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You know that ugly wall you have behind your shed you’ve thought about painting for two years? And that painting you’ve been thinking about hanging on your wall?

Stop. There’s a better living, breathing solution.

You need a living wall. A vertical homage to mother nature that insulates and propagates in equal measure.

And if you’re a city dweller, you need a green, space-friendly solution that looks incredible, has legitimate wellbeing benefits and might even save you a few quid too!

And the best part – making a living wall yourself has never been so easy. 

Simple living wall setup with hanging planting bags
It's never been simpler to utilise your wall space better

What do you need for a Green Wall project?

Ultimately you can just buy a living wall kit and you don’t need to worry about the below. 

A living wall kit will provide everything you need outside of:

  • Plants
  • Soil
  • An irrigation system (if required)

1. A Wall

Fairly obviously you need something to hang the trays on to.

If outside, wooden walls, fences or sheds are absolutely perfect. If you’re building an indoor living wall, you could attach a standalone wooden wall to another wall in your home.

This would:

  • Protect the structural integrity of the wall itself
  • Whilst allowing you to move the structure around freely
  • And if you’re building inside, then picking a wall closer to a door to the outside world will minimise maintenance and mess when replacing the plants

2. A Plan

Plants have very different requirements in order to grow and thrive.

Even if you’re looking for a project solely creative in nature, you need to know:

  • What conditions your plants thrive in
  • What you want it to achieve
  • How much sunlight your wall gets
  • It’s structural capacity – although this is only really relevant if your green wall is enormous or your wall is appalling

3. Plants

The best plants are:

  • Compact
  • Lightweight
  • And can withstand less than optimal growing conditions

Typically succulents or smaller shrubs and ferns are perfect for living walls as they’re hardy, require minimal watering and are easy to prune. Whereas prettier perennial flowers are more expensive but will flower multiple times in a year.

We generally preach a balance. It’s no use just using succulents if you’re looking for a beautiful wall – however cheap they may be. 

And the same goes with perennials. If you only use perennials you’re going to have a beautiful summer sure, but a bare, muddy vertical garden every winter. 

DIY vertical garden trellis and trough planters
Troughs and trellis vertical gardens are super simple
Hydroponic vertical garden
But don't be limited by traditional planting solutions

4. Living Wall Panels, Trays or Modules

Obviously you need an actual planting solution – something to plant your plants, vegetables or miscellaneous foreign matter in. 

5. Fixings

Screws, rawl plugs, modular brackets et al. 

You really do need to secure the living aspect of your wall securely. 

6. An Irrigation System

Most DIY living wall projects don’t need an irrigation system – there, I’ve said it. 

Not exactly ground breaking but if you’re up for regular watering yourself you just need a watering can. 

But if you’re building a larger – or more complex – project then you will need an irrigation system and access to a water tank

7. A Growing Medium

Low nutrient, porous, good quality compost that prevents fast growing and waterlogged soil. 

A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Modular Living Wall

We’re going to assume you aren’t using a green wall kit here as it’s comically simple (and comes with instructions). 

And if you’re using a hanging planter solution it’s equally simple. You just need to attach it to the wall and fill the baskets.

1. Fitting the Tray

Fit the tray the its metal frame and – if necessary – fit the irrigation tube in place. 

2. Adding Growing Medium

Fill each section of the tray with your growing medium – low nutrient and porous, remember.

3. Planting

Water the soil and firm into place in each section. This is really important to ensure stability and to minimise mess. 

Plant your flower(s) of choice into each module. 

Typically it’s sensible to make an indent in the growing medium so the plant sticks in place. Using the back of a spoon is, whilst rudimentary, an excellent solution. 

4. Watering

Once all the plants are fitted in place, water the tray thoroughly (if outside) as it’s the last chance you’ll have to water before placing them vertically.

If you’re planting inside it’s still wise to water them thoroughly, but let the water settle and drain to prevent leakage. Nobody likes leakage.

5. Fixing the Tray to the Wall

Screw the living wall brackets into your fence or wall and fit the tray to its metal frame. 

Your wall should now be vertical and stable. 

6. Connect the Irrigation System

Connect the irrigation system to each tray and to the main water supply (this is the point where you will know if you need a separate water tank or not).

Things to consider when building a Living Wall

  • An artistic project
  • An energy-saving solution
  • Direct greening: the cheapest, easiest solution
  • Indirect greening: more expensive and some DIY skills needed
  • Living wall system (LWS): The most expensive, but you can use simple grow-bag solutions instead of plants grown in modules containing a growing medium and irrigation system
  • Shade-seeking, hardy plants are your lazy-gardening friends 
  • But there is a low-ceiling to how good they’ll look
  • tropical plants require the most maintenance – and indoor living – but look the most appealing
  • Perennials are a nice balance

Can they rely on rainwater and your daily drenching? or do you need to invest in an irrigation system?

Don’t hang a 50kg green wall on a ramshackle, lopsided garden fence without careful inspection first.

And your fence is going to get wet. So it’s worth coating it with some weather-proof paint to begin with. If you’re planting on an indoor wall it’s worth determining whether you want a separate structure to load onto the wall itself. 

  • Where does the light source come from?
  • How much light will your plants get?

Clearly both of these will have growing ramifications (and determine whether you need to invest in UV lighting).

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