Small Space Living: Tips for Building a Vertical Garden

By Amanda Paa – Updated May 2, 2023

I love colorful flowers, I love fresh food. Every year I have good intentions, decorating our patio with a few baskets of beauties and planting tomatoes, peppers and herbs in a small area below our 3rd story condo.

And every year the story is the same. The flowers die within a month, a combination of me not watering them and little shade to help the cause. My vegetables never produce because the soil is so rocky and overworked, or my inconsistent watering, or the squirrels decide to run off with any of the fruit.

But this summer is different – my brown thumb is going to transform into green with my vertical garden, I’m sure of it!

DIY Vertical GardenBetween Brian’s dad building the frame for me, and getting the high-quality flowers, vegetable seeds and garden-ready herb plants thanks to Burpee Home Gardens, I’m already off to a better start than ever before. Although my dream is to have a hobby farm where I grow all my own food and have billions of cats, I love how the vertical garden has become the perfect solution for our small space.

Although I didn’t have to break out the toolbox, I think many of you DIYer’s could create your own vertical garden. How to Build a Vertical Garden {with vegetables & flowers}Here are a few of my tips for building a vertical garden:

1. Make sure you buy enough potting soil – I used almost all of two (2.5 cubic feet) bags.

2. Don’t pack the soil too hard when you’ve got it laying on the ground. You want to be sure that you will be able to plant the flowers, or sow small rows for the seeds. It will compact as you stand it up too.

3. You could plant all herbs or small plants, but I thought the flowers added to the top and bottom rows of the planter added beautiful color and gave it a nice visual anchor for the eye.

4. If planting vegetables, choose ones that will not have long roots. Since the dirt cascades downward, long roots will “outgrow” the soil.  Radishes, herbs and lettuce are good options.

5. Of all things, buy a boot tray to sit underneath the vertical garden to catch dirt or excess water.

What I planted:

*Shock Wave Denim Petunias
*Supercascade Blue Petunias

Organic Vegetables-
*Heirloom Lettuce – in seed tape form. So easy you guys. All the seeds are spaced equally apart on the paper-ish tape and you plant them about 1/4 inch under the soil. The maturity is only about 30 days, so sprouting has already begun. (pictured above)
*Garden-Ready Basil, Oregano, Thyme
*Sweet Basil and German Thyme seeds
*Patricia Radishes – only 25 days to maturity, oblong shape, and a beautiful red color with white tips.

Tomorrow marks two weeks and the garden is already flourishing! Here’s my proud mama picture of the sprouts and blooms:

Vertical Gardening ~ Small Space Living
For patio planters: If you have a sunny area that never gets a speck of shade, these are the flowers I choose and they’re thriving with daily watering:

*Candy Showers Deep Purple Snapdragons
*Lemon Lollipop Snapdragons
*Shock Wave Denim Petunias
*Supercascade Blue Petunias
*Goldsturm Rudbeckia
*Ornamental Grass

Vertical Gardening ~ how to
As I mentioned earlier, all the seeds & plants are from Burpee (I bought mine at Menard’s and Home Depot), my partner for this vertical gardening experiment. I value the story behind their family company which started in 1881, and how they continue to have such an honest business. With all non-gmo seeds and an amazing assortment of organic and heirloom flowers/vegetables, they truly are committed to providing all of us the means to connect with nature.

I’m off to enjoy breakfast on my tiny patio garden, but I’ll be back with an update next month. I see my brown thumb slowly transitioning………

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July 18, 2015


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  1. kristie {birch and wild}

    This is such a great post-I love the idea of vertical gardening but have never tried it. It would be great for kitchen herbs and flowers, for sure.

  2. lori

    What a lovely patio garden!

    • Amanda Paa

      Thanks Lori – it’s fun to watch everything grow!

  3. Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet

    Your back deck is so adorable! A vertical garden is a genius idea. :)

  4. Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life

    This is brilliant! I don’t really have space for a garden…I’d love to set this up on my back deck for my herbs! Clipped it to HomeTalk to keep it handy! :)

    • Amanda Paa

      hi michelle! so happy i decided to do the vertical garden. hope you try it too! and thanks for stopping by :)

  5. Kathryn

    I love the idea of a vertical garden so much! We’ve had mixed success with what we’re growing on our balcony but I think part of the problem is that it doesn’t get enough sun so having some flowers/plants up a little higher would be a great solution.

  6. Becky Winkler (A Calculated Whisk)

    This is so cool, Amanda!! I am moving this summer but hope to do something like this next summer :)

    • Amanda Paa

      oh fun! where are you moving to?

      • Becky Winkler (A Calculated Whisk)

        Chattanooga! It’s going to be a big change from Boston but I’m really excited about it.

  7. Crista

    so, so, so, so cute! i’m glad you finally got it up and running :)
    you’re lucky to have Brian’s dad around – I could certainly use a handy man for a few (so many!) projects

    • Amanda Paa

      what about Patrick?! he seems super handy. you are quite efficient in building your own things though girl. amazed at your garden! xo