The Walls are Alive: Plant a Vertical Garden

For privacy, quiet, and insulation, plant your walls.

| March/April 2005

  • A green wall serves as a living fence in Lafayette, California.
    Photo by Ahmad Hassan, Hassan Gardening
  • A home's green wall helps buffer noise and fumes from traffic on a nearby street while retaining water and enclosing pets.
    Photo by Ahmad Hassan, Hassan Gardening
  • Green wall designer Ahmad Hassan trims plants on a green retaining wall he created in the San Francisco bay area.
    Photo by Ahmad Hassan, Hassan Gardening

Vertical Gardens—on walls—provide insulating and beautifying greenery that can disguise the most uninspiring walls and serve as a delightful alternative to conventional fencing. 'Living walls' create privacy, sound barriers, habitat, moisture, and shade in addition to flowers, fruits, and vegetables. They naturally filter or evaporate rooftop runoff, taking a load off stormwater and wastewater systems, thus protecting rivers and streams.

Living walls differ from trellises and climbing plant-covered walls in that they feature a growing medium that allows plants to take root in the wall, not just at the base of it.

Garden walls are essentially gardens turned on end. San Francisco Bay-area garden-wall designer Ahmad Hassan shares his secrets for making garden walls, essentially a soil sandwich held up with welded wire.

1. Roll out 4-foot-high galvanized welded wire mesh such as that typically used to reinforce concrete. Spray paint it brown or dark green to blend in with the vegetation it will support. When dry, spread it with shredded redwood mulch and wet sphagnum moss for ­aesthetics.

2. Cover mesh with a layer of sod, then some soil with a high clay content to hold moisture.

3. Snake a soaker hose or drip-irrigation line through the top foot of the wall to provide water (may not be necessary in wet climates). Hassan prefers quarter-inch hose with emitters spaced twelve inches apart. An alternative is to install bubblers at the very top of the wall. The water will trickle down through the wall to the ground.

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