Starting an indoor vertical garden

(Question)

I’d like to start a vertical garden in my apartment.  Ideally I would like edible plants.  I will be using a wall in my kitchen that faces south (but there is a house that blocks the sun most of the day).  Any ideas to help me get started would be much appreciated.

Do you have any suggestions for structures/frames and pots and types of plants that will do well in indirect sunlight?

I was thinking of replacing the fluorescent overhead bulbs with the plant/aquarium fluorescent bulbs that claim to help plants grow – do they?

 

(Answer)

An indoor vertical garden is such a lovely idea. Not only would it beautify your space and uplift your spirits, it would also purify the air and provide you with food since you will be planting edibles!

When it comes to deciding on a structure for an indoor vertical garden, there is a wide range available:  professional hydroponic panelled systems customized to a client’s interior environment;  specially designed modular containers or kits to simply hang onto the wall;  freestanding racks or wall-dividers outfitted with planting containers.

As the Toronto Master Gardeners do not make recommendations on specific brands or products, we urge you to research the available options on the market, with an eye toward the following:

  • The container(s) and racks should be water-proof and sturdy (wet soil is heavy!)
  • If the container(s) are to be attached to walls, make sure that the fasteners are able to support the weight of the entire structure including soil, plants & water, are appropriate for your type of wall and can be secured safely into it.
  • There should be a mechanism or built-in irrigation system for easy watering and adequate drainage.
  • Plants emit moisture so the planters should allow adequate ventilation and cleanup, as you would not want moisture damage to your walls and surroundings.
  • If your apartment is a rental unit, it would be wise to check with the landlord to make sure this type of installation is permitted.  If your apartment is part of a condominium complex, it would also be wise to check the rules & regulations and/or approach the condo board to make sure there are no prohibitions or restrictions on such installations.

As for choice of plants, much would depend on the amount of light you can provide.  Edibles require a much higher level of light than conventional houseplants, so your vegetable wall will want its own dedicated light source.  Plants require the full spectrum of light to grow properly, therefore standard fluorescent lightbulbs, which tend toward the blue end of the spectrum, are adequate but not ideal.  Choose full-spectrum lightbulbs whenever possible.  You will find more detailed advice on how to choose a lightbulb for your indoor garden in this post.

Some good choices of edible plants to grow indoors would be herbs (like basil, chive, marjoram, parsley, and sage), salad greens, cherry tomato, and bell peppers.  Here is a more detailed post on how to start growing vegetables indoors.

For help choosing non-edible houseplants, take a look at the Toronto Masters Gardeners guide on growing houseplants, in which you will find, among other advice, a recommended list of  easy-to-grow houseplants.  Also, succulents make excellent plants to grow indoors as they need less frequent watering.

I hope this is enough to get you started.  Good luck and have fun!