Earlier this month, LA Times columnist Emily Green reported on how she is skeptical of vertical gardening. While I generally agree that vertical gardens are not for everyone, I must add that traditional (horizontal) gardens are also not for everyone. In fact I can think of many dear friends and family who would admit freely that they could kill a plastic fern.
I disagree with the article's overall sentiment, however that vertical gardens, or "living walls" as they were called ten minutes ago, are a wasteful and irresponsible fad. In fact, Green even scoffs at the challenge recently posed by the manufacture of Woolly Pockets, who has begun a program to provide teaching gardens, supplies and curriculum to urban schools. Where Green suggests either "Bring back the lovely old dry stone walls of yore." and add in the article comments online, "School gardens should be installed in ways that are more permanent than recycled plastic bags hung on fencing. Raised beds are preferable; removing concrete or asphalt is the best solution."
Indeed, schools should rip up asphalt for permanent garden beds in well tended soil. Just as they should have art and music programs. But yes, lets poke holes in the fact that a company is trying to reach out to schools and offer up solutions in a fun and interesting way. For shame.
Frida Kahlo High School in Los Angeles (Credit: Woolly School Garden)
Perhaps a response to the vertical gardening skeptics, or just an attempt to pretty up all of the vacant city lots is the rogue gardener's "seed bomb".
Flower Grenade Throw and Grow (Credit: Tony Minh Nguyen and Snowhome for Suck UK)
Online there are tons of how-to instructions and ideas for making your own seed bombs at home. Or you could buy pre-made bombs on the streets of trendy L.A. neighborhoods out of gum-ball dispensers from places like COMMONStudios. These seed bombs are typically pellets of seed (usually native wild flowers), clay soil, and compost. I've yet to see these in an edible form a la fruits and veggie seeds, but as far as alternative gardening goes, randomly chucking clay-coated seeds could very well make you feel like a modern-day Johnny Appleseed.
"The GreenAid Change for Change" Los Angeles (Credit: COMMONStudio)
I think the key to gardening of any kind, is education. Know your environment before introducing plants that will either die immediately, require more care than you can give, or run rampant and become a nuisance, or even a danger. You will know what your space limitations are, and choose the best garden style for that space.
There's no question that growing and tending to plants both beautifies your surroundings, and provides basic health benefits. I would encourage anyone with access to sunlight to plant something, even if it hangs from a felt bag on your wall, grew out of a clay clod, or was just a cute house plant that you picked up at the market. It's your garden, and you can control whether it's a wasteful fad or not.
If you would like to donate to the Woolly School Garden Program, do it HERE!