Q&A with Shawna Coronado

Shawna Coronado tackles Living Walls according to space and goals of the gardener. Below is a Q&A that Cool Springs Press did with Coronado:

Source – Grow a Living Wall

Q: If you have a 3-by-3-foot patio, what living wall system works best?

A: Tiny balconies and patios that are no larger than three foot by three foot are perfect for smaller living wall systems such a framed small box system. It offers stylish growing capabilities on a wall or door that does not overwhelm a newbie grower. However, the walls in that same three foot by three foot space could be filled to the brim with more than 40 plants if the walls were filled with pocket vertical garden systems. Imagine growing 40 plants in that tiny space. Other gardeners have to have a large ground space to do that, plus they have to till and weed. There is no tilling or weeding necessary with a living wall system.

Q: If you’re a homeowner with sprawling backyard and/or fences, what do you recommend?

A: Sprawling gardens with large spaces and long stretches of outdoor fencing is another perfect arena for living wall systems. Most garden design along walls feature ground plantings or shrubs with little or no vertical eye appeal. Growing hundreds of flowers or ornamental edible vegetable plants along large stretches of outdoor fencing can be an amazingly beautiful addition to a garden. With plants stacked on top of one another in a living wall system, gardeners have an area that is more confined with which to water. Weeding chores become unnecessary and watering becomes more sustainable because both self-watering systems and hand watering drip down on top of the plants below them. This means you will use less water to water a vertical wall garden.

Source – Grow a Living Wall

Q: You’re quite passionate about pollinator gardens. Can you explain why they matter?

A: Pollinator gardens are increasingly important in an era where society is concerned about pollinator movement for food safety. Growing an organic garden filled with gorgeous flowering pollinator plants is quite possible with a vertical living wall system. Envision vertical wall systems stretching across large metro areas in order to create pollinator corridors. These corridors can help pollinators survive longer by helping them find a path through hot cement deserts across North America. Should we place living wall systems with pollinator plants stretching throughout urban areas on balconies, fences, and patios, we are increasing the chances of pollinator survival.

Q: Can you offer a list of gardening systems and maintenance that they require?

A: Of course.

1. Window Box Style Planter System – A window box style planter system can be either stand-alone unit or attached to a wall, gate, or fence. Benefits of the window box style unit include more soil and a wider planting zone, easy access for watering, and deeper root growing availability. Additionally, these units often hold more plants, so work well no matter the size of space you have. You can easily cover an entire wall with this type of system or fit it in an extremely small nook. The units are versatile and long lasting. Cleaning is simple as you only have to pull the container tray out of the unit to clean it.

2. Wall Felt Pocket Systems – Felt pocket systems have been around for some time and are typically made from recycled BPA free plastics. Each unit rests flatter against a wall than other styles of systems, so might be more of a fit for very narrow areas. Watering is extremely easy with these units and many have self-watering tubes attached through the back of the system to enable lower maintenance. The only critical maintenance is the units need to be completely pulled down annually for cleaning and upkeep.

3. Framed Small Box System – Small framed units are absolutely delightful in small spaces and easily hang on doors, gates, balcony fences, and walls. Plants can be changed out effortlessly. They are easy to maintain, although I’ve had more success watering from the front for outdoor units, rather than the top of the vertical wall garden.

4. Hydroponic Box System – Hydroponic box systems offer the advantage of not needing soil and are very easy to maintain. These systems work great with all variety of plants, but particularly drought tolerant plants such as succulents. Each block unit must be soaked in water every few weeks to ensure the plants get the required water. Seasonal cleanup is a snap – simply take the unit down and pull the plants out.

5. Large Free Standing System – Large free standing systems are great for growing large quantities of plants and can fit in a three foot or less space. An advantage of the system is the self-watering pump which makes watering easier. However, the units are often connected to a self-watering base and can be quite heavy.

6. Make-Your-Own System – There are dozens of different homemade living wall systems that make fantastic vertical wall gardens. Within the book I’ve focused on cones of hanging containers, pallet gardens, glass jars or other small containers, and shelving unit style gardens. All offer money-saving and creative alternatives to purchasing systems.

Check out this video of Shawna’s own garden.

Much of her book’s photos were taken over the course of several years from her own space. This is a project that’s near and dear to her

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