As crazy about plants as I am, I was inspired, a few years ago, by the idea of ââa DIY green wall, from a palette that I had picked up in the street. There were a number of YouTube tutorials on how to do this and as the weekend projects progressed it was a fun and satisfying way to spend an afternoon – not to mention a way to empty my kitchen counter of several pots of herbs.
But compared to La Grangette (lagrangette.com), a top-notch âhome farming experienceâ, the memory of my creative but haphazard effort seems rather sloppy. With the first 100 units scheduled for release in summer 2022, La Grangette is an original idea by Thibaut Pradier, and has been imagined with the aesthetic sensibility of the Italian technical design company Pininfarina.
The exclusivity of the product is not just a matter of its initial limited production: La Grangette starts at â¬ 24,000 (Â£ 20,000). Nevertheless, Pradier’s vision is that one day a version of this product will exist in kitchens around the world. After all, he says, it was once inconceivable that most homes would have refrigerators, dishwashers, and washing machines. Air transport was once the domain of the privileged few. In the years to come, why should a product like La Grangette not be accessible to as many people as possible?
Four years in the making, and with space for 64 plants on four shelves, La Grangette uses 90% less water than traditional growing methods, and allows plants to grow two to three times faster than outdoors. because, explains Pradier, âin La Grangette, there are no seasons and no unfavorable conditionsâ. In conjunction with a very intuitive app, users can plan meals based on what is ready to harvest, as well as planting based on what they will need in the coming weeks.
In addition to the visual appeal of the unit – both in terms of lush content and Pininfarina design – La Grangette offers an organic, in-home farming system that is plastic-free, pesticide-free, and zero miles of air from picking at veneer.
âThe benefits of plants for humans have long been established,â says Habib Khan, director of Meristem Design (meristemdesign.co.uk). âOur motto is to ‘turn gray to green’. But it’s not just about beautifying spaces; it is also about reducing the impact of pollution and improving well-being.
Vertical cultivation methods, such as green walls – or living walls, as they are also called – are increasingly seen in urban spaces, smothering concrete walls with foliage. As Khan notes, they’re not just visually striking; they also improve air quality, promote biodiversity by attracting insects and birds and help regulate urban humidity.
What’s more, studies have shown that proximity to nature boosts productivity, focus, and mood in humans, helping to reduce stress levels.
It is therefore not surprising that they are now regularly installed, not only in public spaces, but also in offices and homes. âMany of our clients have limited outdoor space and seek to revegetate their surroundings while creating an impact,â says Khan.
Christine T, a retiree living in southwest London, is one of them. âWe went from a large property with a garden to a small house with a courtyard,â she says. âI wanted greenery but without masses of pots and planters taking up the floor space needed for tables and chairs – and this is the perfect solution. It is about nine meters long and one meter high and that is my pride and joy.
In the five or so years that have passed since Christine T had her green wall, “it has gone through several iterations – in the same way that you can change the color of a room or a characteristic wall every now and then.” , she explains. âI say sometimes, ‘I would like a little more of this’ or ‘I don’t like it that much,’ and we experiment accordingly. “
By “us”, she designates the maintenance and horticulture team of Meristem: for an annual fee, they will visit every few months to check the irrigation system and the health of the plants and replace those that have become too large for space or failed to thrive. They will also give you advice on the types of plants that may be suitable for your specific shade and light conditions.
In terms of cost, Khan explains, installing a green wall costs around Â£ 500-600 per square meter, and maintenance starts at around Â£ 1,200 per year.
âThere are cheaper ways to green a wall,â he adds. “For example, if you are happy to expect optimal results, you can use planters that contain fairly established wisteria, clematis or jasmine, with wire rope trellises for them to grow taller.”
Vegetables from the garden
Not all vertical grow systems require state-of-the-art equipment, or even the installation and maintenance services of an outside company – like Mark Ridsdill Smith, also known as Vertical Veg Man (verticalveg.org. uk), can attest to this. Frustrated with the long waiting lists for assignments, he began experimenting with growing food on his balcony and, he says, “soon found out that we ate fresh, home grown food most of the time.” In fact, he estimates that in one year he was able to grow around Â£ 900 worth of food from his balcony, window sills and a small piece of concrete from the front door.
Ridsdill Smith does not recommend using wooden pallets for their growing systems because they are heavy and full of splinters.
âJust cover them with newspaper and fill them with compost. And if you are looking for a more attractive and rustic look, you can often buy beautiful wooden ones from the market stalls.
Ground containers with plants trained to climb the wall also work well. âYou don’t even need a trellis,â says Ridsdill Smith. âI often use string – you can climb tomatoes, squash and cucumbers, as well as blackberries and raspberries; even kiwis if you get enough sun.
Even a ladder can be turned into a vertical garden – it’s “very simple technology,” says Ridsdill Smith. âJust lean it against a wall, which creates a hidden storage space, and use the rungs as shelves for the pots. This is a useful option for an herb garden, as most herbs are perennial, so you will always have attractive greenery without the need to replant each year.
Regarding the influx of hydroponic systems, he recognizes that any form of cultivation is recommended, but points out that with hydroponics you lose an important part of the process. âYou are not as connected to nature,â he says. âYou’re not going to have bugs and wildlife coming to visit you, you’re not going to feel the ground between your fingers.
âWe all know that connecting with nature is good for us. I see in my workshops the way people relax when they start to put their hands in the compost and sow seeds. It’s a less clinical, more three-dimensional experience.