Sunday, June 13, 2010

Project Tepui: Day 0

Project Tepui:

I've taken an interest in creating a vertical garden ever since reading a New York Times article on the subject.

There are two available vertical garden setups online, but both are expensive and are not the design I'm looking for. So for the past several weeks I've been trying to find the right materials to build one. There are several problems to tackle:

First off, there needs to be a medium that plants can grow in that can be vertical without having the medium crumble or fall away. Initially I was considering multiple layers of mesh with separate layers of soil, charcoal, orchid mix, small gravel, and large gravel. The mesh (of different sizes) would hold things together when moved into a vertical position. Unfortunately this would take too much effort and is too prone to failure. I eventually settled on a spun-volcanic glass foam made for hydroponics, the material feels like insulation and is cuttable, produced by a company called GroDan.

The next issue involves which plants to select. I essentially ignored this question and just selected a variety of plants that like to stay indoors and need about the same amount of water; various philodendrons, ferns, mosses, and bromeliads.
Since I'm using a hydroponics medium, there is a lack of nutrients, which in this case is taken care of by special additives and a root enhancer to encourage the plants to get a good grip in the medium (very important for them to be well rooted before going vertical).

Finally there's the need for a container to grow things in that can be flipped vertically once the plants take root. This hasn't been addressed yet, at the moment I'm growing the plants in containers that are the right shape. They will stay horizontal for several weeks to get well-rooted before going vertical.

Hydroponics medium and trays for initial growth:

Medium in the trays:

The medium was cut into shapes that fit into plastic trays and plants were uprooted from their starter pots and inserted into the foam medium. The medium actually soaks up a surprising amount of water. At the moment the plants are looking well and we shall see how they progress.

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