New plant wall

Hot waxed plywood, 45 mil EPDM rubber and felt.
Hot waxed plywood, 45 mil EPDM rubber and felt.

I’ve been planning this new plant wall for a while.  I’m not giving detailed directions because, trust me, the method sucks for general application.  I have to test this dead cheap method to see if it’s viable.  If I can prove it viable I’ll share the method.  For now, suffice it to say I’ve got plywood backing . . . again.  <wince>  Sorry ’bout that.

So here we are, new 5′ wide by 4′ tall  plant wall.  This one actually has a frame!  Woohoo.  The layers are:

  1. Totally whimpy plywood (3/8″) hot ironed with lots of paraffin wax
  2. 45mil EPDM pond liner purchased from
  3. Carpeting pad felt

The frame is recycled old growth 2×4 with a groove to accept the plywood.  The plywood is screwed to the frame.

The gutter is 6″ schedule 40 pvc pipe cut lengthwise from the stash Dan supplied.  The ends are aquarium siliconed scrap plastic.   The drain hole is in the center.  The gutter is screwed onto the back and stabilized with nylon strapping.

So far, so good. I've got one plant (right hand side) that's probably not going to make it.

So far I’ve planted areca palm, wood fern, waffle plant, some sort of flowering succulent (the stand-alone green blob – I have three of these, only one planted so far), the stripey plants I got on my latest run (4 of those) and two dumb cane, one of which has neophyte roots.  I have one more chunk of dumb cane to plant.

I still have a lot to put in the wall but cutting the holes without piercing the rubber backing is a PITA and time consuming.  I think the end result will be worth it.

6" schedule 40 half-pipe with center drain. The oyster shell in the bottom is to moderate our 6.0 PH water to a more comfortable (for both fish and plants) 7.4

Here are the things I’ve learned so far.

  • The drill bit I used for putting holes in the 1″ pvc I’m using for the dribble tube was too big.  I should have picked up a smaller drill today (lost the one I had originally) so I could remake the dribble tube.
  • The proper way to orient the holes is horizontally toward the wall (duh).
  • When stapling the felt to the backing make SURE you put the shiny side out.  I can make it work with the shiny side against the backer but I think the wall would heal in faster if the shiny side faced out.
  • ½” stainless staples aren’t long enough.  I’m making them work but they pop out if you look at them funny which doesn’t make me happy.

7 thoughts on “New plant wall

  1. I saw something similar to this done on HGTV (or DIY, one of the two) and wondered if this would work! I’m anxious to see how it turns out for you. 🙂

  2. Hello congratulations for your vertical garden and your blog.
    I have read your entire blog! I am thinking about creating a vertical garden on my aquarium.
    I am looking for information around, but I find a few especially with the aquaponics system.
    I ask you what is double the felt? What pump do you use?

    1. Mmm. Lots going on to answer . . . I’ve used a variety of pumps. The key point is that it must be able to push the water to the top of the wall. Too much water will stress the mechanics of the system, not enough water will tax the plants. Balance is key and the right pump is going to depend on your setup.

      Double the felt is two layers and I never did this. While I like the felt wall, and I’d do it again in the right circumstance, I’m really liking the tube wall a lot. Less fuss, easier setup, easier maintenance, easier adjustment of plant placement and addition of new plants, easier to move out to the sun porch in the summer and MUCH less chance of leakage onto the floor . . . the tubes system really has a lot going for it.

      The plant wall was one of the most fun things I’ve done creatively. It’s always changing and I love the plants. Let me know how yours goes.

  3. Hello Nori! I bought the felt synthetic polyester. Instead I was looking polyamide felt but I could not find here in Italy. Then I bought a pump eheim compact 1000. I preferred to put a double layer of felt. Now I set the timer for 15 minutes every 75 min, but I think I need to increase the break because the felt is still too wet. For now I added a peperomia, a fern Davallia, and a Fittonia. The fern was the first plant that I entered and it was not easy to secure it felt. I tied the rhizomes with cable ties and put in those few roots in the felt. The roots did not seem in good condition and the leaves were already turning yellow. I hope that the plant recovers. Even the peperomia created me problems to insert it into the wall. Point out that perhaps the plant is too big. However I have included the first cm of the plant into the opening of the felt over the roots. The aquarium is filled with endler and plants. The temperature is 23 ° C, while the temperature is about 20 ° C. I believe that the water temperature is OK or too high?
    The plants are on the wall for almost a week and the only Davallia is a little suffering. I hope to see others start to give me satisfaction.
    Excuse me for not correct English.
    Regards Luis.

    1. It will take some time for the plants to acclimate. How long have the fish been in the tank? Has the tank cycled yet? By that I mean, has the ammonia, nitrite, nitrate cycle completed? Until it does, it won’t be feeding the plants. How long your tank takes to cycle, if it hasn’t already, will depend on what it’s got as a starter for the conversion. The ideal for your wall is going to be closer to 25°C but I think 23°C is a workable temperature. Check the literature on your fish to make sure they’re okay with that temp range.

      Is your felt holding water? And if it is, how much do you think it’s holding? Can you weigh a piece, submerge it in water, lift it out and let it drip for a bit and weigh it again? That’ll tell you how much water it’s retaining.

      No worries on the English. I think you’re doing great.

  4. The aquarium is running for many years with external filter. I wanted to try the vertical garden to experience the benefits of aquaponics and see me also decorated the walls near the aquarium to create a small green corner in the house. In order to increase the nutrients for the plants I plan to add other fish. For now, the endler reproduce on their own but are always small fish. I decided to put a good number of Corydoras and try their reproduction. Re-reading my comment, I realized that perhaps the translation was not the best. About temperature, 23º C is that of water, while 20 ° C is approximately that of the house. My worry is that the water is too hot, and this damages the roots of the plants. Is it a problem?
    Another question that comes to me .. felt before being wet again, should dry almost completely to allow the roots to breath fresh air, right?
    Great suggestion to find out how much water keeps the felt. I had not thought.
    I did not say that the wall is positioned at an angle not directly exposed to light, it is not near the window. So I’m choosing plants that do not require much light. I hope I have started with the right plants. Comparing the photos earlier this week, the red Fittonia gave me the impression that it is directing the leaves parallel to the wall. Appears to be adapting. Meanwhile it is a beautiful plant, it has some spectacular colors, it seems to be almost fluorescent in the evening.
    Thanks for the support!

    1. No, the felt shouldn’t dry out completely. Are the roots trapped between 2 layers of felt? Is there air around the roots? That’s really all they need. The water flows over them providing moisture and nutrients. When the water stops flowing they’re surrounded by air. You don’t have dirt around the roots do you? The roots will be damaged if they dry out so the moisture in the felt is actually good.

      Seeds germinate best at about 75ºF (about 24ºC) so your water temp is good as is. I try and run between 75 and 80ºF. You’re a bit below that at 23ºC so I wouldn’t worry about it being bad for the plants.

      If you find the plants trying to creep around the side of your wall to get to the light you’ll know they need a bit more than they’re getting. I’ve got a 4′ florescent fixture hanging over my wall and it’s right next to the sliding glass door to the sun porch (glass roof). Even with all that I have some plants growing in that direction as a preference.

      Post pictures if you get a chance. Not only so I can see but because you will want a record of what it looked like when you started, then again what it looks like in three months. You’ll see a big change, I’m sure.

      I’ve had some plants that did very poorly in the wall, some that took a long time to find their way and some that took off and outdid the potted parent plant very quickly. I’m looking forward to hearing how your wall does.

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