Friday, November 21, 2008

Vertical gardening

Gardening is frequently a problem for apartment-dwellers. They're often limited to a few pots on a balcony. And indoors, where space is often at a premium, devoted gardeners often end up with a clutter of pots near the windows or the door to the balcony.

One solution is to get a plant stand. There are lots of them. I used to have a simple, collapsible one from Lee Valley. Really, any sort of shelf that lets light through every layer will do.

But thumbing through Green Living magazine this morning, my son stumbled upon a photo of a product that really could be a useful solution for green-thumbed high-risers. It's the living wall kit from ELT Living Walls. I haven't tried one of these out yet, so can't offer a decent review, but I like the idea.

The kits include HDPE (sturdy plastic) planting cells, all the hoses and stuff you'll need for watering (using a drip irrigation system) and a cedar stand. It's slim, 22" wide by 6" deep, so it doesn't use up much floor space. What it does use is vertical space. The triple kit, pictured above, is 6'6".

As I see it, this is a great idea. There are two problems. One is price. The triple kit costs about $400 (the single kit, which is one-third the height, is just over $200). A handy and creative do-it-yourselfer could probably work out something similar for less money. But if you don't want that hassle, then the price is perhaps not unreasonable. Besides, most apartment folk don't have a workshop in which to build such a thing.

The other problem is an aesthetic one, and it's easily overcome. The product is unfinished cedar. Cedar is great, because it's highly resistant to mold, mildew and rot. But unless you've got a really rustic look to your place, it's unlikely to fit with your decor. I asked the manufacturer, and they said there's absolutely no reason why you can't stain or paint the wood. Cedar is a resiny wood, so you'll probably want to apply a sealer first. But then, picture how the unit would look with a glossy black finish to bring some leafiness to your goth pad, or a smooth, pure white for your urban minimalist look.

If anyone out there has used one, please let me know about your experiences.

The company also sells various components (handy for the DIY folk) and parts for much larger green walls. They're based in Brantford, Ontario, and they have a full catalogue online.

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