04 October, 2010

Gardening Goes Vertical

Vertical gardening, gardening on walls or on poles, is a new area of excitement in horticulture, is much more than hanging a tomato in an upside down planter. Part of this trend is a natural outgrowth of roof top gardening or actual green roofs. If one can grow plants on a roof then it sure makes sense to try and grow them on a wall as well. There are a number of great vertical planters coming to market next year. I have chosen two models to bring into the Hudson Valley. They both offer outstanding opportunities to grow vertically in areas where space is at a premium, for privacy or just something new and different.
First is the Living Wall from Bright Green USA www.brightgreenusa.com   this unique planter consists of a single polymer unit available in three sizes: 20x20x2½, 10x20x4, and 8x18x4. The back is lined with a moisture mat that enables the plants in all 8 pockets to get the same amount of water. To provide long lasting water and to end over watering a really cool water box sits atop the planter and slowly drips water onto the moisture mat. The Living Wall planter is ideal for succulents but I like it for herbs. 8 pockets provide room enough to grow an entire herb garden on wall or mounted to a 4x4 post. Imagine living in a second floor town home and wanting fresh herbs. The Living Wall can be mounted easily to the wall right outside the kitchen or on a deck rail. Fresh herbs are right at the door. Even more convenient than going out to the garden. The Living Wall also means less bending over than with containers sitting on the floor or ground. Several Living Walls can be hung next to each other to make an actual living wall, hence the name. They function equally well indoors or out and make a bif statement if not an piece of art.
The biggest success story in container garden systems, Earth Box, introduces it's own vertical planter as well. Their's is so new that there are no photos online yet. The Earth Box vertical garden is a modular stacking unit that can be stacked up to 36 inches tall without needing support. If you want to go higher just mount the plant to a rear support like a fence rail or deck rail. Water is applied through a drip emitter system that waters from the top. Roots are in pockets that jut out in cups to keep water from being placed directly onto the root ball. This unit comes in two colors, white and terra cotta and should sell for around $45.  Very easy to plant and use with many different patterns available as to layout and height of the product. Again due to the compact nature of the unit it is ideal for herbs and small vegetables as well as flowers.
What may seem like hocus pocus at first is a whole slew of "nutritional supplements" for gardens. The packaging is beautiful and their claims are much more muted than supplements aimed at people. Thrive is not a fertilizer but best described as an innoculant like product kind of like a compost tea. However Thrive contains not only bacteria similar to that in compost tea but mychorrizae as well. Many garden products contain mychorrizae these days. Best described as a symbiotic relationship it is thought that mychhhorizae work but colonizing on root zones of plants to give a spider web like structure to the root structure. what the claim is that because the roots now resemble a spider web there is a much larger surface area plants have to take up water and nutrients.
Mychorrizae do colonize on root structures. this has been know for decades. problem always was there was no way to harvest mychorrizae and package it for sale. Seems the mychorizae always dies in the process. Several new ways have been found to make the product marketable. I have always thought liquid was the best way to apply organics. Turns out to be the same with mychorrizae. Dry forms have a limited shelf life and often must be placed in contact with the root mass in order to work properly. Thrive, being in liquid form already does not need to be applied directly to the roots.
Another great home grown food trend is window farming. Google window farming and learn how to make a window garden out of used 2 liter soda bottles and grow food all winter long. Again best used for greens and herbs.
The world of gardening continues to evolve with a lot of really cool products that while at first seem like snake oil or hocus pocus do work after all. This is a great benefit of organic gardening and sustainability going mainstream. The plethora of products may be fewer because the ones that work fit into survival of the fittest and make the cut.

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