I imagine it's because my planting and sowing is confined to the glasshouse at this chilly time of the year that I'm always thinking about how to increase the indoor space I have available. It just such a waste to have a small glass-walled room filled with warmth and sunshine, and to be using only one horizontal surface – the ground! Thinking in a more vertical way, I have, in the past, fixed hanging baskets to the framework of the glasshouse and used them for growing fresh herbs. I've poked one end of a sturdy stick through the drainage hole of a plastic pot filled with potting mix, and rammed the other end into the soil, thus producing another little upper level for growing a lettuce or bunch of mizuna. I've also employed some mesh shelving to increase the surface space in the glasshouse, and loaded it with pots. But it wasn't until I was in a cafe in Dunedin last week that I noticed what I think is the best-ever way to "grow up". It took some sleuthing, I can tell you, to find out from what and how the interesting custom-built structure is made from, but I can now share the details with you.
The vertical-wall plant holder is made from two sections of what's known in the steel reinforcing trade as "6.1 deformed steel bar". If you were to order this mesh, you'd ask for "SE62Res mesh at a 200mm pitch". Holding the frame together in just enough places to keep it rigid are pieces of R6 rod. Each frame is 160cm high and 13 cm wide. The flash versions I saw in the café were fitted into drainage boxes which doubled as stands but if I was using one of these structure in my glasshouse, or against a sunny outside wall, I'd simply have some R6 rods welded to the base of the frame to form legs which could be pushed into the soil.
If you, or someone in your household, are handy with a welder, you could knock this structure up in no time. If, like me, you can't weld or you're simply too excited about having one of these stands to wait a moment longer, you can order them from your local steel reinforcing company. The helpful folk at Fairfield's Fletcher Reinforcing, including a wonderful woman who drove all the way to the café to look at the stands in person (what some people will do for a coffee!) reckoned it would cost $108 to make a metre-long 5 x 5 cube stand large enough to hold 25 pots. One twice that size would cost only $40 more. They'll even freight the stands to you!
Right now, I'm calculating how much I can save through having one of these stands and growing so much more in my glasshouse during the winter. I hope the figures add up – because I've already ordered one!
PS. When growing in small pots, include some Crystal Rain in the soil mix. These crystals absorb water, swelling to several times their own size, then release the moisture to the plant as required.
Helpful contacts for Fletcher Reinforcing (Fairfield branch)