With the need to maximize our limited square footage and access to soil, we are growing up in a variety of ways.
The simplest vertical structure anyone can find the materials for is a bag garden. All you need is a tall bag, soil, string or rope, a cutting utensil, and your plants. While we are using woven plastic bulk rice bags found in shops all over Colombo, one can use jute, burlap, heavy-duty garbage bags, or any strong scrap fabric fashioned into a similar shape.
To begin, pull the corners of the bag outside-in by a few inches to create a slightly squarer and more stable bottom. For uneven surfaces, wooden posts might be bound to the sides of the bag to assist with stability. Then begin filling the bag with soil.
Our soil is sourced from a neighboring lot with a narrow strip of heavily mulched and shaded ground. For more options on finding soil, consider visiting construction sites, asking your landlord, or making your own compost.
Once the bag is full, tie the top partially closed leaving enough of an opening for watering and any large vegetables you might plant on top. Be sure to mulch any exposed areas to help retain moisture. We are currently sprouting tomato seeds on the top of this bag.
Either sow directly or transplant into the sides of the bag by punching a small hole and lifting the soil to create enough room for the seed or roots. A knife or pair of scissors works well for creating a channel to guide transplant roots into the soil.
Keep the hole as small as possible and work the side of the bag to push the soil back down and around the seed or root.
As you plant the sides of the bag garden, keep in mind the varying amounts of sunlight needed by each plant. For example, when combining shade and sun-loving varieties, begin at the top with the sun-loving varieties and plant beneath them once they are large enough to provide adequate shade. When planting all sun-loving, begin your planting toward the bottom of the bag with the bushier varieties and allow enough time for them to stretch outward before planting above.
In a few weeks this will be bursting with life!
Update: If you will be growing in a sunny location, choose a bag made from jute or other fibrous materials. The poly bags we used do well in shade, but began crumbling from prolonged, direct exposure to the sun.