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Passion fruit shading of tropical household walls and roof.

 
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Passion fruit shading of tropical household walls and roof.

I am currently living in a concrete solar collector in Cebu Philippines. I have found various ways to make this space very livable, but that's a story for another day.
.........
When I was wetting down the walls this morning , it occurred to me that they get hot because the sun shines on them. This seems like something that should be avoided in the tropics. Better quality houses have substantial overhangs , so that the walls are almost always shaded by the roof. The overhangs are completely inadequate where I'm living.

Almost all new construction in the Philippines is based on concrete hollow blocks. If a house is done right, with a suitable overhang and trees, there is no need to heat or cool the building. A minority of houses are built properly.

 Building with concrete blocks is very cheap. They sell for 10 pesos each which is about 20 cents American. By the time they are laid with rebar with a purging on the outside, you might be up to 50 cents per block. With no insulation or wooden portion, it's a very inexpensive option. They heat up in the sun and they heat up just from hot outside air touching them.

 I've investigated many types of plants to cover the walls. So far, passionfruit is the winner. It climbs by twining and doesn't have those nasty tendrils that wrap around everything or the adhesive pad type of attachments found with English ivy. As vines go, it's pretty well behaved. And it produces fruit. There are several other tropical vines that produce fruit, but they have to be picked. Passion fruit drop from the vine when they are ripe. So a simple net system could be set up. They could all flow to one spot the way that pool balls do. That would prevent falling fruit from hitting the ones that are already in the net.

So that's the reason for choosing passion fruit . Here's how I would attach them. It's pretty easy to set galvanized nails or bolts into the joints of concrete blocks. Big 6 or 8 inch nails could be inserted every three feet or so both vertically and horizontally. Rope , wire or bamboo could run between the nails. A few light strings might be needed to provide a vertical path every foot or so . It could all be done with things that will rot away , except for the nails. Once there's a solid cover of vines , they can support themselves on the nails alone.

This would prevent almost all sun from striking the walls . Watering could be done from above, so that the leaves get washed at the same time. They are going to be under the overhang of the roof.

The place where I'm living now, has a flat concrete roof. Given adequate water, passion fruit and a few other vines could do well there. One of the best crops of grapes I've ever seen , was growing on a flat roof in St. Catharines Ontario Canada.

I would leave a blank space around windows and doors, in order for them to remain operable and so that critters living on the vines don't make it into the house easily. There are several types of climbing snakes that are good at controlling pests, but I wouldn't want them in the house.

My household cooling system will involve approximately 25 gallons of water being flushed across the concrete floor each day . Runoff will irrigate the passion fruit. During rainy periods, the floor weting isn't necessary, since outdoor temperatures are lower.
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That sounds pretty nifty, and looks like a very good choice!  The subtropical Passiflora incarnata passion fruit that grows wild here in Oklahoma does have tendrils, although they aren't too obnoxious.  The fruit also doesn't detach from the vines when ripe.  (Nor does it grow anything like as thickly on the vines as in your photos.)  I've tried cultivating it, but it's fickle; despite being wild, perennial, and native, it's not quite hardy here, and often fails to come back in the spring in the same locations where it grew formerly.  

I have a wall of hops growing to shade part of mobile home we have.  But it's very aggressive and needs tending several times a year to avoid damaging the structure.  Not, in retrospect, a good permaculture choice.
 
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I've got passion fruit growing on two different pergolas at my house and it works fantastic as a sun-sink/shade provider.  It's very easy to train and it grows slowly enough that if you stay on top of it, it will not get out of hand.

The nice thing about passion fruit is that you don't have to guess when its ripe.  Just wait for it to drop off the vines and its perfectly ripe.  It grows readily from seed and the vines will last a couple of years before its best to chop them down and replace them with a new, fresh plant.

On one of the pergolas, I used to have it covered with shade cloth.  The UV rays completely destroyed that within 2 years.  The passion fruit vine does a much better job, and now it's grown so aggressively, it's almost too dark under the mass of vines that are crawling over the top.  The beams of the pergola are wide enough apart that the fruit just drops through, onto the ground, when its ready.  It's been a perfect permaculture solution: multiple functions from a single plant.

Thanks for starting this thread.
 
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This sounds pretty perfect. And tasty.

Crazy how slight the modifications are to take those block houses from awful to good.


What would you use for this back on Van. Isl? I'm planting a bunch of hardy kiwi, but it's a bit too aggressive for this application IMO..
 
Dale Hodgins
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Thank you,  Marco. Does the fruit get damaged much if it just hits the ground ? Is it landing on soil or on some sort of paving stone ? Coconut coir is very inexpensive and I could see it working as a mulch and bounce pad. The only issue I have with letting them fall directly to the ground, is that the shaded environment is the perfect spot for snakes to hang out . That might make gathering a little tricky. There's also the issue of gathering them up ahead of pigs or other livestock. The ones i've seen have a pretty thick skin that looks like it could take a bounce. Of course i'd like to get a thin skin cultivator so that they dress out better. There's a giant yellow type that I want to try.

There might be some other things worth trying. Some types of bean. Loofah and other vining squashes could be grown on the lower portions. I wouldn'twant to harvest them from second story walls.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Dillon Nichols wrote:This sounds pretty perfect. And tasty.

Crazy how slight the modifications are to take those block houses from awful to good.


What would you use for this back on Van. Isl? I'm planting a bunch of hardy kiwi, but it's a bit too aggressive for this application IMO..



I think I'd go with annual beans and squashes. Grapes can work on southern walls and so can peaches. It's important to plan something that won't tear the gutters off or get between the seams in siding or roofing. Wisteria is probably the worst choice , because it likes to tear structures down. There's one extremely bad choice here . The snuffbox sea bean is the world's largest vine. They can get three feet in diameter and completely envelop the entire structure. It also grows the world's largest seedpod . Sometimes 18 inches longer than the one pictured here. I'm going to grow some sea beans, but not near the house.
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My grandmother had a passion fruit vine on her back fence in Australia when I was growing up. Get this established Dale and you are going to be very popular with the local kids. I used to love picking them warm from the vine.
 
Marco Banks
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Thank you,  Marco. Does the fruit get damaged much if it just hits the ground ? Is it landing on soil or on some sort of paving stone?



We have brick pavers under the pergolas and the falling doesn't damage at all.  Passion fruit has a thick husk that is impervious to anything.  And the "fruit" inside is really just a gooey orange mush of seeds and juice, so there really isn't any fruit to bruise, per se.  You could whap them around with a hockey stick and it wouldn't damage anything.

When ripe, the fruit is a light purple color and the husk/skin gets a little bit dimpled (like a big oversized golf ball).  You chop through the husk with a sharp knife (creating two halves) and scoop out the fruit with a spoon.  Mmmm . . . good stuff.

Mature vines get about an inch to two inches in diameter --- not strong enough to hold themselves up.  The weight of an mature passion fruit vine will be significant so make sure that any trellis you build for them is very strong.  The little tendrils will gradually grab onto a rope or other vines, but the weight of a mature vine will be heavier than they can hold up, so it's best if the vine can grow up and over something to support it.

I'm on vacation right now or I'd snap some pictures and post them.  Anyhow, best of luck.
 
Marco Banks
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OK -- I found 3 not-so-good pictures on my wife's phone.  I don't understand how to post them.  Can anyone help me on this?  Thanks muchly.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I ate some fresh passion fruit when i was in Kenya. It had the thick skin that you describe but i wasn't sure if that was a wild variety or one that has been improved. Perhaps that thick skin is something that doesn't need to be fixed.

We have a citrus fruit here called palmetto in spanish and something different in visayan. It's the largest citrus and an original form that others were bred from. I think that's pretty unusual for the wild variety to be bigger than domesticated cousins . Unfortunately oranges can't grow here because of the heat . I have always thought of oranges as being tropical , but they are subtropical and need a cold period. They can be grown in Hawaii but not in the tropical heat of the Philippines , except for a few mountainous locations. There are a couple types of little lemon that do well. Really crappy oranges are for sale at about 40 cents which is roughly four times more expensive than mangoes . Grapes and potatoes are also expensive exotics. So i'll just have to satisfy myself with the 200 things that grow really well here.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Hot paving and hot ground generally can help to heat up the outside of a house. Some crops do well as tree climbers and they can also do well as the ceiling of an outdoor room. Bitter gourd and loofah are vines that can be trained up trees and they will also crawl along a grid work of bamboo set between the trees. They create a nice shade house and there is lots of evaporative cooling, since they require irrigation for top production. I think it makes sense to put most things that require regular care and irrigation, close to the house. The combination of shade and irrigation will really keep outdoor surface temperatures under control. The overhead structure also lends a degree of privacy. I'm not sure if kiwi can live here. I know that grapes can, but it can be difficult to get them to flower and produce fruit. There is a market for grape leaf, that  is mostly for canned leaves made for the middle eastern market. There's also a market for dried grape leaf and grape leaf powder , but I understand that it's much smaller. A few people are having success growing grapes near here. Perhaps they could be grown on a wall that gets less heat and light, or they could be grown in trees, where they would be in semi shade according to the puning regimen. From what I've seen on YouTube , it's easy to get leaf and difficult to get lots of grapes.

This would be like a giant veranda extending as far from the house as desired. I've been inside a large area like this made from kiwi vines. Much cooler than the surrounding landscape.
 
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Dale Hodgins wrote:We have a citrus fruit here called palmetto in spanish and something different in visayan. It's the largest citrus and an original form that others were bred from. I think that's pretty unusual for the wild variety to be bigger than domesticated cousins.



The pomelo, Citrus maxima or Citrus grandis, is the largest citrus fruit from the Rutaceae family. It is a natural (non-hybrid) citrus fruit, similar in appearance to a large grapefruit, native to South and Southeast Asia.



Yes, curcubits with extensive vines can be grown right up onto and over the roof. That's common in India, usually with "pumpkins" (winter squash to you and me). There are also trellisses for chaya, or bitter gourd, bottle gourd, or other curcubits. This picture is from the internet:
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Dale Hodgins
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My wife has expressed extreme fears about a vine-covered house attracting snakes. She is adamant about this and I would have to demonstrate that I have found something to keep them away.

She received a mild cobra strike to the hand when she was a child, and it got pretty serious. So it's not a totally unfounded, irrational fear. :-)

I will probably try this on an outbuilding first, and see what sort of critters are attracted to it. Nova thinks that rats will  climb up to steal the fruit and that snakes will lie in wait. Seems reasonable.

She explained snake locomotion as though she were talking to a child. "Snakes don't just live on the ground. They can climb to any place that a monkey can climb."
 
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Dale Hodgins wrote:
I will probably try this on an outbuilding first, and see what sort of critters are attracted to it. Nova thinks that rats will  climb up to steal the fruit and that snakes will lie in wait. Seems reasonable.



It's a traditional thing in Australia to grow such vines over the old 'outhouse' (toilet), other sheds, fences and purpose made self supporting trellises unattached to the house. Never near a habitable building for the same reasons your missus noted, replace monkeys with possums though.

The other reason is most houses have corrugated metal roofs attached via down pipes to water tanks. The vines drop litter into the gutters, pollute the water and rust out gutters.

Some vines can be quite destructive - lifting corrugated roofing, allowing in vermin, rain and potential storm damage if the wind catches it.


 
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Passionfruit has a short lifetime, maybe 5-7 years here. I've never had one last more than 6. What I've seen in.... 6 or 7? cases now is the vine is great and then bam, catastrophic attack by ants, caterpillars, or something on such a large scale that the whole thing is kaput, probably due to underlying weakness in the plant.
My point is that if you do plant a massive one, it's not forever and you will be able to get rid of it if it doesn't work. The fruit is very hardy, as described above, and while I have had rat issues in the garden the rats have not gone near the fruit. You may need to stay on top of picking it (before it hits the ground) but I've never seen damage to the maturing fruits on the vine.
It does give amazing yields, but the vine is a very heavy one (even pre-fruit). I've got an immature one that came up in the garden over hte last 6 months and it's already too heavy for its structure, not sure what I'm going to do with it.

You mention the citrus. You might be able to get decent citrus there through grafting. Here in Brazil we have pretty good yields even in very hot areas (Bahia, for example). Most of these citrus are grafted on to the naturalized "lemon", which is actually Citrus × limonia or Citrus reticulata × medica (aka rangpur lime, mandarin lime, lemandarin), a hybrid between the mandarin orange and the citron. There might be something local that could offer some good rootstock.
 
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Tereza Okava wrote:Passionfruit has a short lifetime, maybe 5-7 years here. I've never had one last more than 6. What I've seen in.... 6 or 7? cases now is the vine is great and then bam, catastrophic attack by ants, caterpillars, or something on such a large scale that the whole thing is kaput, probably due to underlying weakness in the plant.
My point is that if you do plant a massive one, it's not forever and you will be able to get rid of it if it doesn't work. The fruit is very hardy, as described above, and while I have had rat issues in the garden the rats have not gone near the fruit. You may need to stay on top of picking it (before it hits the ground) but I've never seen damage to the maturing fruits on the vine.
It does give amazing yields, but the vine is a very heavy one (even pre-fruit). I've got an immature one that came up in the garden over hte last 6 months and it's already too heavy for its structure, not sure what I'm going to do with it.

You mention the citrus. You might be able to get decent citrus there through grafting. Here in Brazil we have pretty good yields even in very hot areas (Bahia, for example). Most of these citrus are grafted on to the naturalized "lemon", which is actually Citrus × limonia or Citrus reticulata × medica (aka rangpur lime, mandarin lime, lemandarin), a hybrid between the mandarin orange and the citron. There might be something local that could offer some good rootstock.

Yes, I'm aware of the short lifespan and need for support. Since I'm building from scratch, I will include slots in the concrete block that can allow very strong support arms to project. I think I would plants numerous varieties so that they don't all suffer some fate at the same time.

I don't anticipate hand harvesting any of them, but instead allowing them to drop-in nets or other catchment.

I anticipate having at least a 4 foot soffit, so I'm hoping it's shady enough that that's where they stop. It might be necessary to trim regularly to prevent them going to the roof.

On the Citrus issue, I will search out a number of things that could be root stock. The native pomelo is a good candidate because it's what some of the other Citrus were bred from.

But before any of that is tried I must determine whether snakes like that environment, because that's a deal killer for my wife.
 
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