How to Build a DIY Vertical Garden

About thirty years ago, French landscape architect Patrick Blanc became a pioneer in the implementation of vertical gardens in Paris, and later in other cities around the world. Through the creation of vertical structures capable nourishing plant species, these systems allow species to grow on the facades of buildings, considerably reducing a structure's internal temperature and allowing the expansion of green areas to new (vertical) territories within the city.

Blanc's creation was part of a series of developments in understanding what nature adds to the city, recognizing the value of green spaces and their contribution to social, environmental and urban policies. 

Singapore, London, and São Paulo have used the system as an important technique in their goal to improve the quality of urban life.

© Matheus Pereira © Matheus Pereira

In the city of São Paulo, for example, the Movimento 90° founded in 2013 by Guil Blanche is already responsible for the construction of about 16,000 square meters of green area in a series of vertical gardens throughout the city, especially on Avenida 23 de Maio, where there is 10,950 square meters of green space, and in the gables of buildings along the Elevado João Goulart, popularly known like "Minhocão," where there is 4,180 square meters.

In practice, vertical gardens provide a whole series of environmental benefits, such as solid residue recycling, heat reduction inside buildings, partial air clean-up through CO2 capture, and the ability to reuse captured rainwater, which is used for the irrigation of the plants. 

© Felipe Gabriel Via Movimento 90°. ImageEdifício Santa Cruz © Felipe Gabriel Via Movimento 90°. ImageEdifício Santa Cruz

And, while a vertical garden may begin with a set of pre-defined green species invading the gray landscape, other new species may arise due to the seeds deposited by birds and insects, as a result of their ecological interaction.

Whether on a grand urban scale or the smallest individual scale, we can be a contributor to the system's implementation.

Read on to learn how to set up your own vertical garden.

© Felipe Gabriel Via Movimento 90°. ImageEdifício Santos © Felipe Gabriel Via Movimento 90°. ImageEdifício Santos

Materials

  1. Rigid, waterproof sheet material*
  2. Spacers
  3. Two high-density felt blankets
  4. Needle and string
  5. Hoses
  6. Hose couplers
  7. Dripper
  8. Timer
  9. Clamps
  10. Fertilized soil
  11. Plant species
© Gabriela Di Bella Via Movimento 90°. ImageAvenida 23 de Maio © Gabriela Di Bella Via Movimento 90°. ImageAvenida 23 de Maio

Step-by-Step

1. Begin by cutting one of the felt blankets into rectangles. The measurements are variable, according to the species chosen to compose the vertical garden, but should be between 25 and 40 centimeters.

© Matheus Pereira © Matheus Pereira

2. Fasten the cutouts to the second blanket by sewing them together. Use thick thread or string, preferably, since the bags will be required to support earth and plants.

3. Attach the high-density felt panel to the rigid sheet. Then, attach the panel created to the wall using the spacers so that water cannot infiltrate the wall.

© Matheus Pereira © Matheus Pereira

4. After the sheet is installed, connect the hoses together with the couplers. Remember that the hoses must be drilled every 25 or 30 centimeters and arranged in a linear fashion, to irrigate the plants evenly. Connect the timer to the water outlet, and set it to release the water at set time intervals.

© Matheus Pereira © Matheus Pereira

5. Insert fertilized soil and the selected plant species one by one, in each of the felt bags.

Off you go! Your plants will begin to grow, and in months, will fill the entire wall, making it appear like a homogeneous layer of vegetation.

Species

The species chosen to compose the vertical garden must be chosen carefully, according to the amount of sunshine and shading that the panel will receive.

Areas With Full Sun

  1. Alecrim (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  2. Aloé (Aloe Arborescens)
  3. Asparagus-fearn (Asparagus densiflorus)
  4. Snake beard (Ophiopogon jaburan)
  5. Artillery Plant (Pilea microphylla)
  6. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
  7. Clusia (Clusia Fluminensis)
  8. String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus)
  9. Firecracker Plant (Russelia equisetiformis)
  10. Geranium (Pelargonium Hortorum)
  11. English Ivy (Hedera helix)
  12. Wandering Jew (Tradescantia zebrina)
  13. Sweet Marjoram (Origanum Majorana)
  14. Busy Lizzy (Impatiens Walleriana)
  15. Ground Orchid (Spathoglottis unguiculata)
  16. Creeping Liriope (Liriope spicata)
  17. Tilândsia (Tillandsia sp)
  18. Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida purpúrea)
  19. Wedelia (Sphagneticola Trilobata)

Partially Shaded Areas

  1. Anthurium (Anthurium andraeanum)
  2. Milky Way (Aspidistra Elatior)
  3. Bird’s Nest Fern (Asplenium nidus)
  4. Flask Philodendron (Philodendron martianum)
  5. Snake beard (Ophiopogon jaburan)
  6. Bromeliad (Guzmania sp)
  7. Goldfish Plant (Nematanthus wettsteinii)
  8. Golden Shower (Oncidium sp)
  9. Jenny’s Stonecrop (Sedum morganianum)
  10. Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis x hybridus)
  11. Lipstick Plant (Aeschynanthus radicans)
  12. Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncate)
  13. Creeping Liriope (Liriope spicata)
  14. Lumina (clorofito-lumina)
  15. Zebra Plant (Calathea insignis)
  16. Calanthea Species (Calathea insignis)
  17. Peperômia (Peperômia scandens)
  18. Firetail (Acalypha reptans)
  19. Rhipsalis (Rhipsalis bacífera)
  20. Sword Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
  21. Vriesea Bromeliad (Vriesea sp)
© Helena Wolfenson Via Movimento 90°. ImageAvenida 23 de Maio © Helena Wolfenson Via Movimento 90°. ImageAvenida 23 de Maio

Shaded Areas

  1. Aglaonema (Aglaonema spp)
  2. Saint George’s Sword (Sansevieria trifasciata)
  3. Philodendron (Philodendron cascade)
  4. Philodendron (Philodendron martianum)
  5. Philodendron (Philodendron undulatum)
  6. Philodendron (Philodendron xanadu)
  7. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii)
©Via Movimento 90°. ImageEdifício Santos ©Via Movimento 90°. ImageEdifício Santos

Tips

  1. Remember to nourish the plants and fertilize the earth.
  2. Choose species that are appropriate to the climate in question.
  3. In winter, the ideal is to nourish the plants with organic products.
  4. Do not forget to check the Timer battery, changing it when necessary to ensure proper irrigation.

*The original version of this article suggested "Chapa ecológica," a sheet made from recycled Tetra-Pak packaging that is only available in some countries, but you can use any material with similar characteristics.

References

Vertical Gardens. Available in: <http://movimento90.com/jardins-verticais/>. Access in September 29, 2017.
Vertical Parks. Available in: <http://movimento90.com/parquesverticais/>. Access in September 29, 2017.
Patrick Blanc Vertical Garden. Available in: <https://www.verticalgardenpatrickblanc.com/>. Access in September 30, 2017

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