Green walls were first popularized by Patrick Blanc. While the idea of green walls has been around since the Babylonians in 600 BC, and were then invented as green “walls” by a professor at University of Illinois in 1931, Blanc brought style and function to the medium.
Now, green walls are a growing trend in style, eco-friendly living and safety.
Green walls… Think of a wall in your home (or exterior of your home) that is covered entirely by plants. These gardens stand vertical, rather than on or in the ground, creating space where there was little before.
Green walls are a great way to add something extra to your home, get a little greener, and add an air quality to your home that you’ve never had before.
Here are the materials you’ll need for your project:
- FSC Cedar Strips 1”x3”
- Corrugated Polyethylene plastic sheets 10mm
TO HOLD PLANTS:
- Two (2) 3/16” thick Moisture Retention mats MRM14
FOR WATER BASIN:
- Plastic basin or trough from local home improvement store
- Rust proof (not rust resistant) staples 12mm
HOW TO BUILD YOUR DIY GREEN WALL
Green walls come in all shapes and sizes. They can cover anywhere from an entire wall in your house, to just a portion of a wall above your mantle. Choosing a green wall size that fits your home is the first step to constructing your own. But know that the larger your wall is, the more plants you’ll need to cover the space. So for this project, think small and when you get comfortable with the work that goes into a green wall, feel free to add to it or build a new one.
- Find a spot where your plants will get enough light and that the wall is sturdy enough to hold the structure you’re placing on it. Then, place your aluminum square stock or cedar strips there.
- Screw the aluminum or cedar strips to the wall and to the floor. Add fasteners for extra support. If your green wall doesn’t touch the floor, just make sure the bottom of the frame is securely screwed into the wall.
- Using your rust proof staples, staple the corrugated plastic to the frame.
- Staple your two layers of MRM to the plastic.
- Cut slits into the first layer of the MRM where the plants will go. For best spacing, cut slits five inches wide with two inches in between each slit. Then, the next row should be four inches below that and staggered. (So, where your two inch gap is on the first row, place your five inch slit there.)
- Place plant into slit. Be sure to keep the dirt on the root when you place it in the pocket. This will ensure you can avoid having to create your own synthetic soil.
- Staple the MRM around the plant into the second layer of MRM. This will form a pocket around the plant, ensuring it doesn’t fall and can retain water as best as possible. But, be sure not to infringe on the plants below or to the sides space.
- Repeat until wall is covered.
Photo courtesy inhabitat.com
This is, in general, what your green wall will look like when you’ve finished. Please note that this green wall is not screwed into a wall. You can achieve this same look by first placing the frame and plastic into a sturdy basin. You can use strong adhesive to secure the frame to the basin on the sides, front and back of the frame. Then skip screwing the frame into the wall.
PLACING THE BASIN
The basin is used to catch excess water and dirt that may fall after watering the plants. This does not need to be attached to the wall, but it does need to be positioned at the bottom of the wall in such a way that will catch all that water.
Now you can just water the garden as you would any other garden. I would advise looking up the specific plants you used, though, and finding out what their specific needs are.
As noted above, green walls can add a lot to your home, whether it be aesthetically or for health reasons. Here are a few of those reasons.
- Green walls add beauty and peace to your home. Bringing the outdoors indoors can help soothe and calm nerves.
- Green walls improve your indoor air quality (see below for specific examples)
- Green walls help you save money on energy bills. Plants soak up sunlight coming in through windows. Because the plants are bringing in sunlight, your house will actually be cooler than if you didn’t have the wall, which saves you money on electricity bills.
As for the indoor air quality issue…
There are many household toxins and air quality issues that everyone has to deal with. No amount of air conditioner repair or upgrades will help you remedy the issues outlined below. While AC units can help purify your air a little, in general they will not help remove these contaminants. If you’ve thought that putting green filters in your AC unit would help with indoor pollutants, this is a good idea, but you’re still at risk for the issues below. There are plenty of plants, though, that help reduce harmful gasses in our homes. Here are a few of those pollutants and which plants help neutralize them.
Formaldehyde – If you’ve got furniture, wall paper, cardboard and even facial tissue, you’ve got formaldehyde. Plastics, paints, varnishes, dishwashing liquids, fabric softeners, and cosmetics, such as nail polish, also contain this harmful chemical fume. It can cause asthma-like symptoms, such as coughing and wheezing in low dosages. In high dosages, it has been known to cause cancer of the nasal cavity. If you think you’ve heard of it before, you may have heard of it being used as an embalming agent.
Plants that best neutralize formaldehyde:
- Peace lily
- Boston fern
- English ivy
Carbon Monoxide – Carbon Monoxide is often heard of in the news because it can kill people while they sleep. What causes it, though? Open fires, gas stoves, appliances and heaters cause it. Vehicle exhaust and high concentrations of cigarette smoke will also emit a lot of carbon monoxide.
Plants that best neutralize carbon monoxide:
- Spider plant
- Janet Craig Dracaena
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – These are found in all petroleum products. But if you think you’re free of that, think again: They can also be found in flooring adhesives, paint, furniture, wall materials, electronic equipment, cigarette smoke, household cleaning products and air fresheners. Not even those pretty scents are completely safe in your home. VOCs are the primary cause of ground-level smog.
Plants that best neutralize VOCs:
- Golden Pothos
- Devil’s Ivy
Trichloroethylene (TCE) – As if paints couldn’t get any worse… TCEs can be found in paints, dry cleaning, adhesives, pesticides, and the ink in copiers, fax machines and printers. It can be deadly in high concentrations, while low concentrations will cause irritation of the nose and throat, and depression of the central nervous system.
Plants that best neutralize TCE:
- Mother-in-law’s tongue
Benzene, Toluene, Xylene – These come in the form the vapor of gas, oil, paints, glues, inks, plastics and rubber. It’s also in detergents, explosives, pharmaceuticals, foams and dyes. These will irritate the skin and eyes, but they are also known carcinogens, which can lead to cancer.
Plants that best neutralize Benzene, Toluene and Xylene:
- Kimberly Queen Fern
These are recommended plants for removing these common airborne toxins, but any plant used will drastically improve the air quality in your home.
Diane Kuehl is a freelance DiY/home improvement professional. She lives in Springfield, Illinois with her husband and two kids.