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Herbs for Vertical Gardening

December 9, 2016 Back to Picks >

Recently gardeners have been trying a fun variation on garden beds by turning them 90 degrees and creating vertical gardens. Some I’ve seen are quite ambitious, covering the side of a building or wall. Others are quite low-tech, such as those that are made from wooden pallets. Of course some form of vertical gardening has been around for a long time – remember strawberry jars? So in the spirit of this vertical trend, here are some ideas for growing herbs vertically.

When growing upward, you should keep in mind that the soil will be relatively shallow. After all, soil is quite heavy. In fact you probably shouldn’t use soil right out of the ground since many of us suffer from clay soils. This is a time when potting mulch is a must.

With this in mind quite a few herbs would work in shallow vertical gardens because they have shallow roots and can be clipped to maintain a modest size. Here are some that I would recommend.

  1. Thyme – nearly any thyme will work in vertical gardens. In fact, having them up off the ground means you can enjoy the look and feel of the tiny leaves. Look for silver thyme and wooly thyme to provide visual contrast.
  2. Mints – like thyme, mints are low growing and variable in the leaf. Remember to separate different mint varieties when planting vertically because they can easily intermingle.
  3. Winter Savory – I’m a fan of this herb in any situation where it can cascade down. It provides tiny white flowers in late summer, which will enhance your vertical garden.
  4. Aztec Sweet Herb – this is a creeping native of the Southwest and Mexico. It is sweet like stevia but has rougher, darker leaves.
  5. Onion Chives – the small bulbous base of onion chives makes it a good candidate for vertical gardening. Plant it next to thyme for a nice contrast in color and texture.
  6. Scented Geraniums – some of the smaller leaved scented geraniums should work in vertical gardening. Look for lemon, nutmeg, coconut, and ginger scented geraniums.

I’d like to conclude with a quick list of herbs that probably wouldn’t work in vertical gardens. Dill and fennel (even the dwarf varieties) will grow too large and need too deep a root system to work vertically. Ditto on lemon verbena, Jerusalem sage, and most of the artemisias.

I would suggest a good rule of thumb is to avoid any herb that is likely to grow more than two feet tall. These larger herbs will quickly outgrow their space and detract from the compact look of a vertical garden. So this spring, grab a pallet, add soil in landscaping fabric, turn it on its end, and create your own vertical herb garden.