Archive for Thursday, January 3, 2013

Garden Calendar: Try planting vertically in 2013

January 3, 2013


The new year is always a good time to think about doing something different in the garden or landscape — whether that means trying a new plant, a new tool or a new technique.

This year, you might want to try adding a living wall or vertical garden to your landscape. There are a number of specialized planters available from various retailers to get you started, or you can create your own.

The idea behind a living wall is to utilize vertical space to sustain plant life and provide beauty. A living wall might be more like a wall-hanging than an actual wall; planters come in a range of sizes, and some are suitable for indoor use. A living wall could also cover an existing wall, fence or other structure.

Living walls are a great way to make the most of a small space, but they can also make large structures more aesthetically pleasing.

Living wall planters are different from vines, trellises, arbors, etc., because they contain soil-like media for plant roots and a barrier to protect the structure to which the planter is attached. Also, smaller, nonvining plants are typically grown in vertical planter systems.

Living wall kits range from $30 to more than $2,000, depending on size and intricacy of the design. Building your own living wall will also range in price depending on the size and materials you choose to use.

To create a do-it-yourself living wall, start with a wooden or metal frame. You will then need something to hold the media in place within the frame — like a double layer of wire mesh, with the media between the layers. Then, use sphagnum peat and lightweight potting mix within the mesh. You could also recycle a planting tray or something similar from a greenhouse. Just keep the weight of the soil and plants in mind, and avoid creating something too heavy to hang.

Another option for growing media is a fibrous mat. These are often used in hydroponic production to keep plant roots moist without the saturation that can lead to disease. A fibrous mat will be lighter than traditional potting media, although it may be more difficult to find.

Succulents are a great option for living walls because they can withstand dry conditions better than many plants. There are several different kinds of succulents, but in general they are characterized by thick leaves and stems that hold water in a similar fashion to cacti. Sedums are a popular type of succulent and there are hundreds of species and varieties.

If the wall will be outside, select appropriate species for Kansas weather condition. We are in USDA hardiness zone 6. If the wall will be inside, select species based on the amount of light that will be available to the plants.

Like all landscape plants, living walls need some maintenance. Regular watering is most important, but plants should be inspected regularly for pest problems and may need occasional pruning and fertilization.

— Jennifer Smith is the Horticulture Extension Agent for K-State Research and Extension in Douglas County. She can be reached at 843-7058.


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