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How to... build a vertical green wall

Looking for a new project to keep you busy? Why not try building your own vertical green wall out of a pallet and some old compost bags! A simple DIY upcycling project that will look stylish, brighten up your garden and provide a home for nature.

In true "here's one I made earlier!" style, Community Gardening Coordinator Ruth has created her own vertical green wall and we think it looks great! Here, she shares her simple 6-step how to guide to help you get started.

Step 1

I started by sawing off the bottom of the pallet so it was the same height as the wall where I wanted to situate it.

The quickest and easiest way to create a vertical green wall is to jam plant pots into a pallet but they dry out very quickly and need very regular watering so I’ve re-used pieces plastic from old compost bags to create pouches holder larger volumes of soil. I considered using denim from old jeans which would be strong and offer good drainage. But as my wall was going to be in a very sunny spot I was concerned that denim pouches would cause the soil to dry out too quickly, though it might work well in a shady location.

Step 2

I made a paper pattern for pieces of compost bag to fit the spaces within the pallet (pouches).

  • The length of each piece was Length + (Depth x 2)

  • The width was Width + (Turnover x 2) + (Depth x 2)

  • The turnover was the amount of plastic which would fold down on the outside of each pouch – in my case about 5cm, but this will vary depending on the thickness of the pallet wood.

I snipped into each piece to make it box shaped - I raised the centre end piece, then folded the side ends over this and stapled them in place. The little cut out pieces on my pattern were because the width between the front and back of the pallet was less than the depth of the pouch I wanted. (Dotted lines are fold lines in the diagram below).

This sounds complicated, but in practice it wasn’t too hard. I ended up with a 5 sided pouch with an open top ready to take the soil.

Step 3

Starting with the lower level of pouches, I used panel pins to hold the plastic pouches in place within the pallet. If I'd had a staple gun that would have been an easier way to do this. I snipped into the corners to create the fold down turnover piece. You need to start with the lower levels so it’s easier to reach inside the pallet to attach the end pieces.

Step 4

Once all the pouches were set in place ready to be filled with soil, I moved the pallet to its final resting place (otherwise it would be too heavy to move).

Step 5

I filled the pouches with soil. You can use any compost or soil mix you have available, though in an ideal world you would choose a more gritty medium for succulents and drought tolerant plants, and a more fertile and water retentive mix for shade loving plants. I planted some succulents and trailing fuchsias in the top level and trailing geraniums in the next level. I set the geraniums in at an angle, pointing them so they overhung the pallet sides a little. It was quite a fiddly job filling in the soil between the plants.

The ideal type of plants should reflect the amount of sun your wall will get. Sunny south and west facing walls may do best with drought tolerant plants (e.g. succulents) while ferns and ivy will do well in shady sites. But if you are prepared to do daily watering you can try any small bedding plants, preferably trailing varieties. You could also plant herbs in this type of vertical garden. Creeping thyme and rosemary, marjoram and sage would be good things to try and some of these can be easily grown from seed.

Step 6

I will need to water the fuschias pretty frequently and the geraniums too until they are well established. Whatever you have planted in the lower levels will definitely need some watering, as not a lot of water will percolate down from the upper tiers. I am relying on the little gaps at the ends of the pouches to provide drainage. But if they start to get waterlogged I will jab a few holes along the bottom of the pouches with scissor points or a skewer, as most plants don’t like their roots to become waterlogged. In London the fuschias and geraniums may survive outside over winter, but you could replant with hardier plants for the winter, like cyclamen and pansies, or even small bulbs (tete a tete miniature daffodils, crocuses etc), though it will be hard to get a trailing effect.

Share your creations on social media and don't forget to tag Sustainable Merton!


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