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Edible Walls – not on the roof

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At City Farmer, Vancouver, Sean built a sturdy stand to hold our two metal wall panels. Maria shows off some of the edible greens. Photo by Michael Levenston.

Walls are for growing food

For a couple of years we’ve been experimenting with growing in metal, edible wall units. At first we planted them as they sat horizontal on a table and everything grew beautifully. But when we attempted to lift them and attach the soil-filled containers to the fence, they weighed so much that we could barely lift them. That’s when Sean built specially reinforced frames to mount them on.

Once the plants were up and facing the world ‘sideways’ rather than looking up at the sky, they acted strangely and began to bend upwards as if the wind were blowing them from below. We learned that this was caused by gravity and called Gravitropism. (See below.)

The plants were watered and fertilized with liquid at the top of the units.


In year two, staff planted three varieties of strawberries in the wall, which produced colourful fruits and flowers. Chives were planted in amongst the strawberries. Photo by Michael Levenston.


Blair and Sheryl prepare the beds with a light-weight soil mix. Photo by Michael Levenston.

Gravitropism
Wiki says: Gravitropism is a turning or growth movement by a plant or fungus in response to gravity. Charles Darwin was one of the first to scientifically document that roots show positive gravitropism and stems show negative gravitropism. That is, roots grow in the direction of gravitational pull (i.e., downward) and stems grow in the opposite direction (i.e., upwards). This behavior can be easily demonstrated with a potted plant. When laid onto its side, the growing parts of the stem begin to display negative gravitropism, bending (biologists say, turning; see tropism) upwards. Herbaceous (non-woody) stems are capable of a small degree of actual bending, but most of the redirected movement occurs as a consequence of root or stem growth in a new direction.

The Environmental Youth Alliance have built a large-scale edible wall in Vancouver

From What’s Up at EYA

Photo by Michael Levenston.

“If you looked up this past June you might have seen the latest Green Graffiti installation. With the help of Raincity Housing and our dedicated volunteers, we installed an edible living wall at the Princess Rooms in the downtown eastside. In an area not normally known as a food oasis, the living wall is providing both food for thought and for bellies.

Photo by Michael Levenston.

“The new greenspace is also providing homes for the local insect population, with early sightings of ladybugs and even a monarch butterfly. To see the wall for yourself, take a stroll or bike by the 200 block of Princess Avenue.”

See their bulletin here.

Grow wall panels were supplied by Streamline Enterprises Ltd. here.

5 comments

1 Tom { 07.24.11 at 6:05 pm }

How do you water this? I would imagine that getting it watered evenly is all but impossible.

2 Lara { 07.24.11 at 6:48 pm }

I would assume a hose with a mister attachment would suffice.

3 Joan Blurton { 07.24.11 at 11:40 pm }

How does the soil stay in place? Is there a screen over the front? Did you build the metal boxes, or are they sold somewhere? What is the easiest watering method? Living in a suburb in southern Idaho, I can see the benefits of this in not only expanding available garden space, but in keeping a west facing wall cooler in the summer.

4 Kristina Parusel { 11.14.11 at 3:06 am }

Hi all,
I just saw this blog entry today, otherwise I would have responded to your questions sooner! I’m the coordinator of this project with Environmental Youth Alliance. The living wall is watered with drip irrigation using 1/4″ poly lines at the top of every panel. The water does filter through the panels well, though the top of the wall tends to be dryer than the bottom which can inform plant selection and placement. If you have new seedlings with shallow roots it does help to give the front of the soil an occaisional ‘soft’ watering using a very gentle spray attachment of a hose. Anything too strong knocks the soil out. The soil stays well in the panels for the most part, there is no screen. The roots of the panels hold it in, and also the stainless steel design has some features to hold soil in. Joan, we purchased the panels from Streamline Enterprises – for some reason the link above is not working but I could send you a contact if you get in touch with me directly at kristina@eya.ca
If you have any other questions feel free to email.
Kris

5 George Irwin { 06.07.12 at 11:14 am }

hi Kris….I can help out on this one since Im seeing this for the first time our legal team is going to eat this one up. Streamline used to be a GLTi (www.agreenroof.com) representative, they no longer can sell our PATENTED systems. I could gladly add some insight to your readers and insure the success of the existing project.