This article is designed to assist the DIY vertical gardener choose the best product for growing vegetables on a wall (living wall).
We have been reading what people have been saying in the gardening forums and we think its time someone questioned the wisdom behind ‘cheap vertical garden solutions are best’.
Vertical gardening can be demanding for a plant and its container. Building a vertical garden can be more costly if a cheap product leads to structural wall damage. Furthermore growing vegetables on the vertical can place additional stress on the container system because of the weight of the vegetables. A cheap solution will collapse and tear within the first growing season. Cheap materials can not withstand constant dry and wet periods and eventually the living wall will look, at the very least, shabby. At the very worst a living wall may collapse and injure a small child.
Garden Beet has been trialling vertical garden products for over four years. Here are some of our key learnings that can be applied to a vertical vegetable garden.
A quick introduction to vertical gardening
Vertical gardening is basically growing plants on a wall. Vertical gardens are also known as living walls and green walls.
If your vertical garden is considered to be more than an experiment (ie it is an important component of your garden or its the only garden space you have) you need to be aware which systems will provide a healthy home for a plant long after the first growing season has finished. Remember you are asking a plant that normally grows in the ground to thrive suspended in mid air.
There are two basic types of vertical gardens: soil based and water based (also known as hydroponic). Garden Beet has only experimented with the soil based systems.
The DIY systems can be divided into fabric wall planters and rigid wall planters
Fabric systems also allow easy installation and are transported with ease. Shipping costs are reduced which means cheaper delivery options for the customer.
The reduced weight also enables larger soil based wall gardens as the loading on the walls is reduced.
Nevertheless the fabric must be robust if it is to last more than one or two growing seasons. The stitching also needs to be sound. Over time the weight of soil and a plants growing root system will damage cheaply made wall planters
1. Wally by Woolly Pockets (start at £24.99)
FABULOUS, a bit pricey but money is well spent on quality
One of the first fabric wall planters to enter the market was Wally by Woolly Pockets. This vertical garden solution still amazes me. Every time I trial a new living wall product my respect for the design of this fabric wall planter increases. Yes Garden Beet sells Wally but I stand by my assessment.
It is a clever shape that sits well against a wall while providing generous room for a plant’s root ball. Compared to the other vertical garden products on the market this product allows a plant to grow to substantial proportions.
Product quality control is marvellous as well. Every Wally Pocket I have handled has kept to its specified dimensions. An important feature when installing a large wall.
Wally Pocket is fabulous for those who like experimenting with plants. The vertical gardener is normally limited in plant choice if they wish to grow a living wall that has good plant coverage. All the other systems trialled have very small spaces available for a plant’s root zone. There are not many plants that create enough foliage to cover a wall whilst tolerating a restricted root zone.
Despite the roomy root zone Wally Pocket does not create the bands of planting that have been made famous by Patric Blanc (shown below). The plants grown on Blanc’s living walls are able to hug the buildings as the plants are grown without soil – the plants are grown using hydroponic systems.
Garden Beet has been selling Wally for 4 years and our customers tend to be very very happy with the product. Take a look at what some of our customers have been saying Woolly Pocket Feedback. For a detailed review of Wally Pockets please refer to Garden Beet’s 2010 article Review of Woolly Pockets.
2. Verti-Plant Burgon and Ball (£9.95)– This is Burgon and Ball’s second attempt at producing a fabric wall planter. Yes its a much cheaper solution than Wally Pocket but it would be better as a desk tidy than a serious plant growing container. The pockets are too small and they are just hopeless at retaining water. The eyelets do not match up so forget about overlapping each unit to create a large green wall design. Customers have complained. I complain to myself.
3. All the other fabric wall planters – there are loads of Wally Pocket by Woolly Pocket copy cat designs coming out of China. All I have seen are poor substitutes. These products are sold on eBay, Amazon and a range of internet businesses. I have seen liners in the pockets made out of garbage bags! Eek. The plant pockets are simply the wrong shape and size. The space available for a plant’s root ball is too small – which leads to an increase in a plant’s water requirements – or the pocket will never hold the plant, its soil and the water securely. Eek a mess.