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June 4, 2019 greenwallmojo4

Growing food vertically is gaining exposure.

My last Blog segment had a picture of this blogs featured living wall, in an unplanted state. I knew it would be stunning once planted, due to its location at the Missouri Botanical Gardens’ – Kemper Home Gardening Center. The Kemper area is dedicated to showing gardeners what is possible while providing educational resources. They always exceed my expectations and no surprises here either! This VerTexx vertical garden (Varden) is a beauty! They have grown out our VerTexx growing media filled socks with herbs and edible flowers in their greenhouse, prior to installing the socks into the VerTexx trays. Dropping the planted socks into the carrier trays provides instant wall coverage as you can see. The gardens horticultural staff maintains 3 sets of socks so that they can rotate them seasonally for the freshest crops and best aesthetics.

If this wall was in your backyard, patio, balcony, or even a restaurant setting, it would be ready to harvest with super tasty organic produce. I love it! If you have ever been to our Botanical Garden, you know what they can do with plants, if not, you need to make a trip here, as many from around the country so often do.

Vertical Garden at MoBot
Vertical Garden Diversity

Why waste water, money and labor on something you can’t eat!

This is how I was met by an organic farmer in Southern California a few years back and it stunned me into giving the matter some serious thought. He was right and his challenge took me back to my childhood and then launched me forward into my future… without him even knowing what had just happened. At the time I was running the Livingwall Division for Filtrexx International and was in the process of launching my latest living wall product, which was for vertical living walls. My product thoughts were all around ornamental living wall applications and although the VerTexx system was designed for excellent plant health and culture, I had not considered food production and vertical gardening.

This particular farm was growing food in my new invention and doing things with my “baby” that I had not considered (or even wanted to at the time) yet. Since VerTexx held a very large volume of growing media, for a vertical wall system and since we blended our media with a high percentage of locally produced compost, it was very conducive to growing edible plants as well. The flavors and nutrients in the vertically grown greens and herbs took me back to the days when I gardened with my grandparents. I had never tasted flavors that intense before. When I helped my grandparents, I liked the work and the closeness to nature way better than the greens, like most kids. Once I left that farm, I was committed to always having that quality of produce in my life.

 

Vertical Romaine in SoCal
Edible Can Be and Is Beautiful

Using my gifts and talents for a significant propose.

Today, nothing I buy in the store seems to come close to the flavors I tasted on my first trip to that organic farm, so I have set my mind to food production systems for the next stage of my career.  As I have gone along supporting the living wall business, I have been educating myself on food production methods, markets, soil and the status of commercial farming, as well as the greenhouse industry. I have even gone back to gardening but with a vertical twist and most likely my grandparents would be proud. Much has been learned in my backyard, commercial farms, urban and community gardens and through research.

The market for organic produce is large and increasing rapidly, just as the battle is raging over what constitutes organic. The planets population is exploding and we are losing good farm land every day for a myriad of reasons too large to cover here. Needless to say, the timing is right for some garden innovation and huge investment is being made into vertical farms. I like to call vertical gardening, “Vardening” and I am excited for its future as our population becomes more urban. As a species, we have grown away from the land and lost connection to our food. Allowing people to grow food where they are and know exactly what is in it and what has been sprayed on it, will become a big deal very soon. I cannot think of a more significant use of my gifts and talents. New innovative products are coming soon!

Sock Placement
Placing Socks in VerTexx Holders
The Future of Vardening
My Varden Buddy
Back Yard Vertical Garden

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May 11, 2019 greenwallmojo

Its rare to see your total vision brought to reality!

I am so thankful for the opportunity to physically see something that only existed in my head for a long time. This week was one that got me out of the office and around town here in Saint Louis to visit several living wall project sites.

My week started out with a visit to the Urban Harvest STL foodroof farm on a downtown rooftop.

I met their new director and all of the foodroof farm team for an educational and idea sharing session. The back drop was one of Verdant Technologies, VerTexx vertical living walls and it was a productive beauty. The team had it planted up with early season greens of many types, which were thriving vertically and creating so much food in so little space (normally un-used space) for plant production.

Education
Foodroof Vertical Gardening Education

The mission of urban harvest is one that I greatly respect and I’m proud to participate in as we do. They are trying to eliminate food deserts in our region and it always surprises me how many food deserts, by definition, we have here in St. Louis. There is so much need for quality food available to those that have few to no options nearby. Saint Louis is similar to a lot of large urban areas in this regard and we are fortunate to have non-profits such as Urban Harvest to push the envelope and show us what can be done, while leading the way to end food inequality.

Vertical Greens at Urban Harvest STL
Early May 2019 Vertical Garden Greens
Vertical Gardening is Fun
Young Vertical Garden Volunteers

My next stop was the Missouri Botanical Garden to take a look at the existing and new walls in the Kemper Home Gardening Area.

 

VerTexx at MoBot Flowers
Beautiful Ornamental VerTexx Wall
Structure Behind the Beauty
Great Section View of How VerTexx Works

I have been working with the botanical garden for the last few years and it’s so great to see their genius and creativity coupled with the complete scientific mastery of growing all types of plants. The area in which our walls are on display, is the Kemper center for home gardening and if you live in St. Louis, it’s the most incredible place to just walk through and see what’s possible in terms of making a garden productive, nutritious and gorgeous at the same time. We are so proud to be part of their garden and the examples that they showcase. Home gardeners from all over come to visit the botanical garden for ideas to take to their own yards.  I am pretty fired up to see how they plant up the new vertical vegetable living wall! Right now, all of the structural components are in place, so its perfect to gain a better understanding of how the system works. Once the planted socks are added, it will become all about the plants.

VerTexx at MoBot Garden
Vertical Garden Structure in Place

Personally as a living wall innovator , I have been fascinated with growing plants as part of the buildings we inhabit and the structures that we create, for my entire career.

Now we call this Biophilia but it had no catchy name when I got started. Check out my favorite advocacy group, Green Plants for Green Buildings for the whole scoop on Biophilia.

My career started with plantable concrete retaining wall blocks.  They were designed to cover themselves over with vibrant plants, creating many times more environmental benefit and a completely different aesthetic than a normal structure. Now that my career has moved into Vertical Living Wall’s, I am having a more consumer friendly experience. Not everyone needed to manage a grade change with a structural retaining wall and many may not place plants on their walls growing vertically in some type of holder as part of their buildings. However, everyone needs to eat and we are all feeling the pinch of food being grown far away from its end use and the pitfalls that come with that. Not to mention the lack of self reliance or regional reliance to produce nutritious food for ever growing populations.

With the reduction of arable land and the soil degradation of the land that is under cultivation, vertical walls growing greens and herbs close to the consumer are going to be a more viable option every day going forward. From hotels and restaurants to actual homeowners and end-users on their patios and balconies. Vertical Living Wall’s have so many options and so much potential. I’m proud to be inventing in such a climate and fortunate to have all the years of experience, good and bad, behind me to influence the road ahead. The road ahead looks so exciting to me and seeing the true expression of what’s been created so far puts more wind in my sails!