There are dozens of ways to create the structures for a vertical garden. If you do an internet search, you’ll find hundreds of “creative ways” and “helpful design tips.” But what most of these articles seem to leave out is the functionality and toxicity of the materials. For example, PVC materials are a great, cheap way to build structures, however you’ll need to purchase a specific type to avoid chemical seepage or you’ll have to paint the PVC with a special paint that protects it from UV damage.
So what’s good to use?
Ideally, I want my garden to be self-sustaining. I want it to have the ability to use materials I grow in it to help it, reducing cost and giving me more control over what’s introduced into.
My Perfect Solution
Keeping my goal in mind, I’ve come up with the perfect solution for building structures; Bamboo. Bamboo comes in many shapes, sizes, and hardiness. I narrowed it down by looking at type, zone, and diameter.
I decided I wanted a fairly large diameter, staying around 1.5 inches. This eliminated clumping types of Bamboo and my zone, 5, helped narrow down my selection to “Yellow Bamboo” or Phyloostachys. Now adding height as a factor and growth rate, I’ve narrowed it down to two species. Phyllostachys Nuda, Nude Sheath Bamboo or Phyllostachys aureosulcata, Spectabilis.
One thing to keep in mind with bamboo is it’s like peppermint. It can get out of control very quickly if not properly maintained. One solution I’ve read about is planting it in pots instead of directly into the ground. A similar option would be to keep it in a greenhouse. For me being in a zone 5, this would also help suitability of the bamboo.
In the Mean Time…
While bamboo is a great solution, unfortunately it does take time to nurture and grow before it can be ready for structures. The means no bamboo this year. Instead, I will be foraging for large pieces of wood, such as tree branches, to support my lighter weight structures (such as the teepees for my peas) and buying untreated redwood or cedar wood for my heavier structures (arbors). These woods are rot resistant and should have a few years of use in them. Avoid pine, ash, gum hemlock, poplars, and firs.