The Splendid Hanging Gardens of Spring Creek Forest

by Celia Hayes

As the backyard of my Spring Creek Forest home is small, I must make the absolute most of it when it comes to plants both ornamental and vegetable. Space is at a premium, and those places which offer a favorable exposure to maximum sunlight are at even more of a premium. The back yard of our Spring Creek Forest home looks to the west south, but half of it is shaded by a very large mulberry tree planted by the original owner … and a couple of Carolina laurel-cherry trees that planted themselves. There are only about three places in the back yard which get hours of afternoon sun – and I can only hang so many topsy-turvy planters and hanging pots from the edge of the back porch, which gets the best of it.

The other place is from the outer edge of the mulberry tree – and most of the limbs of it are too far from the ground to suspend much from. We wrote off using that space until we saw something in the back yard of one of our neighbors – a long 2x4 beam hung by chains from a pair of stout limbs, with a row of hooks set into the bottom surface, and a number of topsy-turvies. A light went on – why didn’t we do that? And better yet – make it a double-decker, with a second beam suspended below the first!

As soon as we could afford it, we hurried off to Lowe’s for the necessary materials: one 14’ 2x4, which they very kindly cut into equal 7’ lengths, the hardware, two lengths of vinyl tubing, and four lengths of chain – also cut to length for us. I guesstimated that 2 lengths of 4’ chain and 2 of 5’ would be sufficient to hang our vertical garden from the boughs of the mulberry tree and leave enough room for plants in the turvy to grow. We could have done with less, but having the longer lengths makes it possible to adjust and even move the hanging frame higher in the tree. Six threaded eyebolts with nuts, a packet of stout s-hooks, another of screw-hooks and two quick links completed the list of necessary materials.

The only tools needed were a drill and a length of kitchen string. It went together in about twenty minutes. I drilled a hole about six inches from the end of each beam, and two more in what would be the top beam about eighteen inches in. The eye-bolts for the inner set of holes in the top beam went in with the eye up, and those in the outer went in, eye-down. Then I drilled a series of smaller, starter-holes on the lower side of each beam for the screw-hooks, and my daughter brought around the ladder.

The string? That was to attach to the end of the longer length of chain, and draw it through the length of tubing, to pad the chain where it went over the tree limb. If I was old-school thrifty like my father and grandfather, I could have used a length of old garden hose for this. So we looped the chains over two adjacent limbs, secured the end of the chain to itself with the quick-links. Then we attached the top beam eye-bolts to the chain with s-hooks, and then used the shorter chains to attach the lower beam. All the extra lengths of chain made it possible to adjust it all to hang level. The empty topsy-turvy’s fit perfectly, although I think we will have to do some adjustment, once we plant them with tomatoes for the new season. It will make a hanging divider of plants, once spring comes. The only downside, as far as we can see is that in a high wind, we’ll need hard-hats to venture out there.