosemary
Row 4 – Ipomea Bright Ideas (Lime)
Row 5 – Two Varieties of Basil
Row 6 – Rhoeo Dwarf
Row 7 – Three Varieties of Mint & Oregano
And for the garden bed I used Dianella Golden Streak.