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Going Vertical: A Green Experiment
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Going Vertical: A Green Experiment

Kris and I are lucky to have some green space (albeit slightly larger than a postage stamp) surrounding our house, and from the time we moved in in December 2001, we have planned many ourdoor projects that utilize this space:  a small deck and a brick patio, several raised beds, a DIY pond project, a container garden, expanded edibles beds… and this year, realizing that there just wasn’t that much space left (well, we have two doggie girls, and we have to leave them some room to do their business!) we decided to go vertical.

It is still in the experimental stages – Kris and I constructed this box back in April and it still needs some tweaks (specifically when it comes to even distribution of water) but we are getting some nice looking greens growing from it, so it seems to be working on a pretty basic level!  Here’s how we did it:


Kris bought some boards and constructed this case – about 5 feet tall and 2.5 wide – and divided it into three sections.  The backing was left open, but with wooden slats placed about 2 inches apart.  The dividers were placed in at an angle to keep the soil from coming out, and a hole was cut in the middle to insert this wire mesh tube through the middle the case.  The hole is also cut in the top of the case.  We lined the sections with coconut husk fiber and then inserted this mesh tube.  The tube was then filled with river rocks.


A top soil and compost mixture filled in to each section.


Another layer of the coconut husk fiber to cover the soil.  With a razor, we cut small holes into the fiber to insert the seedlings / seeds. 


 Landscape fabric was stapled on top of the frame, and wooden slats were screwed into the frame .  We cut holes in the fabric to match the holes beneath in the cocout fiber.


Seedlings inserted!  then we propped up the frame, and secured it to the fence.  No soil spills!

The seedlings were started indoors awhile before, and we just transplanted them into the vertical frame.  We used the same salad green mixture that we put in the adjacent bed.  The hope is that the plants will grow out and then up, filling in the blank spaces with greens.  We are planning some additional planting in this bed so that we can have a staggered harvest (Kris and I love salad!) 

The only thing we have noticed is that the watering tube (filled with river rocks down the center) does not distribute the water as well to the seedlings on the far right and far left.  The water also tends to flow out the back of the frame.  So, some minor tweaks are needed. 

 This concept of the “living wall” is so amazing to me – mixing function and art.  If you are interested, there is LOTS of fodder online:

I want to take this idea and RUN with it… :)

We tend to focus so much on our edible gardening, but over the weekend, we planted some ornamentals – I got these foxgloves and corabelles at the nursery.  They are a nice addition to the front yard where we have some gladiolas and lilies preparing to bloom. 




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29 Responses

  1. Lisa

    Ohmygosh I love it! That’s fabulous.

  2. k

    very interesting. glad to see all the exciting things people are doing to grow their own food. unfortunately i’m living in a spot right now where i just don’t have enough sunlight in the yard to grow much edibles.

  3. kingshearte

    That’s fantastic. I can’t wait for the day when I have even a postage stamp sized area in which to grow food. Unfortunately, since all I have at the moment is a fire escape, even this very awesome vertical growing space won’t work for me. :(

  4. Betsie

    Wow! That’s great! I hope you keep us updated on this so we can see how it all turns out!

  5. kate

    This is such a great idea. We have a similar situation — small backyard, but dogs who need to do their business (and have NO disregard for the fences I have put up in an attempt to divide the area for some raised beds) so the front plot gets crammed with stuff. I just saw this post on, of all things, Unhappy Hipsters :http://unhappyhipsters.com/post/586882480/the-armchairs-had-gathered-to-warn-her-but-alas and was quite envious of her green wall. Yours is a great solution that I am determined to now try.

  6. Josiane

    That’s a terrific idea! Just like Betsie, I hope you’ll keep us updated: it’d be lovely to see it again later in the season.

  7. Amy

    What an awesome awesome project. This would be perfect for our postage-stamp sized yard.

  8. Laura

    Wow, this is pretty awesome! And I love those sandals you’re wearing, where did you get them?

  9. Laura Baker

    I saw the most amazing bags hanging on a wall of a restaurant which had just installed them. They were called woolly pockets and are made out of recycled plastic bags. They are a dark charcoal color. They had ferns and bromeliads planted in them. They were striking. He was talking about planting herbs as well to use in the restaurant. There are so many ways to plant and grow veggies these days. Fun to see all the different ways to use space.

  10. Denise

    Great ideas! Thanks for the tutorial & links… Wow wow wow!

    : D

    - Denise (dlotter on ravelry & twitter)

  11. Michelle Burgess

    I love this. great ideas guys. make sure you keep us updated to show how they progress and let us know any problems you encounter and how to overcome.

  12. Amy

    Fantastic! I saw these at our favorite botanical gardens in Maine last summer, and I wondered how they were made. They look GORGEOUS all in bloom.

  13. Ashley

    I LOVE living walls. They fascinate me. Was lucky enough to Christmas in Paris last year (pre baby travel splurge), and fell in love with the front wall of the Musee Quai Branly. Check this out: http://indiscipline.fr/fr/les-trottoirs-du-quai-branly/

    Love your site!

  14. Wendolene

    Wow–never would have thought of that one! Very ingenious, even if it does want tweaking. Maybe some horizontal tubes intersected with the main one to get the water to the sides?

  15. yoel

    This is so cool! Please post pictures as the plants start growing! My “yard” has only one wall that gets any sun, and I’m anxious to be a copycat…

  16. rolex daytona

    I saw these at our favorite botanical gardens in Maine last summer, and I wondered how they were made. They look GORGEOUS all in bloom.

  17. whitney

    Oh, wow, this is brilliant! I’d love to give this a try in our small yard.

  18. caroline

    I just read a NYT article on these– it sounds like they are a lot of work and prone to failure, but they do look great if you can pull it off!

  19. Jenna

    Ah, I have a better sense of what’s going on with this thing after seeing this. It’s an excellent idea! I think there was an article in a bust magazine about making a frame to fit into a whole window. Great use of space!

    Hope all is well, miss you xoxo.

  20. Hilary

    Ok, you guys rock! I can’t wait to see how it looks when the plants have grown a bit. I would love to do this one day, so thanks for sharing your tips!

  21. Heather

    That is fabulous!

  22. rachel

    I first saw one of these green walls in an eco-friendly shop in Baltimore a few years back, and I think they look so fantastic. Can’t wait to see yours start filling up with greens!

  23. Silverilix

    I just wanted to echo the others with thanks for sharing and a great use of space… I can’t wait to ask my hubby to help me with one!

  24. elkbio

    Such a great idea and I’m so impressed with how efficiently you and Kris are using your space for edibles! Hopefully we’ll see a photo in the near future with greens galore!

  25. Mimi

    I miss you.

  26. Chandler

    Oh, WOW! When we finally put in our garden next year, we’ve been talking about going vertical to maximize the space. But we were thinking in terms of training things to grow up trellises and poles…I’d never have thought of this in my wildest dreams! Definitely bookmarking for future reference—thank you for the idea!

    Happy gardening!

  27. berry

    That’s very cool. It is such a great idea. Please also post pictures as the plants start growing. I saw these at our favorite botanical garden. I had also read these types of article in magazine.

  28. Irmhild

    love the idea! i’ve seen vertical strawberry gardening before, but that was in gutters, i think! an actual vertical vegetable bed, i haven’t seen that. can’t wait to see how you get one with it!

  29. Leslie

    brilliant…I will keep checking on the progress and your harvest…something I may need to try next year…I’m running out of room for pots in my teeny tiny yard.

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