When my husband and I bought our condo, I knew that I would do all I could to maximize my gardening space on our small patio. The floor of the patio gives me 13 ft. by 14 ft., or 182 sq. ft. of horizontal space. If we want to sit outside and enjoy the patio, that means furniture must be part of the design, too. Tables and chairs and benches take up a lot of space. The obvious solution was to go vertical, and use the walls for gardening.
There are many types of vertical gardening systems on the market right now—grow bags and planting boxes with cells that attach to walls are among the types of systems I saw when I searched for solutions for vertical gardening. I really liked the cool, modern look of these vertical systems, but they had to be tightly secured to the wall, and that involved drilling.
Our patio walls are brick, and they are just one part of a whole brick building governed by a Home Owners Association that would not look kindly on me drilling as many holes as I thought I would need to achieve the look I wanted. I decided I would go traditional and use some trellis instead.
Since the area is small, I felt I needed to use only one kind of trellis—too many kinds would clutter up the space. I wanted it to stay tight to the wall, and I wanted it to be inexpensive, too. After looking at wood, metal, and plastic trellises, I came upon a wire trellis system from Lee Valley Tools.
The system is extremely simple. It is comprised of metal disks with loops on the top, wire, and marine glue. It was inexpensive, and I could adapt it to my space to make it a custom fit. The marine glue meant no drilling, and since gluing is one of the things I do really well, I was eager to look into this option further.
I read many reviews before purchasing the system. I get a strange satisfaction from reading all available reviews before purchasing a product; I’m not quite sure why this is, but I accept it. I wanted to know if the system could really hold the weight of a large climbing plant, and I wanted to know if the glue had staying power. According to the reviews, the system supports even climbing roses (quite heavy) and the only complaint I saw was that occasionally after winter, a disc or two would come loose and need to be re-glued. I decided that I could live with that, so I bought the system.
Installing the system on the patio was a breeze—I did it by myself with no problems. The discs are installed first, then you wait a day or two for the glue to really set, and then you run the wire. The recommendation was for the discs to be put up 8 inches to one foot apart. Although I brought out my measuring tape and a level, I didn’t end up using them; I used the bricks as a guide, and glued the discs at the same place on each brick in a row. The discs were to be slightly overfilled with glue, so that when pushed securely in place on the wall, some glue would ooze out the sides. The instructions stated to leave the oozed glue in place, and not to try to clean it up. The installation was so easy that the hardest part was squeezing the glue out of the tube!
After a couple days, I strung the wire. For the most streamlined look, the wire is threaded directly through the loops on the top of each disc. However, if you want a stronger trellis, the instructions state to thread the wire through each loop, then wrap the wire over the loop before proceeding to the next disc. This is how I chose to do mine.
I absolutely love my wire trellis! Besides fashioning a trellis for my Tenderstar pole beans, I have used it to attach my cd wall hangings to the patio wall, and (more recently) to attach two 4 ft. by 6 ft. sections of warm white net lights on green wire to the eastern patio wall. I used up every disc in my system, and nearly all of the glue. I may buy one more wire trellis set next spring, just to have more discs and glue on hand in case I decide to put some trellising up on the southern wall.
So far, I am very pleased with my little patio space. It is a pleasant space to sit in; all three of the cats like to spend time with me out there. It is not a blank space any longer, but it still has a long way to go.
As an update from my earlier posts, my pole beans came up and are beginning to climb the trellis. I also planted some of the beans in our building’s rooftop garden. One problem that I have experienced that I did not expect to see in the city on an enclosed patio—slugs! I have had a lot of slugs eating the young bean plants. None of the lettuce that I planted came up. Since lettuce is supposed to be very easy, I attribute this to user error :(. I will try again with lettuce in the fall.
My “bulbs in the bucket” project was a failure (more on that in a later post). I have planted red, orange and pink impatiens in the two buckets, along with some creeping jenny, and they look pretty. I also planted the impatiens and creeping jenny in a green hanging basket that I bought.
The two cool-season annuals that I planted in my wooden planter boxes (linaria and nemesia) performed beautifully until last week, when we finally had some hot days in succession. I will switch them out next week with some summer annuals.
Enjoy the glorious weather and have fun wherever you are occupying some space!
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