Fall and winter gardening in the Pacific Northwest can be quite challenging. It’s often dark, raining and the ground alternates between muddy and frozen. We never really know what the day will bring. Right now I am cutting back bulbs and grasses which is not very exciting. Today I would like to roll back the calendar to last spring and tell you about a project that I completed in our new backyard.
We had lived in our house for ten years when we finally decided to hire a professional landscaper to design our backyard. There is a picture of the finished product on my home page. I am extremely fortunate to be able to afford such a large scale project. This was not cheap or fast! It took the better part of a year to complete, but in the end, we loved the finished project.
This is how the yard looked shortly after the last of the furniture arrived. The designers had wrapped up and I was waiting to see how the new plantings would fare. Most of the foliage did well, but several plants died off due to an extremely hot summer that year. I had to replace a number of them and while I was waiting for the garden to mature, I was struck by how the fence loomed over the space. It seemed like an opportunity to create some interest in the yard. My friend and I had attended the annual flower and garden show earlier in the year, and vertical gardens were everywhere. Many of them had been crafted from palettes as shown below.
standard vertical garden palette
This is a great idea, however, this palette is far to large and heavy for my fence. I needed to find a more suitable size for our yard. My friend suggested using the palettes that are used to ship paper products as opposed to the larger ones more often found in supermarkets and warehouses. Her neighbor happened to work at an elementary school that had copy paper shipped on those smaller palettes. Here is a picture of one that is very similar to those I ended up utilizing.
My friend was able to get four of these for me, free of charge.
Even though this is a smaller palette, I was still concerned about the overall weight, which would increase with soil, water and plant material. I did not want to damage my fence and I did not want to permanently anchor the planters to the structure. We have heavy winds and rainfall so I needed to be able to take the vertical gardens down after the summer growing season. I removed two of the cross boards to lighten the structure. I painted the palettes so they would match the brown beams on our patio. That took several coats for some of the palettes as they were well used by the time I came to own them. I used landscaping material to form the back and the pockets of the individual shelves.
This cloth worked great because I could use a staple gun to secure it to the palette and it allows for drainage from all the levels when watering. It is quite strong and did a wonderful job protecting the surface of the fence.
My next, and biggest hurdle to overcome, was how to mount them on the fence. After a lot of thinking, and several trips to Home Depot, I decided to add L brackets to the back, top portion of the planter. This would allow me to align the top of the planter with the upper, and stronger, beam of the fence.
Then, to secure the planter so it would not slide off the top, I inserted a long bolt into the last hole of the bracket and secured it with a nut. This design proved to be surprisingly stable. The planter never tipped or slide on the top of the fence.
Then it was finally time to fill all four planters with a variety of colors. Each row would comfortably hold up to six plants. I tried to vary the heights with the pocket size in mind.
Each of the four planters had a different but complementary look. Then it was time to lift!
I was quite please with the finished result. You can see the difference when you look at the side be side comparison.
This is a different angle but you can see the fence with and without the planters.
The rest of the fence needed some attention too.
I purchased a few other vertical gardens that I am particularly happy with-and I didn’t have to make them!
This black planter held most of my herbs this summer. It is quite heavy as it takes a large quantity of soil, and is secured to the fence with four medium screws. It left some rather large holes in the wood. I will have to reassess its value next spring.
And finally, I purchased these two vertical planters in plain wood and then painted them to match the others. These are sold as indoor wall vertical gardens, but I don’t think I would be comfortable mounting them inside the house. They are fairly messy and did great outside. Each of these holds 10 small plants and they are secured to the fence with two small screws and a brace that allows the planter to slide into position. These were not heavy, which was a nice bonus after all that work!