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So I have this sun exposed wall of my house in the backyard. I'd like to accomplish two things. 1) Add shading to help cool the exterior wall from the sun, 2) implement some sort of vertical garden against the wall. Seen in the pic here are my two failed hydroponic stations. There is gravel under those on the left and grass/dirt under the saw horses on the right. I'm not really sure what I should do with this space so I'm looking for suggestions from others.Thanks.

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I've heard people suggest Loofah gourd for this kind of application.  What about grapes?  They would lose their leaves in the winter and you'd have some warmth on the wall that time of year.  They don't get as tall as a tree but you can eat them!!

install a trellis or espalier wires.  Train whatever.  Grapes would work.  Fairly cheap.  Espalier fruit trees: figs, apples, citrus.  Train vining tomatoes...though it is probably too late to plant them now. 

The problem I have with vertical gardens is water getting up against the have to attach self contained soil pouches wit drain holes and run drip irrigation to each one.   Planted with a whole bunch of different stuff however they are magnificently way cool when completely grown so you only see the various plants.

I would echo Nicole and Powell - go with some kind of arbor or trellis.  So with something that won't undermine your foundation.  You will want either arbor or trellis or espalier to be 3 feet or so from the house.

Seasonal temporary is loofah.  Very long vines (30 feet approx), pretty yellow flowers, which the bees (remember you want pollinators) love and the small fruit (under 6 inches) is eaten like a zuch, left to dry on the vine you have scrub sponge.  Dies back in the cold.

Thanks for the advice guys! I think I'm going to dig this area out and make a slightly raised bed. Unseen right in front of this is my pool, so space is limited. Would love to do apples, but worry about roots between the house foundation and pool. I think grapes would make a great addition and I'll just make a trellis across the bed for the grapes. Away from the house wall, but close enough to provide shade.

If anyone knows of something else I could add with the grapes for variety, let me know your thoughts.

Jon, you might consider miniature roses - not fragrant, but still edible and they will attract the bees.  In season (Planted Oct - harvested April) plant garlic.

Hey John - (I see you've got a deal of responses whilst I've been milling on this email)
What direction - N,S,E,W - is the view (looking at the wall)?
With the compacted bermuda grass, I concur with your plan for a raised bed.  In addition, I would recommend a wall trellis system.  This way you can pretty much do anything, and change it if ever you want. 
For the bed, make it at least 12"inches high (18"+ is ideal).  I'd make it free-standing - four sides, not three sides upon the wall.  Good idea to have it away from the wall (8" or more) for clean-out access (will mitigate clutter and critters).  On the ground, use landscape fabric,
two layers thick,  as a grass barrier, and install the bed/soil directly on top.  (roots can grow down through the fabric, grass won't grow up through it)
For plants, grapes would be a good base plant for warm season.  I would compliment with an evergreen vine for aesthetics, year-round wall insulation, and plant protection.

bignonia cross vine (red-coral bloom)
bower vine (white bloom)
star jasmine (white bloom, fragrance)
podreana pink trumpet (pink bloom)
These vines would need some tethering to start, but then they will twine into the trellis (not clinging to the wall);  They are all relatively impervious to pests, and would not interfere with a grape plant;  The root systems are durable and non-invasive; They are moderate feeders; The low temp tolerance is about 32*degrees;  Heat tolerance is around 110*degrees; They are tough and can handle broom cleaning as well (if you have deciduous vines growing with them); No thorns, barbs, sappy stuff, and very low litter aside from blooms or extreme frost damage. 
For the vertical system, I'd keep it simple (and cheap) using rebar grid trellis. Only about $15bucks at the orange home center for 4x7 grid.  You can even cut them into shape for design (aesthetics, man!).   You can even cut sections to install perpendicular to the wall, to use to trellis up veggies (tomato, cucumber, etc).
With that, you should be able to plant/grow anything (properly) in the bed.  Ping me if you would like more assistance with the designing of it.

That's beautiful Vynnie! I think I might use this material for a trellis behind my garage where I currently have tomatos, peppers and asparagus, but would like to use the vertical space for cukes or pole beans. Thanks, you always have such great info!!!

The links in my reply didn't activate when I pasted in (damn Word for MAC!).  Here they are:

raised bed materials ideas

raised bed install on top of grass with landscape fabric

rebar grid trellis


bignonia cross vine (red-coral bloom)
bower vine (white bloom)

podreana pink trumpet (pink bloom)

In a different thread, [this weekend] I plan to post my new rebar trellis installed with tomatoes.

(p.s. Karis, I'll harass you soon about asparagus.  Nice!)

So today I got all the supplies and got most of my raised bed in. It's about 8" from the house wall. In between the wall and the raised bed I bought 4 7' tall rebar grid trellis as recommended. I also bought 3 6' stakes for the purpose of tying the center of each trellis off vertical. The raised bed ended up being made of redwood like my other boxes instead of brick as I originally planned. Still, spent quite a bit on the redwood. Raised bed are very narrow 12'x1'x6". But all this really is suppose to be is a screen for the wall of grapes. I'm also leaving the bottom open so the roots can just grow, if the grass comes up top I'm not that concern, but I do plan to use mulch on the top layer of the bed with good compost filling most of it. I did end up digging down a few inches and found more gravel all across the area and black tarp under that. Funny that the Burma grass as knotted itself and grown between two layers of the black tarp. Will post pics once I'm finished with the install and have my 6 grape plants in place.

Jon, 12' x 1' x 6" is VERY narrow and shallow.  As long as you don't "hope" to grow anything there it should serve the purpose of defining your trellis area.  And IF you don't really need to grow anything there - you might consider just filling with an attractive bark mulch.

I second Catherine's concern about the size. I understand you are planning on the roots growing out of the boundaries, but it sounds like what is under it, is not a good growing medium. I think you are going to find that you will have to dig a trench and fill it with good material, or the roots will not have anything good to reach down too. Also I hope the space between your pool deck and/or pool is further away than the 1' because the roots will still want to move out horizontally as well. Even if you are growing up the roots will take up a good deal of space and need good soil to establish in and deep, especially if you are expecting them to produce to a decent height.

Take it from me, soil really matters. I thought I was using good soil and have since learned I didn't and I'm still trying to fix the mess I'm in. It's worth it to dig it up a good bit to make sure you have a healthy foundation for your plants.

Oh one other thing. Six grape plants is probably too many for a 12' long section. They spread out a lot. I'd probably only plant four of them at most.  Others might say differently but I find my grapes spread a lot, vertically even though I do try to train to height also. I bought an arbor and tried to train them just on that but they are determined to go sideways as well, and I've given up and decided to let them.

Got the grapes in today with rich soil. Now just need to put a few bags of mulch on top of this and I'll be done. I did dig down about 6 inches to give me a foot for growth. You can also see how I used the rebar with the tall metal stakes.


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