Vertical Garden Success!

Regular readers of the blog know that we’re dubious about vertical gardening, but this is a vertical garden we can really get behind. Here, a cherry tomato is growing out of a crack in a retaining wall in our neighbor’s yard. (It’s just off our front stairs, and is almost certainly an offspring of one of our tomatoes) It is thriving with no water whatsoever. You can’t see them in this picture, but there’s tons of fruit on it. And its tomatoes were ripe before any of our pampered plants were bearing. 

Moral: Plants grow well where plants want to grow.

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  1. Funny how that happens…self-sowed plants can be so much healthier than the ones we pamper. I finally identified most of the self-sowed tomatoes that popped up around my garden. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them are yellow pear, which isn’t exactly a favorite, but a I do appear to have gotten a couple self-sown paste tomatoes and a beefsteak or two!

  2. i guess if a plant recognizes it won’t last long, it will create fruit early to ensure it can reproduce. pampered plants got it easy and are in no hurry to worry about reproducing.

  3. I planted a garden and planned for a native elderberry. We planted a fiften gallon elderberry and about a month later on the other side of the garden a volunteer seedling popped up. We decided to leave it there (though it’s really close to the path) now it is HUGE and needed pruning while the one that was planted as a 15 gallon is struggling. It’s doing so bad that I decided that since we already have one in the garden that is striving, I’m going to rip it out and put in an arbequina olive.

    Sure it’s an oddly placed tree in an awkward spot, but it is doing SO well. gotta let the gardens design themselves sometimes.

  4. @Zebra: Our friend Scott at the Huntington is experimenting with just throwing seed around randomly and seeing what sprouts where. I’m sorely tempted to do this in our own yard. I think plants know where they want to be.

    @Anduhrew: Isn’t that typical? You make me jealous, though. I really want an elderberry here–just trying to figure out where to put it. Maybe the moral from your experience is to buy the smallest, youngest tree I can find? I hear elderberry is one of those plants where you can just stick a branch in the ground. Might try that.

  5. This is cool, but allowing plants to grow in cracks in retaining walls will eventually make the cracks bigger and destroy the integrity of the wall.

  6. Anduhrew, I read that buying a one gallon tree would result in a larger, stronger tree because the tree has to struggle to live and then struggle to thrive. Sometimes, a larger tree cannot grow because it did not have the proper root system. Planting a small tree in the fall gives the root system a chance to establish itself before it must work on foliage.

    Mrs H, Not five minutes ago I went out and lopped an elderberry tree (bush) almost into oblivion. It volunteered right at the foundation of the house. Now, I will go back out and I will stick the trimmings into the ground in various places. Maybe one of them will take. Thanks for that bit of important information.

  7. We always celebrate our volunteers and keep them if can. Transplanting one in a awkward spot is worth a try. You are no worse off than if it had never come up at all.

  8. Mrs, I’ve actually got an extra one that my dogs dug out and i repotted to save it, it’s doing quite well, you can have it. I’ve got an extra black leafed european elderberry that does ok in the shade too. I have nowhere to put them. you can have ’em you can keep it pruned down at 6 feet or let it grow on its own to about 12 feet. i made delicious pie with some elderberries i got from my work one year before they told me that it was meant for the wildlife. I can bring it to ya’ll if you have an event or to one of you if any of you visit cal poly pomona again. i missed you guys the last time you were there.

    Practical, I used a 15 gallon with large roots but a tiny canopy, (almost 1 gallons worth) because the place i was working in has some really heavy clay soils and i just ordered all the trees at 15 gallons because i was worried about their survival in the clay. all the matilija poppies and lupine bushes died. my dumb self forgot that elderberries do ok in clay soils and I probably could have grown it from seed. that’s probably why that one is struggling; because of the shock from the roots going from a potted soil to a heavy clay soil is just confusing it.

  9. reminds me of the Sepp Holtzer idea of planting with rocks to create thermal mass. tomatos love the heat so the wall probably keeps them warmer than the ones in the ground

  10. @Andrew: Hmm…we might take you up on that offer. I need to consult w. the Mr., and see if we really have space for one. And then we’d have to intersect somehow. Many questions! But thanks for the offer, definitely.

  11. Peter eller that makes the most sense. Thermal mass. Good for you for figuring it out.

    That said, it’s been mighty chilly up here in the PNW (67 yesterday and rain) so the tomatoes volunteering in the yard are getting left to bloom where they were not planted!

  12. Tomatoes love concrete.

    They love the heat. They love the calcium. They love sunlight that has scattered off of white surfaces, supplementing their direct sunshine. But most of all, they seem to love sending out long roots into patches of damp soil that no other plant can reach.

    I recommend everyone with access to the north edge of a patch of concrete, plant nightshades in the soil right next to the pavement. If possible, plant some deep-rooted legumes the season before, and cut them down rather than pulling them up, to help fertilize the soil underneath the pavement. Favas work very well in California winters.

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