Up­wards is the way to go

Alice Spenser-higgs dis­cov­ers a new ap­proach to ver­ti­cal gar­den­ing

Business Day - Home Front - - HOMEFRONT -

WHEN there is no space left to gar­den, the last re­sort is up­wards. Ver­ti­cal gar­den­ing is re­garded as the prac­ti­cal way to make the most of space but it can also be used for dec­o­ra­tive pur­poses, of mak­ing an aes­thetic state­ment far re­moved from the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of space sav­ing.

This is cer­tainly the trend over­seas and ex­am­ples of this could be seen at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, the Hamp­ton Court Flower Show and at the Ball-col­grave an­nual open gar­dens.

In ad­di­tion to the usual struc­tures as­so­ci­ated with ver­ti­cal gar­den­ing, such as obelisks, lat­tices and arch­ways, there was a new sys­tem on dis­play. It was the mod­u­lar Ver­ti­gar­den sys­tem that has been de­vel­oped in the UK.

I saw two ap­pli­ca­tions at the Hamp­ton Court flower show. One was in the al­fresco gar­den and con­sisted of panels of salad veg­eta­bles grow­ing within easy reach of the din­ing area; an in­vi­ta­tion to pick your salad in your own time. Each Ver­ti­gar­den panel was framed, mak­ing it a work of art.

A more am­bi­tious project was the cre­ation of a green wall, fea­tur­ing va­ri­eties of heather in dif­fer­ent shades of green.

The en­tire wall con­sisted of mod­u­lar panels linked to­gether but it was so well done that the joins were seam­less. One had to peer be­hind the ex­hibit to see how it had been con­structed.

The Ver­ti­gar­den was also on show at the ex­ten­sive Ball Cole­grave gar­dens, which are opened an­nu­ally to in­tro­duce new va­ri­eties to the gar­den­ing pub­lic.

A gar­den shed was clad en­tirely with panels. The re­sult was a shaggy green roof and flow­er­ing walls. Only the English would take it that far but it did demon­strate the ver­sa­til­ity of the sys­tem.

That sys­tem is now avail­able in SA. It con­sists of a com­pletely en­closed grow­ing mod­ule, with built in ir­ri­ga­tion, and ap­pears to be an ef­fi­cient and prac­ti­cal way to grow plants ver­ti­cally.

Each mod­ule can be dis­played as an in­di­vid­ual unit or as a larger dis­play by link­ing two or more panels to­gether.

There is no limit to the num­ber of panels that can be linked to­gether and the re­sult can be spec- tac­u­lar, cre­at­ing the ef­fect of a liv­ing ta­pes­try of plants.

One of the prob­lems of grow­ing plants on a wall panel is the weight of the struc­ture it­self as well as of the soil, plants and water. To over­come this, the Ver­ti­gar­den mod­ules are made from in­cred­i­bly light ma­te­ri­als. Each kit con­sists of a light­weight outer metal frame, a tough but light plas­tic grow­ing tray and lid, a mesh top and in­line ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem.

Each panel is 500mm tall, 400mm wide and 90mm deep. The ir­ri­ga­tion pipe is con­nected to a water tank that is mounted sep­a­rately above the panel and grav­ity draws the water down through the panel.

Apart from the kit, all that is nec­es­sary to get started is pot­ting soil, slow re­lease fer­tiliser and 16 seedlings. The wall or other sur­face should be able to sup­port the full weight of the planted up tray which is about 10kg and the water tank which is about 3kg when full.

Herbs lend them­selves to this ap­pli­ca­tion be­cause a panel can be po­si­tioned close to the kitchen and the reg­u­lar pick­ing keeps the plants neat.

The sys­tem was tried out by Louis van Aswe­gen of Healthy Liv­ing Herbs and he used herbs such as pars­ley, le­mon thyme, golden oregano, and basil “Red Ru­bin”.

He found that the more com- pact grow­ing herbs were bet­ter and that the best place for the panel was where it re­ceived morn­ing sun but af­ter­noon shade.

His kept the panel flat af­ter plant­ing so that the plants could set­tle in.

The plants were wa­tered as if they were in pots and the soil was al­lowed to dry out be­fore wa­ter­ing again. The panel was ready to hang three weeks af­ter plant­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to Louis, the fre­quency of wa­ter­ing de­pends on the po­si­tion of the panel. It will re­quire more fre­quent wa­ter­ing in sum­mer and less in win­ter. The panel can be re­planted at the end of the sea­son.

Cut the ties that keep every­thing in place, re­move the plants and the pot­ting soil. Wash every­thing with a mild de­ter­gent and then re plant us­ing new pot­ting soil and new ties to se­cure the sys­tem.

For a flow­er­ing panel it is pos- sible to use ba­copa, be­go­nia “Mil­lion Kisses”, ivy gera­ni­ums, im­pa­tiens, Bi­dens, lo­belia, petu­nias, and ver­bena.

You could also try tufted or­na­men­tal grasses like Carex, Acorus, or Mondo grass as well as Liri­ope and ground­cov­ers.

Tak­ing the Ver­tic­gar­den sys­tem to its outer lim­its.

Verti Gar­den pan­els are a so­lu­tion for apart­ment liv­ing where space is lim­ited.

A work of art that keeps on grow­ing.

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