Pillar of Peppers with Eggplant
Vertical Vegetables at Their Best
Love the sweet pungency or fiery heat of Peppers but lack the space? The Pillar of Peppers
could be your easy answer. The idea is as simple as the name is pretentious. We simply create a vertical garden and fill it with Peppers. Now I always include a few Eggplants as well since their habits are very similar and a little variety in the diet is a good thing.
What’s a Vertical Garden? Throughout my website it can be many things but for the Pillar of Peppers and Eggplant it is a simple circle of heavy wire mesh. This wire mesh bears the unlikely name of Hardware Cloth even though if bears no resemblance to actual cloth except that it comes in a roll. It is much thicker and sturdier than chicken wire and that is important because it has to stand up on its own and support the weight of soil, water and plants. You need a circle of 5 cm (2 in) (that is the spacing of the wires,) Hardware cloth about 56 cm (22 in) in diameter; that’s about 178cm (70 in) of material. Any narrower and it falls over too easily. The height is determined by the width of the roll of material that you buy, usually 90 cm (36 in). Just cut each strand of wire and use the cut ends to loop over and hold the circle together. This is one of those steps that takes longer to write about than to actually do.
Where’s the Soil? Your Pillar of Peppers needs to have the right soil. Work it a bit so that it is sunk into the garden soil by an inch or so. Line the wire circle with some landscape fabric. That stops the soil from pouring out through the mesh. I use a soilless mix such as Pro mix or Agro mix, these come in 114L / 4 cu ft bales and it should take about 1.5 bales to fill it. You could add some quality compost to it. This mixture is the expensive part but the soil will be reused for several years. Fill the entire circle with this mix firming it in as you go and soaking the whole thing thoroughly as you get near the top. The firming and soaking is an attempt to stop the soil mass from settling after you have it planted.
How Do I Water It? The final step is to go into the kitchen and ‘borrow’ the large wire colander and sink it into a hollow in the top of the soil. This allows you to fill up the colander with water and let it soak in rather than having to stand there and slowly add enough water to get to the bottom of your Pillar of Peppers. This many plants in such a small space also requires some liquid fertilizer over the season and it can be applied in the same fashion.
Where are The Pepper Plants? They are the easy last step. All the way around and up and down your pillar of soil; slice through the landscape cloth and make a little cavity in the soil with your finger and squeeze in a Pepper transplant. Don’t forget a few Eggplants. They should be about 20 - 25 cm (8 -10 in) apart in all directions. You will be amazed at the number of plants that can go into this garden. Four to five high, by about six or seven rows, yields, by my math, at least thirty plants. Work the soil around the plants by pushing on the adjacent squares so that the little plant is firmly in place. You can put some sphagnum moss or a bit of landscape cloth around the stem of each plant to help retain the soil but that's usually not necessary. The plants should angle down just slightly when you are finished planting your Pillar of Peppers.
Does It Work? Thoroughly water, (fill the colander 2 or 3 times,) the planted pillar. Within one or two days you will see that all of the plants have not only perked up but have turned up. The growing points will all have made a 90 degree turn upwards toward their source of energy, the sun. That is how you know that you have been successful. Any plants that don’t make the turn in a few days should be replaced. Water your Pillar of Peppers regularly, check it weekly, and add some soluble fertilizer to the water each time. By late July you should have an amazing crop of Peppers and eggplants from a very tiny space.
Use several different varieties of Pepper and the miniature fruited Eggplants. I plant a few leaf lettuce plants around the colander to make use of that circle of soil at the top of my Pillar of Peppers.
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