LA Times Calls Vertical Gardens in a Dry Climate a Bad Idea

Wooly Pockets at Homeboy Industries

Writing for the LA Times, Emily Green has penned a skeptical look at wall-based growing, “The Dry Garden: A skeptic’s view of vertical gardens.” I’m in complete agreement with Green and wrote about this silly trend back in July. Says Green of a garden in Culver City that uses the Wooly Pocket vertical system,

“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.”

Amen. We need more critical thinking like this, especially when it comes to schemes with “eco” or “sustainable” pretensions.

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  1. You live in LA, right? Near as I know, it’s a desert; it wasn’t meant to hold 100,000 people, it seems, let alone 30+ million. *Everything* there is green and watered, and eventually, if you’re thinking sustainability… LA can’t possibly hold that way forever, can it?

  2. Dean has a point, but I’m not sure the entire planet was meant to hold as many people as are on it, much less 308 million (US Census 2010) resource-hogging Americans soon to be eclipsed by 1.3 billion (World Bank, World Development Indicators) Chinese.

    I tend to agree with you and Ms. Green about the vertical growing system that deserves criticism. Not every idea is a good one. I do think that vertical growing would help with small spaces, but I think it should be left to plants, not systems, that can be grown vertically, i.e., pole beans, grapes, cucurbits, and the like. Water is better conserved in the ground anyway, not out where it will evaporate.

    I’m glad you brought this up.

  3. Thankfully Woolly Pocket planters have evolved. Green was assessing one of the very first Woolly Pocket vertical gardens. Loads of product development has gone on since.

    I sell this product but am also a landscape architect who is actively gardening with the Woolly Pocket. I think it is excellent solution for growing vegetables/plants in places where space is limited. When used in the right location with the right plants it .
    can produce fabulous results.

    Given vertical gardens enable people to live more densely (rather than sprawling suburbs) I am really surprised that people with an eco bent are not supporting the development of vertical gardens. If we can all live a little closer to one another our use of resources (including water) will reduce.

  4. I really enjoyed Emily Green’s article. There tends to be a lot of boosterism in the green/garden world. Now and then a little well balanced criticism or thought isn’t a bad thing.
    Vertical gardens are probably best suited for more humid or at least more rainy climates. Los Angeles really needs more big shade trees, like our native oaks.
    There is also plenty of room to produce food in a city like Los Angeles. There are plenty of unproductive lawns and golf courses, lots of hardscape and many empty lots in the less wealthy neighborhoods.
    We don’t really need fancy vertical gardens. Rather, we need the knowledge and education that motivates people and communities to advocate for gardens and shade trees instead of asphalt and concrete. We also need the knowledge of how to grow things well.
    I see so many school gardens built and then abandoned a few years later when the teacher or parent who spearheaded the effort leaves.

  5. living in Phoenix, the water is sinfully cheap – though it’s being pumped out of 5000 year old aquifers via 1000 foot wells. Your post has dissuaded me from trying to grow anything on the ubiquitous cinder block boundary walls, other than honeysuckle for the hummingbirds.

  6. I am intrigued by this idea and have a space in my house for it. Still trying to work out the engineering so that no moisture contacts the wall. The thought is to have a herb garden on a west wall right next to the southsided french doors. Plenty of light. Just need to figure a way to keep it moist (but not too much) in air condition.

    Miami Springs
    92* with 98% humitiy – yuk!!
    6 more weeks till I can plant my garden

  7. Thank you! I never liked these things for LA. Especially when folks would refer to them as “community gardens.” Ridiculous.

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