Why use a vertical garden? Because your gardening space is limited; because you live in an urban setting without access to uncompacted, uncontaminated soil; because you like the looks of a green wall. Whatever your reasons, options for vertical gardening are somewhat limited, and most fall into the DIY category. The Gronomics Vertical Garden Bed is a ready-to-use space-saver. And it comes pre-assembled! All you need is soil.
Setup is Easy
The vertical garden bed package includes:
- a western red cedar growing structure–32 inches wide x 45 inches in height x 9 inches deep,
- a sturdy cedar base (with castors) to set it in,
- screws for stabilizing the structure against a wall, and
- an irrigation system with tubing, pump, and timer.
It arrived in a large, cumbersome box. Because the vertical growing structure had been pre-assembled, setup was relatively simple. I encountered only one problem, which the manufacturer, Gronomics, rectified immediately: one irrigation clip (connecting the tubing to the pump) was missing. Without this piece, the irrigation tubing separated from the pump as soon as the water was turned on. I received a new part impressively quickly after notifying the company of the problem.
In order to screw in the eyelets that route the irrigation tubing, the angled horizontal cedar slats that keep the soil in place need to be removed. This was not a problem, however some wood splitting occurred as I slid the horizontals back into their slots. I did not repair the splits, and this did not affect the performance of the vertical garden.
I set up the irrigation and tested it before planting. This entailed filling the 8-gallon water reservoir contained within the base, and connecting the suction hose piece (with a capping screen to keep most of the dirt out) to the pump, then attaching the slimmer circulating irrigation tubing to the pump also. I routed the irrigation hose through the eyelets on each sides of the seven vertical planting beds. The final step was securing the pump to the inside of the base with the screws provided, and then attaching the timer. The whole pump/timer apparatus is contained within the base, protected from the weather and accessible by opening the hinged top. Note that the timer in this kit needs to be plugged in to an outlet.
The pump performed well at first, with a steady drip at the top tier. Unfortunately, this good performance lasted only a couple of weeks.
Filling the Vertical Garden with Soil
I used a rich soil mix of compost, a soilless medium, topsoil, and perlite to fill the vertical garden from the top. Step number one was lining the bottom bed with the fabric liner included in the kit. Filling the structure made quite a mess, with soil spilling from the openings. Plan on this being a two-person job, with one person situating and compacting the soil as it falls, and ensuring that the tubing stays in place so that each tier will be adequately irrigated, while the other pours bucket upon bucket of soil mix into the vertical space. The total capacity is about 4 1/2 cubic feet of soil.
After the garden was completely filled, I tested the irrigation again. It was still functional.
Planting! What Worked, What Didn’t
As for plants, the container cherry tomatoes were not entirely unsuccessful, though I would not recommend them. And the nasturtiums on top did not get enough irrigation to thrive. On the other hand, the thyme performed beautifully, as did the kale and chard.
This planter is well suited for herbs and greens. For good results I suggest thyme, oregano, parsley, prostrate rosemary, lettuce, chard, and kale. Everbearing strawberries would also be a great choice.
Most of the maintenance involved watering. The reservoir should be checked weekly and refilled by inserting a hose into the circular hole in the base.
I found that the very slim irrigation tubing became easily clogged with dirt. If blockages occur, you’ll notice that the water will stop circulating. In this case, disconnect the tubing from the pump and clear the blockages.
The suction hose that is inserted into the reservoir should be checked every week or two also, and the screen at the end of it cleaned as necessary. After a few weeks I opted to hand water, rather than constantly clear the tubing.
The cedar will turn a natural weathered grey if you do not apply a finish. I opted to leave it unfinished. Gronomics suggests that, although no finish is required, a natural oil applied regularly will minimize cracking and drying. I interpret “regularly” to mean at the start of each growing season.
At the end of the growing season, empty the water reservoir, and unplug and remove the timer. I also plan to remove about half of the soil, and replace it with fresh soil for next year’s growing season.
Vertical Garden Specifications
- Dimensions of Vertical Garden Bed: 32″W x 45″H x 9″D
- Dimensions Vertical Garden Stand: 33″W x 15″H x 23″D
- Linear growing space: 17 feet
- Soil capacity: 4.5 cubic feet
- Water reservoir capacity: 8 gallons
I give the Vertical Garden package a 3-shovel rating. There is a need for space-saving products such as this, as urban dwellers look for gardening solutions. However, the irrigation system was a disappointment. Although Gronomics claims that the irrigation system “will keep your garden beautiful for weeks,” this was not the case. Assuming that the cedar wood lasts 5 to 10 years, the vertical garden itself is a reasonable value.
An economical option to purchasing the package would be to obtain irrigation tubing and other readily available materials, along with a hose-end timer, and set up your own inexpensive watering system.
Where to Buy
Gronomics products can be purchased on gronomics.com, as well as on Amazon. Some of their products are also available at Target, Home Depot, and other retail stores.
Gronomics offers the Vertical Garden package, which includes the assembled vertical garden, the stand, and the irrigation system, for $699.99, which includes shipping. The irrigation timer in the package needs to be plugged in to an electrical outlet.
- Gronomics VG3245 Vertical Garden Planter, 32-Inch by 45-Inch by 9-Inch
- Gronomics Vertical Garden Stand
If you need a totally self-sufficient system, an alternate battery-operated irrigation system is available for $50 more than the plug-in. I expect that a package containing this option could be arranged.
The cost of the vertical garden alone, without the stand or irrigation system is $299.99 assembled, or $249.99 unassembled, which includes shipping.
Now over to you – Have you tried an elevated planter before? How did it work? Let us know in the comments below!