DIY: Vertical Urban Oasis

I love our little apartment, but I was missing having the beauty and gratification of a garden. Being able to step outside and pick a tomato, warm from the sun, right from the vine, and pop it in my mouth before I made it inside with the harvest is one of the best little moments in the world.

Literally having no outside space but a glorified balcony (heavy emphasis on “glorified” and “balcony”), I daydreamed about how I could make my garden grow in Columbus’s urban playground. Cost was also a contributing factor in my garden daydreams, as we travel quite a bit, and the idea of moving is always in the back of our heads, so I didn’t want to invest too much in something that could die/not be moved easily.

The over-the-door shoe organizer was the best solution for an urban, small space garden and also fantastic and easy to move if you have a gypsy heart but a hankering for some homegrown goodness.

• Hanging shoe organizer (plastic or cloth)
• Zip ties or strong rope
• Moisture-holding garden soil
• Selection of starter plants (herbs, mixed leaf salad, and mini tomatoes all work well growing together in close quarters)

1. Attach your shoe organizer with your zip ties or rope to where you plan on keeping your vertical garden (keeping in mind drainage). I decided to hang mine on the balcony itself – that way it’s off the ground, there’s sufficient drainage, and the metal balcony bar is more than sturdy enough to support my garden. If you don’t have a bar to hang your garden rack, a shower rod is a great solution – just keep in mind the weight of your garden.

2. Test the drainage of the shoe pockets by pouring a little water in each – if no water escapes, poke a few small holes in each pocket. You want to be sure to let your plants breathe and not let the roots and soil stay too wet, which can lead to mold.

3. Fill each pocket about one inch below the top of each pocket with moisture-retaining garden soil and create a little hole for each starter plant. That way, water will not pour over and out the top when watering.

4. Gently place each starter plant in the hole and cover/gently pat down with more soil.

5. Now that each starter plant is in the soil, give your whole garden a good soaking.

6. Water every day and enjoy the fruits (and veggies and herbs) of your labor (ZING!)

I personally decided to go with dill, a few different types of basil, mint (chocolate mint is a real thing!), oregano, some assorted peppers, and mini tomatoes. I also added some plant markers (Sharpie-d popsicle sticks) to help me keep track of the bounty. What a difference my simple vertical shoe garden makes on my balcony – sometimes it’s the small and simple things that can give you the biggest smile! •

• You can start with seeds or starter plants, it’s really up to you, how patient/impatient you are, and how green your thumbs are!

• At the end of the day with the cost of the starter plants and materials, I spent around $45, so keep in mind how big your shoe organizer is and what you decide to plant when creating your vertical garden budget.