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Vertical wall gardening.  RSS feed

 
Satamax Antone
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Posts: 2320
Location: Southern alps, on the French side of the french /italian border 5000ft high Southern alpine climate.
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Hi everybody!

Well, i don't delve very often out of the rocket forums. So i feel a bit insecure.

The question is, has anybody here, done vertical wall growing of anything edible, on a larger scale. Not just few herbs in a flower pot.

I've searched, and seen this

http://www.permies.com/t/2101/permaculture/Vertical-Gardening

I'm thinking of covering my front wall 8m long 3.2m high. On the bottom, i could use big pots, to do carots, chicory, and other stuff. I think theses would be BRF/Huggel pots. I'm willing to make a strong structure against the wall, to have a lot of plants.

But what should i grow there?

Thanks.

Max.

 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 746
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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The first question I would ask is- What is your wall made of?
 
Satamax Antone
gardener
Posts: 2320
Location: Southern alps, on the French side of the french /italian border 5000ft high Southern alpine climate.
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John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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If you are looking for annuals, things like peas, cucumbers love to climb strings/trellises.

How much sunlight would your wall space provide?
If it is afternoon shade, then raspberries would be another choice - they can get fried with too much afternoon heat.

Without seeing your layout in regards to buildings, sun, etc, it is hard to come up with much more than generic 'climbers' and vines. I once saw a setup where they grew an arbor about 6 feet (2M) away from the wall. In the summer, the grapes had full sun, and the people had a nice shady spot for BBQ's and cocktail hour.

 
Satamax Antone
gardener
Posts: 2320
Location: Southern alps, on the French side of the french /italian border 5000ft high Southern alpine climate.
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Hi John, thanks a lot for your reply.

Well, it's the left hand side wall on this pic, with the long horizontal window, under the bottom of the roof. IIRC, it's about 20° off from full south, i think tilted towards the east.




The two walls you can't see north and west'ish will be covered with strawbales if i can. the two visible walls with doors, will be a mix of realy dark render i think. the one under the carport, dunno. The sawmill will end up there i think. So, may be strawbales. May be something thinner.

Front wall, i would like to put it to use. May be one day with detachable glass pannels, so it can act as a trombe wall and greenhouse in spring and autumn. And a vegetal cover to provide food and shade in the summer. Property boundary is 3m away on that side iirc.
 
Roy Hinkley
Posts: 264
Location: S. Ontario Canada
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If you go pure vertical planting you have to plan carefully that things don't dry out. A better use of that space is to support tall climbers and they can be right in the soil- you won't have to babysit them twice a day for watering or have complex irrigation.
There are plenty of things that grow tall and need support that will benefit from that space. Peas, pole beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, tomatillos are all tall climbers. Vines like hardy kiwi and grapes if you want perennials.
In this pic from left on the 5 ft fence (and already well above it) tomatillo, cherry tomato, grape. Over the window as a summer shade is kiwi(there is a wire mesh awning over the window-summer shade, winter light). Right more are 8 ft tomato stakes for climbing cherry tomato. Right side on the trellis are cucumbers and pole beans.
I've even had winter squash plants escape up the trellis and they did fine.
Warm climate crops like tomato and peppers will especially benefit here from the reflected light off the wall and shelter from the wind - they especially like reflected red light, something to consider when painting the wall. They use red plastic mulch for this but a red wall might work too without the icky plastic reside.
http://www.tomatodirt.com/red-plastic-mulch.html
 
Satamax Antone
gardener
Posts: 2320
Location: Southern alps, on the French side of the french /italian border 5000ft high Southern alpine climate.
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Thanks a lot Roy. The soil is crap below. It's the bottom of a glaciary lake, that used to be here thousands of years ago!
 
Roy Hinkley
Posts: 264
Location: S. Ontario Canada
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All the stuff you see growing here is on 3 feet of clay fill over top of the original topsoil(I found the original ground level when I dug down to plant a tree).
At least you know your soil is rich in minerals. It looks like you'll have no trouble finding organic matter from all those trees in the background. Keep improving with mulch and organic matter and you'll have a great site.
 
Satamax Antone
gardener
Posts: 2320
Location: Southern alps, on the French side of the french /italian border 5000ft high Southern alpine climate.
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Hi again Roy!

Well, i don't want to sound too pesimistic, but, most of the trees here are larch. And that doesn't give good topsoil! Mind you, i know where to find some good topsoil i think. But the woman will never let me have it!
 
Satamax Antone
gardener
Posts: 2320
Location: Southern alps, on the French side of the french /italian border 5000ft high Southern alpine climate.
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A little delving into google pictures!

https://www.google.fr/search?q=vertical+gardening&rlz=1T4SAVJ_enFR550FR551&prmd=ivnsp&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiI1NjS-fHKAhVHVhoKHQtbDG0QsAQIFA

I love all this!

Daft question, i see a guy using pallets as flower pots. I'm wondering, is wood rot resistent enough for this kind of aplication? I know i should be abble to answer that. As a woodworker, i would say no.

But somebody might have another opinion.
 
Chris Sargent
Posts: 54
Location: SE Alaska
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I build some of those wooden pallet planters. I used heat treated wood pallets and stained the outside with a black stain, in the hopes that it would absorb more heat that way.

They'll be three years old this spring and the wood is holding up just fine. I live in a very wet place where everything rots quickly. Untreated wood left outside in the rain rots very quickly here. These seem to be holding up better than bare wood. I'm sure they'll rot eventually but they seem like they'll last at least awhile longer yet.

I'm not sure I'd really recommend them as a planting medium though. I've tried various vertical planting systems and haven't been all that happy with any of them. You can't get any volume of soil in any of them (these pallets are at least a bit better than gutters, hanging pots, or those hanging pockets/bags in that regard). Because there is so little soil and no really chance to develop any type of soil structure, mycrobial life, earthworms or insects providing nutrients for plants in these systems is a real problem. Solid organic amendments don't work (most of those need some soil life to break them down into nutrients the plants can absorb). You pretty much have to use liquid fertilizers. And quite frequently to keep plants healthy. Even with regular watering with compost teas and fish based fertilizer most systems I've tried developed some type of nutrient deficiencies. I don't really care for all the extra work and inputs involved in having to constantly fertilize these systems.

They all also have problems with drying out. Again small amounts of soil mean little ability to retain moisture, different soil mixtures can improve this some but all all prone to drying. Watering can be difficult and gravity naturally causes the water to run to the bottom of the wall, planter, bags, etc. So the bottom layers can end up too wet, while to top sections end up too dry. Almost impossible to keep good moisture content even watering every day or twice a day. And I have these problems in a very wet climate that gets tons of rain. In a hot, dry climate these would constantly dry out.

The fact that there is so much exposed surface area and little soil volume means that soil moisture and soil temperate is greatly effected by climate conditions. A few cool, wet, cloudy days and your planters end up being cold and waterlogged. A sunny afternoon means they heat up fast. A hot dry wind and they turn bone dry almost immediately. In climates with variable conditions or lots of swings in temperature your plants go from freezing at night to cooking during the day. These swings in soil temperature and moisture levels are not good for the plants so most end up stunted and under preforming.

It's hard to plant a good poly culture in these. Faster growing varieties seem to quickly shade out or strangle slower growing plants. Those lush, full walls with lots of different plants, textures, colors, etc don't stay that way for long. Most plants have roots that need more deep than these can provide. So you are very limited in what you can plant in things like the gutters, small hanging pots, or pocket systems.

In vertical planters where the plants are placed sideways (like the pallet planters and hanging pocket planters) plants seem to end up elongated and strangley as they try to turn upward to get more light or weight of leaves and fruits pull them down. Most plant stems are not designed to grow horizontal so they try to turn upright and get weird curves and turns in their stems as they fall over when they get too large, and then try to turn upright, etc. You end up spending too much time trying to rig up supports and keep new growth tied up so that steams don't fall over and break off with normal gravity. I think all this energy the plants use trying to fight gravity prevents them from really thriving. The normal stem and branching structure doesn't provide support when they are turned sideways. Vinning plants that are meant to grow this way and have their own built in supports (through holdfasts or twining habits or tendrils) do much better. Some plants like tomatoes can be encouraged to vine and do ok. Any plant with a naturally bushing form won't do well in a vertical system. Even most lettuce, greens, and herbs which is often what you see in these systems don't seem to do as well as they do planted in the normal upright fashion. At least that has been my experience.

If you set these up more like a hydroponic system where they are automatically watered with some type or nutrient rich water or fertilizer system they might do better. Something where they get a constant drip or mist watering and can be kept constantly watered to prevent the usual fluctuations. In a protected area where they don't get to much drying from wind, or too much scalding from hot sun, or too much cooling from night time temperature drops. Maybe in a very moderate climate or a climate controlled greenhouse. But in the real world they just don't seem to preform as well as good old fashion planted in the ground systems.

If all you have is a wall or balcony and you have the time and energy to give these systems the extra attention than you can grow some things. But if you have land and space to plant things in the ground they will almost always do better that way. If you want to grow food, almost all crop plants will do better in an in ground bed. At least that has been my experience with all the various vertical planters I've tried...which include the pallet planters, old gutters mounted to fences, various hanging pots and boxes, hanging bags, wall pocket planters, hanging upside down planters, and more.

If you want to pretty up a wall or fence these systems can work. There are some hardy annuals or landscaping plants like some succulents and grasses that can handle the stress and variable condition these type of planters provide. Or at least that is my understanding. I've not personally tried that route. I'm more interested in growing food and I've yet to find a vertical planter that excels at this.
 
Satamax Antone
gardener
Posts: 2320
Location: Southern alps, on the French side of the french /italian border 5000ft high Southern alpine climate.
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Chris, thanks a lot for your reply.
 
William Bronson
Posts: 1451
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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forest garden trees urban
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Hey Max, you might want to try large sub irrigated planters , or wicking beds. They take a lot of work out of watering, tomatoes plants like them, and they can be amended with a natural, abundant liquid fertilizer- diluted urine!
 
Satamax Antone
gardener
Posts: 2320
Location: Southern alps, on the French side of the french /italian border 5000ft high Southern alpine climate.
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Rebecca Norman
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Posts: 1273
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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food preservation greening the desert solar trees
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Nice! That's a similar solution to the suggestion of climbing plants. I've often thought of trying espalier, but the pruning is a bit picky, I think. But could be great fun, lots of aesthetic satisfaction.

In addition to all the good reasons that Chris Sargent gave above that planting in the ground is better than in containers, if you try to cover the wall with containers of potting soil that will grow lots of small plants, you'll have to buy soil for those containers. Instead, you could dig a trench in your lousy clay soil at the base of the wall and fill it with less of the purchased or imported soil, because you can mix in some of the local lousy soil. And as a ground bed will get more living activity in it and be more forgiving of watering irregularities, it will be a more stable system.

Climbing plants or espalier, both sound great!
 
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