If space is an issue for you or you just feel like experimenting, why not consider creating a vertical vegetable, flower, herb or mixed purpose area.

Vertical planting is perfect for small gardens, terraces and balconies but it’s also a fascinating way to plant. It challenges the mind and becomes a creative art project as much as it is a practical solution to lack of suitable growing space.

What to grow?

The most important stage is deciding what you would like to grow. Picture what the plants will look like, what fruit, veg or flowers they will produce and their growing habits. This will inform your pot selection and the placement of plants.

You can create your living wall out of any collection of flowers, vegetable plants or herbs that you like. It’s entirely up to you.

One of our favourite ideas is to plant in a kind of loose theme. For example, the veg plants in an Italian theme includes aubergine, garlic, Tumbling Tom Red tomatoes, chilli, courgette and peppers, and herbs that definitely include basil and oregano. Geraniums in hot colours then complement the wall by adding colour. A French inspired planting plan, to our mind, must have garlic, parsley, lavender, sunflowers, rosemary and thyme. Growing Tumbler tomato, mint and cucumber mean that your summer lunches will have a Greek vibe.

Making containers from guttering or horizontally hanging plastic bottles that have been cut open are perfect for salad leaves such as mibuna, mizuna, lettuce and rocket. Different varieties look striking together and they’ll be ready for eating in 3-5 weeks. When harvesting leave a 2 inch stump and they will regrow a couple more times. It’s the old adage that rings true - keep cutting to keep them coming.


These are just some of the vegetable and fruit plants that work well in vertical gardening: Strawberries, cabbages and cauliflowers (striking as single plants), carrots (pot must be at least 8 inches deep), chillies, courgettes, cucumbers, fennel, garlic (pot must be at least 8 inches deep), lettuce, peas and beans (plant just one or two), peppers, radishes (pot must be at least 4 inches deep), spinach, tomatoes (small bushes or tumbling varieties).

Thinking about flowers, the choice is enormous and totally personal. As a general rule climbers and trailing plants work best due to the nature of the planting area. Climbing cobaea, sweet peas and roses and trailing lobelia and campanula are beautiful additions. You may like to focus on scented flowers such as nicotiana or nemesia, masses of flowers such as swan river daisy or more dramatic statements like huge sunflower heads appearing three quarters of the way up the wall having grown from a large pot at the base.


It’s difficult to not sound wishy washy about what to plant but the choice is enormous and it’s a wonderfully, exciting and personal one to make! Choose what you would like to grow, consider whether it is happy in a container and if it is, add it to your living tapestry.

How to make the structure?

At its simplest, vertical planting needs a strong wire mesh and bare wall or fence. Drill wooden batons to the wall or fence and secure the mesh to them with steel U pins. Make sure that the structure is robust as it will have to carry the weight of compost, water and fruit.

Choose the plastic pots and window boxes that you want to use. Think about the types of plants you’ve selected, what size they will grow to and how heavy their fruit is likely to be.


Remember that you will have to water, pick fruit, deadhead and more so avoid placing the pots higher than you can comfortably and safely reach!

Once you’ve made your pot selection, drill a hole on each opposite sides of a pot but towards what will be the rear side, the one that will be against the mesh. Thread galvanised wire through the holes, making sure there is plenty to enable you to twist to secure the pots to the wire mesh.

Trial and error is the best way of getting the result you want.

Larger pots will need a couple of rows of holes and window boxes better suit a couple of shorter stretches of wire, so perhaps three sets of two holes in the back section.

If you want the pots to tilt forward, drill the holes half way or lower or if you want them pinned flush to the wire mesh, holes need to be nearer the neck of the pot.

It is a good idea to place larger containers at the base that have taller climbing plants such as runner beans and clematis or plants that grow heavier produce such as aubergine. This way they’re easier to water, there’s maximum room to grow climb and it’s easier to harvest the fruit. Planting up Now is the easy bit! Using a lightweight compost plant up hardened off plants and carefully secure the pots to the wire mesh using the wire threaded through the pot. Leave plenty of room around them so that they can develop. As they grow, train climbers so that the frame and the mesh becomes hidden.

The plants will need frequent watering as they are not just in containers but are in an exposed position, too.


It’s a fascinating way to garden and provides a wealth of choices and selections to make your perfect living wall. The possible plant combinations are infinite but the framework you choose, the placing, shape and size of the pots you use, together provide even more variety. Some growers have perfected gutter gardening. No, not being swearing a lot (although that can happen as the pests come into their hungry season) but actually using suspended guttering as planters. The beauty of these are that row after row up a wall provides a surprisingly large amount of space for plants with shallow roots like lettuce and the rest of the summer leaves family. This is also true of containers made from cutting open plastic bottles horizontally (lids on!) and suspending them before planting up.

The best tip here is to remember that compost will make what starts out to be a light piece of guttering heavy and watering will add even more weight. If you plan to suspend the guttering be sure to use sufficiently strong wire or plenty of galvanised nails if you want to secure the guttering directly to a wooden fence or batons on a wall.

If you already have a living wall or if you are inspired to create one, we’d love to see your photos and hear about your tips and advice. Do email Lisa at editorial@smallholder.co.uk.


This article was first published in Smallholder magazine. For your copy subscribe here or buy from your local newsagent.