Weekend Project

Justin Newcombe's tips on outdoor DIY projects

Weekend project: Climbing the walls: A vertical solution

By Justin Newcombe

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When there's little ground space, don't despair. Just plant up, says Justin Newcombe. He shows us how easily it can be done.

Justin Newcombe with his finished live garden wall. Photo / Dean Purcell
Justin Newcombe with his finished live garden wall. Photo / Dean Purcell

There are many situations where I've used climbers to cover walls or green up big concrete areas. These difficult spaces are usually without any meaningful soil, as often a small slip of a space is left in the paving or concrete, more as an afterthought than a serious attempt to provide any long-term plant habitat. The results are usually poor. Increasingly, precious ground space must be used in a clever, utilitarian way so gardening in these situations requires creative cunning and determination. Plant or green walls offer a long-term solution for greening tight spaces or those with excessive hard surfaces.

My plant wall is against a fence and I've supported it using some timber framing and a sheet of ply attached to the fence to which each wall cell or tank will be tied. Amazingly, I've established a 2 square metre garden using only 0.3 of a metre of ground space. Once it's irrigated, depending on the plants, the maintenance will be well... not minimal, but reasonable.

Maccaferri, an environmental engineering firm, is now selling plant wall kits. They gave me a good set of simple - in fact I'd have to say idiot-proof - instructions to follow. Apparently it's best to establish the plants in the tank before erecting the wall, but I don't see why you can't just put the wall up then cut the holes? That would speed things up and the whole project's done in an afternoon, right?

Wrong. Erecting the wall before installing the plants makes planting very difficult as the soil slumps, while keeping the plants in the wall is annoyingly difficult. I confess that although I made solid progress I compromised the planting and design. In my defence, however, I really wanted to show everybody what it looks like finished.

In the end though I conceded defeat and pulled the wall down and found, funnily enough, that following the instructions solved all my plant wall problems.

This is my first plant wall and I'd have to say it won't be my last. Maccaferri's tank is really easy to assemble and stack.

I'm really excited about the design possibilities and although the initial outlay is more than a pot and a creeper, for a long term meaningful resolution to space deprivation you couldn't get a better one.

Step 1

Cut the cells sides to the right depth. Mine are 150mm wide but you go bigger. Clip the box together making sure everything lines up.

Step 2

Place the soil bag in the cell then mix your soil with 20 per cent perlite (ultra lightweight aggregate). Perlite prevents the soil slumping and makes the cell much lighter and easier to handle.

Step 3

Lay the cell flat. Cut a hole through the cell wall and then through the bag with a knife, then plant. Using smaller plants and planting in volume is better than using fewer larger plants.

Step 4

(I skipped this step, but for best results, you shouldn't). Let the plants establish for a month of two before erecting the wall. When the wall is first erected, the plants will sit straight out but will grow into an upright position.

Step 5

Attach irrigation using cable ties. I used drippers and a timer. Run the irrigation with the water supplied to the top of the wall allowing gravity to do the rest.

- NZ Herald

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