SmartDwelling I - Green Walls

green walls espalier fruit trees on top half, and train vining vegetables up lattice of bottom half

   SmartDwelling I, published recently by the Wall Street Journal in their Green House of the Future article has a number of innovations that aren’t so much inventions as they are re-purposing things we’ve known about for a very long time. Green Walls are one such pattern. The idea is really simple: take all building or garden walls within easy harvesting reach (say, up to 8’ tall) and plant them. The Green Walls to the left in the image above are planted against a masonry garden wall, while the Green Wall to the right is planted against the garage. And no, all those green boxes aren’t finely-clipped hedges... that’s just the closest I could get with Sketchup. This is a normal raised-bed vegetable garden.

   How do you plant a Green Wall? Well, we eat fruits and a few vegetables that grow on perennial plants like fruit trees, while most vegetables grow annually: you plant them in the spring and they die in the frosts of the fall. Because annuals like fruit trees grow for many years, they can typically grow taller than annuals like onions or rhubarb. Many vegetables will never make it to the top of the wall, so the top should be reserved for perennials.

   There’s an ancient art known as espaliering where fruit trees are trained tight against a wall. They never get anywhere near as large as they would growing in the wild, but they produce an amazing amount of fruit for such a tiny footprint. The tops of Green Walls are composed primarily of espaliered fruit trees.

   See the lighter green below the espaliered fruit arches? That area is reserved for vegetables. Vining ones (such as beans and peas) work best. It’s not shown here because it would be largely hidden, but the area below the arch has a lattice built of pruned branches (gotta recycle, you know?) attached to the wall. Vegetables growing in this area would vine up the lattice.

   Some vining vegetables don’t work so well... until now... because their fruit is so heavy. Several types of melons fit this description. No problem... SmartDwelling I envisions Melon Cradles which would be hung from the lattice when fruit sets on in the springtime, carrying their weight as they grow.

   There’s a lot more to Green Walls, some of which you can read here. As you will see, they actually weren’t my idea, but rather, Julie Sanford’s. And the principles, of course, have gone back thousands of years... we’re just applying them in a certain way. You’ll also note that I was calling them Wall Gardens at the time... might even go back to that term. What do you think? Wall Gardens? Green Walls? Which is a more descriptive and more enticing term?

~ Steve Mouzon

Legacy Comments:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 - 12:34 PM

Andrew Malone

"Wall Gardens" seems far more descriptive.  I really like the idea and would be interested in trying it in my Brooklyn back yard next season.  I already have built planter boxes and have been planning to plant climbing vegetables in some areas, but climbing melons and squash is a very interesting idea.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 - 10:33 AM

Steve Mouzon

Andrew, when you do your Wall Garden, please send photos... whenever someone grows something that's both edible and beautiful, we all need to see it. Thanks in advance!

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