“Low-tech” solutions are just as innovative as high-tech ones. Take for example the vertical garden: a simple concept in which a garden in planted up instead of across, utilizing available space and creating more opportunities to grow plants, particularly in crowded urban areas where large spaces such as for farms are hard to come by.
ticularly in crowded urban areas where large spaces such as for farms are hard to come by.
Vertical garden of the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris, France, created by Patrick Blanc.
Vertical gardens can be as simple as a wooden plat placed against a wall and filled with soil and plants, or as complicated and
expensive as a multi-story exotic plant wall. While the latter can be gorgeous, for practical purposes, such as cost-effectiveness, urban farming and gardening materials can be simple, cheap, and easily accessible.
This site shows you how to turn a wooden pallet into a vertical garden, which could add greenery and beauty to your home or be used to plant herbs for a delicious treat: (**Please note: the site says that “If you
intend to put edibles in your pallet, be sure to find one that [has been] heat treated as opposed to fumigated with pesticides.”)
For another simple and cheap vertical gardening method, check out this blog which gives you step-by-step instructions for using recycled two-liter bottles, as well as recycled tires and basic metal fencing (or chicken wire). Some of these projects could be excellent group projects for a youth environmental group or community!
For a more advanced discussion of vertical gardening including alternative (and higher-cost) materials, check out the Vertical Garden Institute. They have a Lessons Learned section that includes information on the “basics” such as materials, the importance of maintenance, and the load (including building materials) that your structure can handle.
Have you considered building a vertical garden?
An exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. showcased how public gardens around the U.S. help protect different ecosystems (U.S. Botanic Garden)
Every day, there is a news story on drought in another region of the world – maybe even your own. People talk about water conservation methods on the local, regional, and national scale. But what can we do as individuals to conserve water, without fancy equipment or lots of money to spend? How can we adapt to the more frequent and intense droughts around the world (not to mention other major water events, like sudden floods)? One substantial commitment you can make, either at your home or in your community, is to plant a rain garden. On a larger scale, there is ecological restoration. These plantings can be incredibly helpful in halting erosion during heavy rains and floods, while also retaining water during dry events.
So what is a rain garden? According to the Rain Garden Network, it is a “shallow depression that is planted with deep-rooted native plants and grasses. The garden should be positioned near a runoff source like a downspout, driveway or sump pump to capture rainwater runoff and stop the water from reaching the sewer system.” The use of native plants and grasses is one component of rain gardens that makes them so special: by using them, you prevent importing any foreign species into your land; they are often cheaper than imported plants because they are from local sources; and they are easy to grow because they are suited to the local climate. Rain gardens are especially great in areas with lots of pavement, concrete or other hard surfaces that don’t absorb water. By absorbing the runoff from these impenetrable surfaces, rain gardens require less maintenance and provide both the “natural absorption and pollutant removal activities of a forest…meadow or prairie, as well as help with major storms by capturing the water for a short time then slowly releasing it into the soil.”
What if you do not have land but there is land available in your community? While a rain garden is a wonderful option, another option that is particularly good for larger scale projects is ecological restoration. An ecological restoration company in the United States called Underwood & Associates describes the process as “restoring the native interconnected hydrological cycles through sand seepage wetland and stream restoration. While reconnecting the water cycle from the highlands to the floodplain, [ecological restoration] reestablish natural microbial habitats and ecosystems imperative to nutrient reduction and sediment control.” Ecosystem restoration means taking existing land and replacing the existing landscape with a very specific and harmonized collection of plants and water features. Doing this can help recover and restore threatened ecosystems and species, repair riparian zones (the areas of vegetation next to rivers and other water sources), improve the health and quality of the water: for both the present and the long term. Check out this video on the restoration of the Manhattan Beach Coastal project.
Both rain gardens and ecological restoration are low effort and low cost methods of not only conserving water, but bringing back a balance to the ecosystem of the land and becoming environmental stewards. Whether it is on a small, individual scale or a much larger community scale, putting these local plants and grasses into the earth is a first step in restoring the beauty and usefulness of an area that might otherwise be wasted.