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Blog- Living Walls

Who: Can anyone grow a living wall?

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The question everyone thinks when they see a beautiful picture of a living wall. Can I do that? The answer to that is maybe. Depends on expectations.

Are you capable of keeping a potted plant alive? If your answer is anywhere from “no” to “mostly”, then I would steer away from living walls and more toward the Grown By You products. Why? Simple. You will be disappointed if your living wall dies and the Grown By You line is easier for a beginner. Those Grown By You wall planters are along the same lines as a living wall planter but without the gravity depleting the water so quickly. You can plant easy choices of plants, like Philodendrons or spider plants and get great results to start you out. You learn the care of a living plant using these wall planters allowing you to work your way up to the living wall type planters. That’s not to say that the Grown By You planters are just for beginners. They are not. You can select elaborate container type plants, like succulents, herbs or ferns and create masterpiece living art with them. But if you are a beginner, and can keep the Grown By You products alive for a year, looking lush and full, then you can graduate to the living wall planters. These frame kits introduce you to the living wall idea but for intermediates. These planters will allow you to plant selections of plants that are more challenging and elaborate. Can beginners use these planters too? Yes but the vertical platform requires knowledge of plants and their needs. Water will run through these planters quickly and the moisture mat will dry out requiring more frequent watering than a container or tray type planter. As with anything, the type of plant you choose will depend on soil choice, light requirements and water frequency.

Now lets say you saw a beautiful photo of a living wall that was the entire backdrop to someone’s patio. This is what attracts people to the living wall idea. They are creative and stunning to you and your guests. Can a beginner do them? Yes, but they would need to choose plants like grass or ivy that require little care to survive. Again, the vertical planter does take knowledge of plants to perfect. These elaborate walls can be installed by the homeowner or a landscape designer. They require drip irrigation set on a timer for best results. You have to consider sunlight, air contact, plant choice, drainage, etc. But again this is something you have to commit to just as if you were getting a puppy or a cat. They are living things that need care and attention.

Here are some other things to consider:

  1. Weight: Grown by You Products hold a planting tray that weighs about 10 lbs when planted and wet. Each BG20 panel (45 cell panel) weighs between 35-55 lbs when wet. The BG8 panel (10 cell panel) weighs between 25 – 30 lbs when wet. This means that the wall mounted living wall frame kits also weight about 25 – 30 lbs when wet. The mini frames weigh about 5 lbs when wet.
  2. Lighting: Sunlight is best but if indoors, lighting requirements are to use a full spectrum light. As an example if you had a 600 W metal halide grow light at the ceiling, it would cover approximately 9 ft wide x 9 ft high section of living wall. If you are growing plants in the Grown By You, mini frames or living wall frame kits, there are clip on grow lights that work for those units too. Lighting must be even or plants will tilt toward where the light is.
  3. Water: Drip irrigation is required for any living wall that is more than 2 panels high. Frame kits, mini frames or Grown by You products can be hand watered. Each BG20 panel requires 2 liters of water to fully saturate and each BG8 requires 1 liter of water to fully saturate. The Grown By You tray requires 3/4 of a liter to saturate. Mini frames need 1 cup. If you plan to use a controller to run the drip irrigation system on a living wall, the controllers plug into 110V outlets. They should use a GFCI outlet due to the potential proximity to water and/or being outside. If considering using rain water or gray water then a cistern or rain barrel is needed to collect the water then it can be pumped into the living wall system using the irrigation. A pump is necessary to open the emitters used in the drip irrigation. Gravity fed walls will use no emitters.
  4. Plant choice: Depending on your skill level, plants selected can range from sedums to Tropical plants. If they can survive in a container, they will work in a living wall.
  5. Aluminum structure support – We have an aluminum structure framing that is designed to hold the weight of our living wall system instead of compromising the integrity of a building walls. This is designed specifically per job and will add another $20 per square foot to the cost.
  6. Drainage: In all the frame kits, mini frames and Grown By You products they include a collector or cork plugs to drain. Living wall systems require a gutter type piece to route the water into a drain or flower bed.
  7. Expected maintenance responsibilities: For living walls, you will need to check the irrigation to make sure all emitters are working, the timer is set properly for plant selection and replace any plants that have died. Consider if plants are dry or overly moist, is too much water going down the drain, are there localized areas of dryness/moisture, make sure there are no leaks in the irrigation system, make sure there is no blockage in the drain. Visually check on plant health, are there any insects or birds causing damage, are there any signs of disease (this will kill all plants of the same species, remove any weeds, overall review ‘look’ of wall. (There are companies that provide this service) Wall mounted frames, minis or Grown By You trays need to be looked at in the same way but on a smaller scale. Make sure to fertilize as recommended based on plants you purchased.
  8. Life expectancy: Wall frames, minis and trays will live like any other container if cared for, fertilized and maintained. A living wall will require plant replacement regularly, fertilizing and maintenance. Panels are UV protection. All wooden frames need to be pained with polyurethane every other year.

Obviously, living walls are beautiful and prompt many to want them but they are a living plant and require care and devotion to keep alive. If you still have questions, please feel free to ask. I will do my best to answer them for you.

Enjoy and grow up!

The Shop Living Wall Team

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