Monday, December 20, 2010

Phillips Great Alternative Materials Wall

Phillip wrote in to explain how he built his first wall using alternative materials available to him in the Philippines. I think this is a beautiful wall with some very smart materials choices. I'm particularly interested in the marine plywood for substructure as this is available everywhere and much more eco-friendly than PVC sheets. I love the variety of plants and the dense planting. Also the composition of the plants and the textures are beautiful. Nice job Phillip. Please stay in touch and let me know how your wall develops. I suspect you'll be doing a lot of pruning to keep up with growth.
Dear Matt,

Im Phillip from the Philippines. I went for a vacation in Thailand and saw the beautiful green walls in Siam Paragon that is why have researched it right away and came across your video in youtube. I was redirected to your bloggsite and read all about it, hence making my own green wall. The first problem i encountered was the felt as it is not available here in my country so i used a carpet fabric that is being used for speaker boxes. I also used marine plywood covered in canvass as to protect the wood from water as pvc boards are not yet available here. I tried to slit the fabric as detailed in one of the blogs in your page and had problems in planting as not to all my plants are 3" pots. but we pulled it off and finished the wall. my wall is now 2 weeks old and i want to thank you for a very informative site i just hope it my wall lasts as i have not used the materials indicated in your site and Patrick blancs book "the vertical Garden"

I attached some pictures of my first attempt.

thank you



Monday, September 13, 2010

Bacteria and Mold

I received two emails recently regarding mold/bacteria on walls. Sam wrote:

"Hi Matthew,

My name is Sam, i'm from auckland NZ and we built a large green wall based off your video on you tube after reaching a lot of brick walls with landscape companies, so we decided to do it ourselves.

Our wall is progressing really well, the density is great, some plant types have not done so well, but almost all have survived, and thats about 1500 plants! The one issue we are having is smell. After 2 months, the felt we used has water in it of course, and has started to smell damp and musty. On invetsigataion with our hydroponics consultant he told us is was being caused by anaerobic bacteria in the felt. He advised us to use "waterclear" that is available that goes in the water system and kills the bacteria, and he has assured me that it is not only safe for the plants but it improves the oxygen available to them. So we have tried this and while not much has happened since we applied it, it is early days.

I was wondering if you had come across this or have any advice?


I replied to Sam via email and asked him how often he was watering. If his wall is going through distinct wet/dry cycles I'd think the bacteria wouldn't really be an issue. Also it seems odd to me that anaerobic bacteria would be an issue with plants in synthetic felt as it is a fairly open material. Was this wall made with synthetic felt for it's moisture retention layer? Sam if you are out there please let me know more. Also I'd love to post pictures of your wall so please send them in.

Jared wrote in about mold growing on his wall:


First off I just wanted to say I love your blog. Without it I don't know if I would have gotten my greenwall up and running nearly as well. I'm having a problem, though, that I was hoping you might know a solution for. My wall has only been up for about 4 weeks, but a little over a week ago I noticed small amounts of mold growing on the felt material I used. I've been using a vinegar/water mixture to kill it, and it works without hurting my plants, but it only kills what has already grown, and doesn't prevent further growth once the vinegar is diluted. Do you have a safe solution that might work? I was considering moving my wall so it receives direct sunlight. I heard mold has a much harder time growing with enough sun.

My wall doesn't compare to yours, but I've attached a picture in case you wanted to see. It's a self-standing wall which is why I'm able to move it when I need to. It's not completely done yet. I'm a poor grad student so I'm adding plants little by little when I can spare the money. I'll be adding another 15 today actually. In the picture I'm sending only about half is covered so far. If your interested I can send you another picture once it is complete.

I hope to hear from you soon, and thanks again for your blog. It is amazing!
-Jared Brown"

I've never had a problem with mold on my wall. I'd be curious to know about your wet/dry cycles. How often are you watering; amount and length of time. What material did you use for your felt? Let me know in the comments please.

If you have any helpful suggestions for Sam or Jared please comment. I'm no expert when it comes to mold/bacteria so any and all help would be appreciated.



Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Great alternative to PVC suggested by Eric

Eric wrote:
Hi Matt,

This is a great blog, thank you for taking the time!
I have been searching the web for actual construction details to build a living wall.

A suggestion for basin construction. Use 45mil EPDM synthetic rubber membrane.
(To me this is the easy part ;)) I design and build ponds and waterfalls for a living.

EPDM is reusable, recyclable, and has better environmental impact profile than PVC. - See below

1) Build a basic plywood box in whatever shape and dimensions you need.

2)Calculate liner size L x W needed like so:

L x W
(length + 2x Height)X(width + 2x Height)

3)Line the box with 45 mil EPDM rubber, -folding it like a gift box in reverse it to fit the shape of your box.
3) Use a staple gun to attach liner to top edge of your box, and trim the edges with a blade or sharp scissors.

EPDM is available in custom cut sizes as pond liner for water gardens at many garden centers and is available on line at any pond supply place in 5 ft. increments.

*Ethylene propylene diene (EPDM) type rubber is recommended by the Danish Environmental Protection Authority as an alternative to PVC."
"Alternatives to dioxin sources in the Mediterranean," by Beverley Thorpe, Clean Production Action for Greenpeace Mediterranean Project (September 1996) ( As found in Google Answers Answered By: mother-ga on 14 Jun 2002 14:30 PDT)

Thanks Eric and keep the basin suggestions coming. Readymades and materials suggestions are all welcome.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Jaaga's Living Building

Fabian Sixtus Koerner (quite possibly the coolest name ever) wrote to me awhile back looking to source moisture retention material in India. I sent him this link for locally made coir fabric used for greenrooves.

Fabian wrote again recently to share his work on his amazing Living Building. It's got every eco thing you can think of; solar panels, roof gardens, vertical gardens, aquaponics, composting, and more. What an amazing project! Check it out for yourself here.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Plant spacing

Patrick asked:

Hi Matt. I really like your green wall and have decided to make one of my own. What I like about your's in particular is the density of all of the plants. I noticed that you used a string in the beginning as a guide to make straight and even pockets for the plants. Did you space them about 6" apart?
Also, any ideas on a basin?

This is a great question. I agree that plant density is one of the things that really makes my wall work. We cut 5 inch pockets separated by only 2 inches in between. Then we staggered the rows vertically and separated them by 4 inches. The plants we used were from 3 inch pots. I hope that makes sense. Here's a simple diagram.

(--------5 inches--------)(2 inches)(--------5 inches--------)
| 4 inches
------)(2 inches)(--------5 inches--------)(2 inches)(--------

Good Luck,


Sunday, June 27, 2010


Raquel said...

And what about the light?
because where I'm plannig to build my wall doesn't have direct sunlight, there's just artificial light... what kind of lights do I need?
Thanks for answer!

Hi Raquel,

I use compact fluorescent bulbs. They are NOT full spectrum. I think they may be "cool white". From "Ecology of the planted aquarium" by Diane Walstad she shows that "cool white" is almost as good as full spectrum for growing plants.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Dan's Question

Dan wrote:

Hi, Love the blog! 

I was wondering how you sealed the seams between the PVC sheets and the screw/rivet attachment points to the wall.  You mention the gutter at the bottom but don't really say how it was made or what it looks like.  These details would really help me.



The seams were sealed with silicone. So were the screws I believe. Just a dab on the screw head. Our basin was made from PVC ( a material I wouldn't use again due to it's environmental impact). It was glued together with special glue. The shape is quite unusual because it ducks under our cabinet at one point. Also it's curved to match the shape of the wall. Most basins will be much simpler.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Basin Challenge

General Houseplant Care wrote:

"Great work guys! I love your site, and am currently working on building my own green wall.

I am having trouble sourcing a trough, though, and am wondering what you guys used?

Thanks for your help!!!"

Basin's are probably one of the more tricky parts of greenwall building. As I've said before mine was made from PVC (a material I wouldn't use again because of it's environmental impact). I would suggest building basins from non-toxic plastic, epoxy covered wood, stainless steel, or something readymade.

If you have a good basin solution please send it in.



Which felt?

Felipe wrote:

"Hi Matt , My name is Felipe , i'am form Chile and i'm going to star my own green wall, but I have a question because i don't know what kind of felt i need, if i can use the felt used for hydroponics that i can get in many stores or have to be an special felt? please please try to answer. I'll be very grateful

Big Hug

The felt I use (MRM) is made for greenroof installations. A hydroponic felt may be similar but I'm not sure. Click here for a data sheet on the felt I used. That should help with comparisons. Here's the basic information cut and pasted from the sheet:

Moisture Retention Mat is composed of high-quality, recycled, non-rotting, poly-propylene fibers.

Moisture Retention Mat is used in the Hydrotech Garden Roof Assembly to retain moisture and nutrients for use by the vegetation layer.

THICKNESS: 3/16 in. (≈200 mils)
SIZE: 7.5 ft. X 100 ft. (2.3m X 30.5m) - in rolls
(715 sq.ft. effective coverage)
WEIGHT: 16 oz./yd2 (542 g/m2) 0.11 lb./sq.ft. (0.54 kg./sq.m.) - dry;
1.2 lb./sq.ft. (5.9 kg./sq.m.) - wet
WATER RETENTION CAP.: ≈0.13 gal./sq.ft. (5.3 l./sq.m.)

(ASTM D4632) (ASTM D4632)
TRAPEZOIDAL TEAR: 145 lb/in2 (0.644 kN) PUNCTURE STRENGTH: 240 lb (1.07 kN)
(ASTM D4533) (ASTM D4833)

Good Luck,


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My Greenwall in the New York Times Home Section

I was interviewed by Kristina Shevory from the New York Times about my greenwall but I couldn't blog about it until I saw this.

I thought I was on the cover until I learned that the image rotates. Doh! But it's so exciting to be in the article and to be the main image.

Also Peter Kastan was mentioned too and I am so envious of the beautiful diversity of the plants on his wall. Here's an excerpt from the article.

Gardens That Grow on Walls By KRISTINA SHEVORY


Last year, inspired by Mr. Blanc’s work, Matthew McGregor-Mento, 38, an executive creative director at Gyro: HSR, a New York advertising agency, and his wife, Emma, 35, a massage therapist, set out to build a vertical garden in their two-bedroom apartment in the East Village. They attached an 8-by-10-foot aluminum frame to a wall in the entry hall, screwed waterproof sheets of PVC to the frame and tacked on two layers of matting. Then they inserted some 400 plants — philodendrons, ivies and ferns — into holes they cut in the felt.

A trough they installed along the floor collects runoff water from the irrigation system, and a pump with a filtration sponge sends it back up the wall. Timers control the watering, which happens four times a day.

The design, which they devised with the help of a horticulturalist friend, was based on Mr. Blanc’s system and on research they had done online. The total cost was $3,000, but the result was worth it, Mr. McGregor-Mento said. Most people who visit want a green wall of their own, and the effort involved wasn’t that onerous: “Building a vertical wall is about as difficult as painting a room.”

Friday, April 16, 2010

Carlos' Beautiful Wall

Carlos wrote to me to share his making of video and to thank me for the info on this site. He wrote:

"Hi Matt

I want to congratulate by continue to share with us your garden and your experience. I also want show you the garden I made with a part of your information. Thanks.

A great greetings from Mexico

Carlos Pacheco"

This makes me so happy! The whole point of this site is to show people that if they want a greenwall they can make it themselves. Carlos' wall is beautiful. I especially like the use of the white felt. It makes it look as if the plants are just growing right out of the wall. Also it's great to see that Carlos used emitters and he plumbed his system. Very smart. I'm still carrying 5 gallon buckets to my wall every few days. Also the long hanging plants really help to break up the texture of the wall. It will be interesting to see photos of the wall as it fills in too. Our wall was planted so densely that it really hasn't changed much but Carlos' wall will definitely grow in a bit. Can't wait to see it. Congratulations Carlos. Hopefully Carlos will be interested in writing a description of the making of his wall. I publish it here if he is.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Irrigation Hole Size

Just a quick note about hole size in irrigation tube. The holes in my tube are almost exactly the same size as a paper clip. I think I wrongly stated in a previous post that they were the size of a pencil lead. Not a huge difference but a difference none the less. Also Blanc mentions the size in millimeters in his description from Dwell which I reposted in an earlier post.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Office Greenwall Canceled

Sorry to all the volunteers but my office greenwall isn't going to happen because I no longer work for that company. The next greenwall I build will be fully documented so stay tuned.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Katie's Questions About Irrigation

Hi Matt,

I've been checking out your green wall blog for quite some time preparing to build my own green wall. I really like the Patrick Blanc style wall system in your I was wondering if you could give me more specs about the irrigation you used. I saw you said it was rubber hose, which would work for me as I'm trying to keep my costs down... could you tell me more? Also, any other info you may have would be fantastic. Thanks!


Hi Katie,

The tubing I used was PVC tubing. As I have mentioned before I wouldn't use PVC again because it is a toxic plastic although it is quite common. I would substitute an inert plastic like polyethylene. Something like this.

I used a pump similar to this one.

You'll need adapters to connect all your tubing to your pump. Depending on what setup you chose you'll need a few L connectors and possibly a T connector. Also you'll need to step down sizes if you use thicker tubing for the vertical. Read on for an explanation.

Ideally your pump sits at one corner of your basin and pumps water up to the top of the wall where it pumps across the wall and trickles down. That would make an L shape if you were looking at the tubing on the wall. You could also locate the pump in the middle of the wall and split the tubing to either side. This would form a T. The advantage of the T shape over the L is that you could balance pressure a bit better. In the L shape the holes closer to the pump get more pressure and thus more water. The further you get from the pump the less pressure and the less water. If you use emitters

...then the flow can be balanced by the emitter. I didn't use emitters and I don't know much about them. I just know that they can balance flow. For my wall I just drilled holes in the tubing and used very low pressure. I also slope the tube down slightly at the end to use gravity to even out the pressure. Setting up the water pressure is one of the trickier parts in a greenwall.

I have mentioned before that I could probably have used a smaller pump that cost less but how much smaller I'm not really sure. The aquarium store that sold me the pump said I could return it if it was the wrong one. You may want to find a store willing to do this. Also be careful about recommendations from the aquarium store. They require much more pressure in their lines then a greenwall does. For that reason they recommended a pump that was larger than I really needed. If you use emitters you'll need more pressure. The irrigation store you get the emitters from can make a recommendation I'm sure.

The aquarium store did recommend a much thicker pipe for the vertical tube. I'd say the tube was about 1.5 inches ID (interior diameter). The idea is that pushing the water up to the top of the wall requires the most force so you want a wide tube to increase the flow and lessen the pressure. I followed their instructions but I am not completely sure it was necessary.

I drilled holes on both sides of my tubing (front and back) with holes every 4 inches as described by Patrick Blanc. In future I would only locate the holes facing backwards (towards the wall) because at times forward facing holes have led to drips off leaves.

Blanc describes the irrigation holes as being 2mm. I'm not sure if I converted that to figure out the right drill bit size. It was to my memory about the size of a pencil lead. Maybe a bit smaller.

Your pump will come with some kind of filter sponge and I highly recommend you use it. It doesn't take much to clog the small holes. Be very careful when you plant your wall to get as little soil/debris in your basin as possible. If possible install the basin after you plant your wall.You may want to consider some kind of inline filter as a back-up. The filter on my pump came off once and I had to take the tubing down and clean the holes out by hand.

I use a digital 7 day timer to water my wall. This is the timer I use.

This timer is easy to program and you can set multiple very short intervals as many times a day as you like. Although it's a seven day timer I have it set to water the same times everyday. So you could probably use a digital one day timer too. I water 4x a day for 10 minutes.

I'm not sure how soon you plan to build your wall but if you can wait about a month I will have my fully documented wall build online. If you have any other questions please let me know.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Denis' unique greenwall lamp

Denis has been emailing back and forth with me for awhile so it was great to receive these photos. I asked Denis to include a description too. Here goes.

In foundation plastic cachepots.
Post from polycarbonate sheets 6 mm.
Material ssm45
Watering tubes ftom metalloplastic pump for a fountain.
A lamp-shad is home-made.
Contacts it is possible will include without problems.


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