Planning the next wall

I’ve been reading through different greenwall stuff online. There are some very complicated systems out there . . . way more complicated than they need to be in my estimation. Sometimes simpler is just better! It’s interesting to see the failures are the more complicated systems. Auto watering plants in soil has got to be a tricky thing. Auto watering plants in expanded clay or felt with little or no soil using nutrient rich water has to be much less prone to failure.

Random thoughts regarding future construction:

  • For the type of wall I built, keeping the moisture flowing all the way out to the felt edge can be an issue. I’ve got my tubing extending past the wall at both the connection (elbow) and plug ends so I can deliver water all the way to the felt edge.
  • I have two large aquariums in storage, both of which are larger than my current aquarium. I may or may not use one of the bigger aquariums with this new wall. We’ll see.
  • I do not use a reservoir at the wall bottom that spans the full length of the wall. For my current wall I used a piece of pvc pipe with a nice wide slot cut in the top as a collector to route the outflow into the aquarium. With that said, it’s important to understand these walls rain water off the foliage during the watering cycle. Sure, I route the water into the felt at the top but water finds its own path and flows down stems and drips off leaves. There must be some sort of catch-all at the bottom that extends out far enough to catch the rainfall unless you don’t mind the floor being wet. For my current wall the aquarium catches the rainfall, which is fortunate, but that wasn’t brilliant foresight, that was dumb luck. A centered aquarium just looked better.
  • Having the fish provide the nutrient is very cool but not strictly necessary. I could use a nutrient solution and by pass the fish but where’s the fun in that?
  • Keeping the aquarium covered uses less energy to heat the water and reduces evaporation from the tank. That can be done when the collection of the water from the wall is separate and the result is gravity piped into the aquarium. My cover is white plexiglass and has a few strategic holes to let the rainfall into the tank.

Last fall I started a picture laden how-to on my plant wall but stopped . . . no place to put the wall until the sun porch is closed in. The weather outside it bitter cold (7º) and I’m a total weather weeny so I’ve got the LDPE backer and felt tucked away until spring.

I have all the pumps and timers I need for my next wall. I’ve got a Pondmaster 160 (<$50) and a programmable timer (purchased on EBay for <$15). If I give away my current plant wall and make the new wall the full size of the available wall (~5’x5′) I’ll use this bigger pump and 1/2″ tubing instead of 3/8″.  I’ll still use flexible tubing to allow the tube to be pulled and cleaned.

If I can plan ahead and avoid pricey plant purchases the new wall including all parts and bits should come in at well under $100.  I do try to be frugal in my self-indulgences.

I’m wondering if, when using a single layer of felt, a final layer of something structural should be added. My 4⅓ square feet of vertical garden weighs about 15 lbs.  It will increase in weight as the plant volume increases. Will the bigger plants get too heavy and pull the felt apart or pull the staples out of the backer? I have one big thing in my wall (dumb cane) and lots of things that grow prolifically. I’ll see how it goes as the plants grow. The dumb cane is in the upper left corner and isn’t growing super fast so I have the leisure to watch and see what happens assuming I can find a place to keep the wall instead of giving it away.

If something supportive is added to the face, it would have to be UV resistant and not impact full air flow through the felt. Big scale fish netting randomly screwed to the surface would work. The square knots used to construct the net are the perfect anchor point. Run a stainless screw through a stainless fender washer and through the center of the square knot . . . done deal. That would be pretty ideal and would last for a very long time. It wouldn’t impede air flow and would flex and allow for root growth. Plus it would look cool until the plants filled in and the netting disappeared behind the canopy.

I think I’m going give my little plant wall away and start a new BIGGER one that covers the whole wall. If I make a 5’x5′ wall it would weigh, based on calculations from my current wall, about 81 lbs. 25 square feet doesn’t give me a lot of real estate but it’ll be big enough to give me more room to play . . . for now.

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