Growbags provide a quick  Garden Upwards solution on poor ground
Garden upwards – above ground – by first covering the surface with a tarpaulin and then planting in grow bags.

Taking stock of our plot – and oh how it has suffered over the last few months from overmuch wet – I decided to take advantage of my garden upwards technique. Basically, this excludes all digging, or even utilizing the ground at all, other than as a surface upon which to place containers of various types. From growbags to terracotta pots to table-top planters, garden upwards techniques are perfect when facing a post-flood scenario or indeed when you have ground to clear and can’t wait to get cropping. Here are some ideas to point you towards ‘above ground’ gardening.

Tarpaulins and Growbags

Garden upwards - above ground and crops soon flourish
Progress in just a few months; using good-quality grow bags paid off and crops are flourishing

Easiest of all is the procedure I tried when I was extending my ‘square-foot’ plot and wanted to add extra raised beds. The ground was a mass of nettles, docks and creeping buttercup, all of which revel in our glutinous clay soil. First, I cut down the nettles, topped the docks (hens thrive on the leaves) and ignored the buttercup. Then the area was covered with an old tarpaulin, though as that was impervious, rainwater did not drain away. Another time I would use a permeable matting. Position good quality Growbags on the matting and start sowing or growing. I have successfully grown salad crops, cabbage, squash, spinach, chard, tomatoes and aubergine in this way. By the following Spring, the tarpaulin had done it’s work and I was able to add the new raised beds and even a temporary paved area with potted herbs. I had saved a whole growing season.

raised beds with bought-in compost are better suited to our heavy clay soil
One season later and weeds have gone; raised beds are better suited to our heavy clay soil

Running out of Space? Garden upwards …

garden upwards - above ground has its advantages when the plot need reclaiming
An area of our plot which will benefit from my garden upwards technique

When the idea for this garden upwards post came to me a couple of weeks ago, I cast around for space to install various other planters. Our acre of ground is actually divided into a number of plots that had all been devised for various magazine features in the past, and short of appropriating a bit of the orchard, I was running out of suitable space. At right-angles to the square-foot plot, and to the right of the shed lies a patch of dereliction – an 8ft x 12ft space just waiting to be cleared and reclaimed. Out with loppers, secateurs and tarpaulin and it will become another temporary summer garden. The shed wall can even be brought into use. As for the planters (from Dobies) and planting, for now you will have to use your imagination.

Above Ground Planter Ideas from Dobies

Garden Upwards with this Poppy Planter
The Poppy Planter is a space-saving, above ground solution to growing crops under difficult circumstances.

Pre-supposing that you have tarpaulined the ground surface (remembering this is a temporary measure), install as many containers as you have space and budget for. I love this folding ‘Poppy Planter’  (code: 586385) with its tough yet lightweight easy-to-assemble powder-coated steel tubular frame. The robust pre-formed liner has a sewn-in water membrane to ensure good moisture retention, and holds approximately 50 litres of compost. And it comes complete with two Living Wall Planters – ideal for the side of my shed.

Garden upwards is made easy with the 3 Tier Ladder Allotmeny
The space-saving 3 Tier Ladder Allotment allows gardeners to make use of a wall or fence for support

Also great for covering wallspace, or even the side of a fence or shed, is the ‘3 Tier Shelved Ladder Allotment’ (code: 586100). Sturdily constructed from pressure treated softwood which has been FSC sourced, it is quick and easy to assemble, and perfect for those who find it difficult to bend down. Its three generously sized shelves make the ideal stand for pots or troughs of flowers or vegetables.

Garden Upwards ? Definitely when using Reusable Growbags
Any spare space could be used to grow crops above ground with this reusable grow bag

Continuing my garden upwards above ground theme, I will cram every available spare space with ‘Reusable Grow Bags’   (code: 581397). Made from tough, heavy duty woven polyethylene, the extra depth is better for the plants (a bigger nutrient and water reservoir) and better for the environment as there is no end of season plastic waste. Use of these deeper bags will allow me to experiment this year with new vegetable varieties, and of course flowers as companion plants – necessary to aid pollination. But that’s another story!

Breaking News:

Christine Walkden demos at Whichford Pottery this Spring on 5th May
Christine Walkden at Whichford Pottery (image copyright Harriet Rycroft)

Blog followers who would like to learn more about planting in containers may like to book a place on a unique event this Spring at Whichford Pottery near Shipston on Stour, south Warwickshire: ‘No Nonsense Container Gardening’ – a talk and demonstration on 5th May by horticulturist, author and broadcaster Christine Walkden (plus Fibrex Nurseries). (Talk £12.50; please call 01608 684416 to book).  Pottery open 10.00-5.00; talk at 11am and 2pm.

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