Back in May you might remember my story called ‘Holey Pipes! It’s a vertical garden’. It was all about our very first vertical garden and you can read about it here but here’s a quick recap and an update on where it’s up to.
We used 100mm PVC pipe and cut enough holes to fit 8 pots in each of the 3 rows. We filled each pot with our own potting mix and home-made compost, planted seeds and added mulch to stop the top layer of soil drying out. This is what it looked like on the first day…
Our vertical garden has a built in self-watering system. The horizontal tubes are sealed at each end so when they’re filled with water they act as a reservoir. A cloth wick in each pot provides a conduit for water between the reservoir and soil. The plant roots then draw up water as needed.
Two months later in early July it looked like this…
And just last week, like this….
Worms love the dark so we painted the tubes to block out the light and now in our vertical garden, just one metre off the ground, there lives a kingdom of earthworms – I’ve seen them, dangling off the bottom of a pot and transitting along the inside wall of the pipes evidentally on their way to their next lunch spot.
Even though worms don’t have any eyes they have no trouble exploring pathways in the dark and when they reach their destination, they burrow their way around in search of food, munching tiny bugs, minute particles and plant matter along the way. They excrete rich castings on the surface which get absorbed back into the soil and as they move, they push tiny particles aside which aerates the soil leaving micro tunnels for water and air to penentrate down to the plant roots. These tunnels also provide a channel for roots to spread and encourage stronger plant growth.
The closer I observe our vertical garden, the more I see how ingenious this little self-sufficient garden is. In a very small space we have brought together the same complex yet clever processes that occur in nature itself and if we compare our garden with what happens in a forest it goes something like this….
We start with a series of preloved pots (in the forest it could be a log or just the ground); we fill it with soil adding compost made from recycled food scraps which invertebrates have converted into nutrient rich plant food by (the forest floor is teeming with micro invertebrates, bacteria and fungi which decompose leaf litter and organic matter converting it into nutrient rich soil); we grow seed saved from the healthiest plants from our previous harvests (in the forest competition for resources is limited so only the strongest seed survives); we place our garden in the sun to warm the soil and encourage seed germination (in the forest, seeds germinate only where ample sunlight penetrates through the canopy) and in both garden and forest through photosynthesis, essential ingredients of oxygen, water and light energy from the sun work to provide food and energy for the plant to live and grow. Because of our exposed conditions, we have to add extra water and apply mulch to protect the soil from drying out (rainfall in the forest is efficiently used and retained and moisture in the soil is protected by a deep layer of organic matter with evaporation prevented through steady temperatures created by the tree canopy).
In our garden we reap the rewards through a supply of food which we harvest and eat; we save the seed; we mulch and recycle the waste; we create compost and put it into a pot; we place in a seed with a specific genetic footprint that grows a plant that produces food of our liking and we commence the cycle once again. In nature, the forest is an efficient closed system that requires no intervention, where all the resources needed for its continuous cycles are provided. In our gardens, we mimic nature by streamlining our use of available resources, we work with the seasons, we take advantage of environmental aspects and reuse what we can we can to replicate the efficient interconnected systems of nature. This is Permaculture.
Our little vertical garden is already providing us with food and to ensure there is a successive yield, we’ve got the next generation of plants already growing. I’ve got my mind set on another one of these garden if I can only find the perfect spot but next time it might just be a vertical strawberry patch or vertical herb hub or tea trellis….the mind boggles.
Do you have a vertical garden at your place? I would love to see it if you do.
Stay tuned when I get back to our beautiful native garden pest.