Vertical gardens have become quite popular in Southern California recently, with a number of high profile installations. Although visually attractive, there has been a backlash focusing on their sustainability, especially in our dry climate Homegrown Evolution has been skeptical (Vertical Vegetables). And this past week the LA Times turned a jaundiced eye on the trend (The Dry Garden: A skeptic's view of vertical gardens):
Succulents such as sedum and senecio that are so hardy in the ground need constant irrigation to cope with heat and wind after being suspended in felt pockets against SmogShoppe’s hot walls. The concrete wall behind the bagged-and-hung garden is wet with runoff from an automated drip system. The sacks are calcified with irrigation scale. Even in an open-air setting, get close and there is a whiff of mold. It’s hard to imagine a less savory or more whimsically destructive system for a region in a water crisis.The critics make some good points. Vertical gardens aren't always a good idea.
I do like that Homegrown Evolution makes some suggestions for old-school vertical gardening with trellises and training plants.
But growing vertically does not have to mean attaching roots to a wall. I can think of two simple vertical vegetable garden strategies where that $1,000 would go a lot further. How about simply favoring fruits and vegetables that either grow vertically naturally, say pole beans, grapes, peas or kiwi or that can be convinced with a bit of pruning to go vertical, such as tomatoes, melons and winter squash? Mel Bartholomew has some nice vertical gardening tips in his classic book Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!. Build some raised beds next to a wall or saw cut out the concrete, plant in the ground and you're in business.With some slings for the fruit, you can even grow watermelons vertically.Fruit tree hedges might be a better idea for vertical gardening than some of the systems out there.
Nevertheless, though vertical gardening is probably being overdone at present, we shouldn't dismiss it entirely, even in dry Southern California. Moreover, it is still a young technique and better technical solutions for some of its drawbacks will probably be developed in time.
LA Eastside takes a tour of artist's gardens in East LA. First, local muralist Raul Baltazar's garden (How Does Your Garden Grow? Eastside Style!), open to the community. Then a garden from ceramicist Jose Ramirez which features homemade ceramic pots and art that harmonizes quite well with the environment. Next up Leslie Gutierrez Saiz's home in Eagle Rock is quite impressive. And Rigo Maldonado's garden in Santa Ana sports one of my favorite things, a pergola.
Very impressive stuff. Definitely worth checking out for anyone interested in Southwestern gardens.
The Daily Green lists the top ten US cities with the most urban gardens and Long Beach represents SoCal at #3! (Which 10 Cities Have the Most Urban Gardens?)
Props to my friends in Long Beach!