How to Design a Living Wall at Home

Living walls are beautiful, practical and environmentally friendly. Let author Shawna Coronado show you how to plant your own vertical garden.

Photo By: Courtesy Shawna Coronado / Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Courtesy Shawna Coronado / Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Courtesy Shawna Coronado / Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Courtesy Shawna Coronado / Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Courtesy Shawna Coronado / Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Courtesy Shawna Coronado / Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Courtesy Shawna Coronado / Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Courtesy Shawna Coronado / Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Courtesy Shawna Coronado / Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Courtesy of Shawna Coronado / Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Courtesy of Shawna Coronado / Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Courtesy Shawna Coronado / Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Courtesy Shawna Coronado / Cool Springs Press

Living Wall Author Shawna Coronado

Chicago-based author and blogger Shawna Coronado thinks it's time for gardeners to grow up. Her book, Grow A Living Wall: Create Vertical Gardens With Purpose, explains how to grow a "mini-farm" that yields a big harvest. Gardening on a small footprint is an easy way to grow fresh, nutritious foods and fabulous flowers, she says. "The math is simple - take the traditional square foot garden of one to 16 plants and then duplicate it and go up. Thirty-five + plants will grab only one square foot of floor space. The higher the system, the more the harvest."

Flowering Wall and Beds

Vertical gardens may let you grow hundreds of plants in limited space. Living walls also have the added benefit of being nearly weed-free and exceptionally easy to maintain, says author Shawna Coronado. She uses them as lovely, organic, healthful solutions for small areas.

Living Walls For Shade

While herbs, vegetables, and plants for pollinators are ideal for sunny spots, you can also grow a living wall in shade. "This vista shows a shady, damp side yard with fern and moss living walls," says Coronado. Finding the right living wall system and plants for your unique growing conditions will help you succeed, she adds.

Urban Living Walls

Green wall gardens, says Coronado, have the same basic needs as traditional gardens grown in containers. Look for the right container, the right location, and the right plants for your space. Planting in less than 2 square feet, she says, "offers an astounding amount of garden ideas for small space or urban or balcony growers."

Culinary Kitchen Garden

If your only space for gardening is small and narrow, or you have only a balcony, Coronado suggests planting on a wall, gate or fence. "While the ground space area might only be one to two feet, by growing vertically you can grow 30 to 40 plants in that small area, creating a fantastic solution for growing organic gardens which are both chemical-free and weed-free. This Culinary Kitchen Garden is a lovely living wall solution for growing along an empty fence row."

Leafy Living Walls for Cooks

For a culinary living wall, Coronado suggests leafy veggies like Swiss chard, lettuces, kale, arugula and celery. For herbs, try fast-growing basil, chives, cilantro, mint, and oregano; all add flavor and nutritional value. This wall features basil, beets, celery, mint, purple basil and Swiss chard.

Units for Living Walls

You can find many different kinds of units to use when creating a living wall. "If cost is an issue, it is easy to build your own system of creative hanging containers," Coronado says. "Make your own living walls from pallets, mason jars, window boxes, or anything that's shaped in a way that can hold soil." Consider your growing conditions and location before you begin, so you can choose the right system for your needs. This Woolly Pocket unit can last for several seasons and has a container base that's wide enough to hold multiple plants.

Choose the Right Soil

One key to successfully growing a green wall, Coronado says, is ensuring that the soil you use is slightly heavier than traditional soil. Add extra compost and moisture retentive natural matter to help your vertical garden retain more water. "Mix loose organic fertilizer in with your favorite heavy planting soil mix."

Planting Tips

Pre-plant your living wall pocket before installing it. Arrange the veggies and herbs any way you prefer, but fit them together snugly to maximize space and prevent weeds from taking hold. Be sure to to leave enough room in the soil for their roots to grow.

Installing Living Wall Units

Follow the manufacturer's directions when installing units for your living wall. Some vertical surfaces, Coronado notes, may need a stronger screw system, or need shoring up to handle the weight. Measure twice, and be sure the units will be level. If your living wall is homemade, leave enough room between the planting containers to water easily with a watering can or wand.

Hanging A Living Wall Unit

Once you've attached the hanging devices to the wall, Shawna Coronado says, "Add the actual container unit filled with plants. Start at the top, hanging the units carefully and securely, then work your way to the bottom of your wall display." Take care not to break the plants while you're working.

Maintaining A Living Wall

Living walls are low-maintenance, says Coronado, needing little more than regular watering and occasional feeding with an organic fertilizer. Check them often and remove brown leaves and stems. When you're harvesting vegetables, pick one-third to two-thirds of your crop at a time, and let the plants produce a second or third harvest.

Shawna Coronado watering

Author Shawna Coronado says regular watering is the key to success with a living wall garden. Try a watering wand attached to a hose or install a self-watering system for convenience. Plant the garden thickly, she says, and you'll seldom have to pull weeds.