All the things that make Colorado a great place to live—white winters, dry climate, 300 annual days of bright sunshine—can make it a tricky place to maintain a healthy garden. This time of year, especially, you want to start planting flowers and herbs, but surprise snowstorms as late as May or even June can freeze plants. By mid-July, sweltering temps, little natural moisture and watering restrictions can fry delicate flora. Sometimes, herbs and plants do better inside than out. Consider planting an indoor garden with a vertical or wall-mounted system that takes up little space, dresses up any room and requires far less water and care. Deborah King and Whitney Ladwig at Tagawa Gardens on South Parker Road show you how easy it is to build and tend your own vertical garden in five easy steps.
A 50/50 mixture of sterilized, pH-neutral organic potting soil and cactus mix will promote drainage. You might also want pruning sheers, a watering gauge, a small watering can and a book that explains which plants thrive best together. Ladwig recommends SmallSpace Container Gardens: Transform Your balcony, Porch, or Patio with Fruits, Flowers, Foliage, and Herbs, by Fern Richardson (Timber, 2012).
Choose a theme— culinary (edible flowers or vegetables), herbal, aromatherapy, tea—for your vertical garden. Tagawa sells prepackaged kits for each that group varieties with similar watering and sun-exposure needs. Transfer the plants from their temporary containers to the modular system, making sure to loosen the roots. Water immediately.
Tagawa sells a variety of prefabricated, modular, standing or wallmounted container systems with built-in watering/drainage solutions (to prevent root rot). Stack or mount the containers in a location that provides four to six hours of direct sunlight. Once the roots take hold and the weather stabilizes, you can move your vertical garden outside. The planter systems let you easily move them back inside as conditions warrant.
Use a high-nitrogen, low-phosphorous fertilizer to promote foliage growth, and water your plants according to the directions that come with them. The wall-mounted systems have large holes on the top for watering. (If you stack more than one layer together, punch out the perforated holes on the underside of all but the bottom layer of the system. Water will drain from the top through all levels.)
Harvest herbs and vegetables before they flower. To get the best flavor, harvest in the early morning. You can harvest up to a third of the plant at a time, but each herb should be harvested differently, so do your research before clipping.
You can build your own vertical garden or find prefabricated displays like these at many home and garden centers or online. For ideas, visit: verticalgardeningsystems.com