Recently, a friend sent me some gorgeous pictures of his vertical garden. He used the sunny wall side of his garage to put up a basic metal trellis on which he suspended some flower pots by means of nuts and bolts. He experimented with a number of plants, many of which died of over or under watering and finally he hit upon the right kind of plants. Vertical gardens are now catching the fancy of city dwellers, even the ones who live in apartment blocks. It brings in a lot of green and livens up your life. Many people are growing their veggies on these vertical greens. Besides, veggies, people are growing herbs, flowers and even small curry leaf shrubs. The last one, of course, grows into a tree but that will need transplanting once it out grows the container. Vertical gardening is not a new concept. Traditionally farmers used the trellises to grow vegetables such as beans and the various gourds which grace the Indian table. These gardens are easy to maintain and take up less space, but there are some things you need to pay attention to. The first one being the sunny wall; you will need this space which catches the morning sun but is not too hot and gets some shade during the mid day. The vertical garden should not be too high as it would be difficult to manage. All the pots should be within reach for maintenance and harvesting. The third thing on the to-do list is that the support system should be strong enough to take the weight of the pots and plants. Finally, make sure that the wall can take a lot of moisture. In case you have a doubt about that, drape a pretty plastic sheet at the back; but do that in an aesthetic way. Gutter gardens: These vertical gardens are good for plants that require only a small space to grow in. They are ideal if you have a narrow space. You can choose between plastic or aluminum rain water gutters. Once you have selected the ideal spot, cut the gutters to the required size. You will need to cap the ends of the gutters to keep the soil from seeping out. You will need to make some drain holes in the gutter to allow the water drain out. Your nearest garden centre will help you with the potting mix and the right kind of plants. Edibles such as lettuce, coriander, spinach and other varieties of greens are a good idea. There are also flowering plants which can be grown in gutter gardens. Bottle gardens: This is a great way to recycle old soft drink bottles. Once you have cleaned and dried the bottle, fill them with potting mix and fix them on a support on the wall. You can plant small flowering plants or edibles in them. Plastic bottles can be also cut in half and the top end used to plant. You will have to fix these half bottles on a wooden frame in such a way that the ones on the top drain water into the ones below. Shoe bag gardens: This is taking innovation to a whole new level. All you need is a canvas shoe organizer. Fix the shoe bag to a wooden frame with metal clamps; give the canvas some additional support to take the weight of the potting mix, plants and water. You will also need to attach the shoe bag to more than just the top so that it has the support. Ideally these shoe bag gardens are right for growing herbs and for small apartments. So you can grow your palak and fenugreek leaves at will. Nina Varghese for

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