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Root Anchorage by Vertical Eco Garden

Root Anchorage in sustainable growing mediums in Vertical Gardening
    Root Anchorage in sustainable growing mediums, in Vertical Gardening are not commonly found together in a web search because this combination has been overlooked for a very long time. Vertical growing of edible vegetables was not established by humans. The plants figured that out long before us. We just learned what plants were safe to eat. Then we learned to grow them. These vegetable and fruit  plants were heir-loomed by the first agriculture culture of women gathering food. Combining these three components to grow food was far safer than taking a risk encountering packs of wolves while foraging away from the safety of their dwellings. We now call that working smart instead of working hard.
    A gatherer’ developing powers of observation, noticed plants growing out of the bones laying on a loose bed of decayed leaves, makes bigger food. Voilà! Fast forward! Root anchorage in a loose aerated sustainable microbial rich potting soil produce higher yield. So, To use an appropriate pun, we need to get back to our roots. Not forgetting that working smart VS working hard are part of those roots. My intuition tells me, Permaculture, as one example is an expression of that consciousness.
    The area of Permaculture I want to draw on is the practice of growing a variety of plants close together in a more natural arrangement. This is in contrast to the directions on the back of a seed packet that instructs this vegetable plant needs full sun / 6-7 hrs /day and X space around it from the other plants. I was always curious how all these different varieties of plants all need exactly the same amount of sun and space. Well, obviously they don’t. Any one who has gardened has observed that some plants, even of the same type will wilt during mid day while others are trying to sun bath, unless they were all thirsty. I had a Vertical Eco Garden planted with a variety of peppers facing due east last year. The sun approached directly from the front and traveled overhead. Some of the peppers were growing snug to the vertical surface utilizing the shade from the plants above during mid day sun. Others, again of the same type were leaning out for more sun at mid day. The point here is, each plant is different and if given a choice it knows, and will decide what is best. This is commonly known as plant Intelligentsia, another lost concept in modern day gardening.
    Plant Intelligentsia is the ability of the plant to find what it needs or to adapt to what it encounters. Plant Intelligentsia directs roots to water, air and nutrient sources. It directs leaves and stems to follow the sun. It tells the  stalk and stems to pump minerals into its leaves when the temperature drops. Unlike humans, a plant will not self destruct over confusion on the concept of enough.  And it tells the roots how far to spread and how deep to dig-in to  stand up to the wind. A plant will not produce more than it can support. What a vegetable plant does have in common with conscious humans is the tendency to propagate VS profligate.
    Historically, the balance between root anchorage and aeration / drainage is achieved by incorporating the caking properties of Peat Moss for potted plants. Soil with more substance is used in box, raised bed or conventional gardening. This substance usually comes in the form of Humus. Humus is the most decomposed oily waxy substance from the decomposition of organic matter. Humus has no nutrient value and it holds 90% of it’s weight in water. I have read enough articles that raised bed or sq ft gardens do great for a couple of years and then they decline in production. What was once great compost has further decomposed into humus. Water retention of humus will store heat overnight and the roots might be drowning in warm mud that can’t drain. Keep in mind, a raised bed garden that is 4’ X 8’ with x 12”H  will need to have 32 cu ft of soil amended and or replaced every couple of years for maximum yields. This is a lot of work and can be very expensive. My rice hulls cost roughly 1.26 per cu ft.
The Vertical Eco Garden uses 6-7 cu ft of potting soil. Using the Permaculture approach, will grow 25 to 75 plants in 5 sq ft of garden space and the bottom of the rooting chambers open to facilitated recycling of the amended potting soil. It just falls out into a container.  I imagine container gardeners using containers of all sorts must have to balance this as well. The trend I have observed is, the container determines the size of the plant. How well air, drainage, and nutrients are balanced determines yield. Low yields are commonly accepted in most vertical gardens in the areas of short to mid size plant varieties. The reason is because it is difficult to provide enough soil / substance for root anchorage without compacting or cutting down on aeration. So, smaller types of plants such as lettuce are commonplace with exception to the more complicated and expensive hydroponics approach using climbing plants. Though climbing plants pre-dates us, it wont produce like some of the bush varieties.
Seedlings sending their roots through
    So, what’s the answer? To get root anchorage in a loose aerated non compacting microbial rich growing media. Sounds like a potting soil from alien technology, doesn‘t it? No, it’s probably just that global connectedness / consciousness traveling on electrons from ancient past having spent some time with a woman from pre-history who observed blueberry bushes heavy with blueberries growing out of some ba ba bones. Ok, My apologies. I’ve got a wild imagination and no one said I couldn’t have a little fun with this while educating at the same time. Having said that, quantum Physics is the most proven science known and least understood. The answer is more specifically Rice Hulls, Coco peat, composted leaves or any number of composted sustainable materials.
The Vertical Eco Garden provides a mechanical means for root anchorage. The roots must grow from the pocket, where the seed or seedling get started, through a thin aerated layer of geo material to share the continual rooting chamber for the nutrients and water. The plant is plenty smart, The roots will find their way and anchor, and the plant will know it’s ok  to  get top heavy with produce without falling over. To provide root anchorage for box, raised bed, sq ft, whatever you want to call it, there are several types of biodegradable sheet materials used for soil or seed stabilization. An example is the burlap bag type material used to hold top soil and grass seed when planted along the newly paved highways. Just use a higher percentage of rice hulls, coco peat and or peat moss with composted materials for your soil. In other words, make a potting soil mix. This media can be amended and re-used for a very long time. Fill the box half way, Lay the loose burlap out and fill it the rest of the way. I suppose you could even suspend / support this layer with some wooden stakes. Regarding wood stakes to support those giant plants, you will have to make holes in the burlap in order to drive the stakes through before filling to the top.
Sprouts in seed bed soil

Last but not least, if you are going to use rice hulls, we have to talk about an old technique used by farmers plowing fields. Its called nitrogen lock up. Nitrogen is required to decompose organic matter. Many of us have the memory of the rows of turned sod in the fields in Autumn. Or a memory of that sweet scent of fresh manure spread over the field first. You remember, when the farmer did it right. Then the plow turns the old plant matter or grass under with the manure (nitrogen). The nitrogen decomposes the organic matter at a depth that will be available for the roots of the next crop when the plants want it. The top soil will have less nitrogen to accommodate seed germinating as well as seedling growth. For this same reason seed bed soil doesn’t contain fertilizer. You’ve probably heard the expression the fertilizer feeds the soil, the soil feeds the plants. What does this have to do with Rice Hulls?

Boat hull
Magnified rice hulls

That’s open for discussion. In the Vertical Eco Garden, the plant starts in a pocket without fertilizer. The rooting chamber with the rice hulls will have a little more nitrogen in the mix for the rice hulls to absorb (lock up) for decomposition. The decomposing rice hulls will be there for the later stages of growth extending the life of the potting soil. It’s like a natural time release plant food. If you were to do this in a box or bed garden, it would make sense to do this in the bottom layer. But take a look at these little rice hulls. That’s a perfect name for them because they look like little boat hulls.  These decomposing inexpensive sustainable little boat hulls will provide water, air, microbial decomposition and will resist compacting.

Decomposing boat hull
Granted, gardening has traditionally required a lot of labor. I have to honestly say, by working smart at gardening, I have more vegetables and more of myself to share. Stay compassionate my friends.