One of the wonderful things about permaculture design is that with every new project comes a new challenge and the search for a great solution that ticks all the boxes.
That’s where we are at the moment.
In anticipation of creating a fabulous permaculture rooftop garden workshop in Redfern, Sydney – one that includes both well-functioning, edible and beautiful vertical gardens – we’re researching what’s out there in the way of high innovation and low cost.
Our requirements are to build something that uses materials that are either free or cheap, that is water-wise, and that at the end of the day you can make look great – and not like it’s made free or cheap.
Recycling PET bottles is looking like it could be the way to go.
As we all well know, vertical gardens are a great solution to many challenges within urban spaces.
Most cities worldwide (and definitely in Australia) lack sufficient green space, and finding ways to incorporate more of the green stuff in our cities where minimal spare land is available has led to a lot of discussion on the benefits of green walls or vertical gardens and green roofs.
Taking it a step further, vertical food gardens are ultimately about growing food, and utilising otherwise unused vertical space to stack a lot of functions into one simple system.
They provide food while increasing biodiversity and providing more spots for our ever-important bees and insects to stop and pollinate.
They provide beauty in a city’s hard landscapes and increase urban green space, which have positive effects on the mental wellbeing and happiness of residents.
They aid the reduction of pollution and the urban heat island effect, helping keep our cities cooler. And importantly they provide learning opportunities – for kids and adults alike.
So yes, vertical gardens are fantastic.
We went searching for inspiration for our own project and came across a whole lot of great designs. We’ve gathered up ten favourites here for you.
Using two-litre soda bottles cut in half and turned upside down, they are adhered to a wooden frame and placed so they open neck of the bottle drains water into the one below.
A bottom half of a soda bottle is attached to the bottom row as a reservoir (which could be filled with pebbles for a wicking solution).
There’s a bit of a tutorial on this one here.
Same idea as above, different setup, with the rows longer and attached to the wall to fit the space better.
Bushy and trailing plants like these lettuces and strawberries hide the structure, creating a nice ‘green wall’ effect.
Same essentials as above again, but a little more technical with mechanical watering via a pump attached to run from the reservoir to the top row.
This setup takes the self-watering system larger and onto a timber structure (with hessian covered bottles that look great) – and offers a great tutorial to boot.
Using bottles still, this is a much more simplified version that requires hand watering with a hose as none of the bottles are connected. However the bottles suspended by ropes looks pretty good.
More info and a small tutorial on this one here.
We love this one for its simplicity – attach some guttering to a wall, slope them a little so they drain and run into each other, and get some appropriate edible plants in – easy!
This idea of using vertical PVC pipe is something that works great for lettuces and strawberries, and is put to good use for the latter at Soul Food Street Farms in Vancouver.
The pipe is filled with soil and plants are planted into decent-sized holes drilled into the sides the whole way along.
This is a nice-looking solution for anyone left with a whole lot of leftover bricks looking to both greenify a space and create a thermal sink.
Shortfalls though include difficulty getting water into the soil, and only a small space available for roots. Trying something similar with cinder blocks may be better.
One for the timber lovers or for those who have access to an abundant amount of spare timber (and if you don’t, hit up Gumtree).
You could also add a few more rows for planting to this frame and there’s potential for an automated watering system.
You can follow our Vertical Gardening Pinterest board where we’ll be stashing everything we come across.
Got any more favourite designs for us? Have you set up a vertical garden at home? If so, what set up did you go for?