Vertical Farming

Flat ground costs money and needs irrigation, which costs money, and so it’s off to the supermarket we go, to buy vegetables from men who have money to plant fields the size of European principalities with lettuce and have diverted entire river systems to give them water. They are doing this with our money, which is SNR (Surely Not Right). Oh, what’s a poor soul wanting some red sails lettuce to do, to do, to do? Well, how about gardening on zero space at all — vertical space, for instance? Here’s an accidental vertical garden from Rüdesheim am Rhein.The town itself is given over to bus tours and the world’s largest concentration of pork hock restaurants, but if you walk up the hill past the castle with the Harley Davidson Flag (now, would I kid you about something as beautiful as that?), you’ll get out into vineyards painstakingly rebuilt after Allied aircrews blew them to bits seventy years ago while aiming for Frankfurt, some 20 miles away as the crow flies, and there, you’ll find stairs that are little used anymore.

Self-Irrigating, Self-Seeding, Self-Laddering Stairway Garden

Bombing rubble put to good use, and still room to walk up with a backpack tank of weedkiller to get at the vineyard up top. Bonus! OK, myself, I’d pass on the Roundup, but maybe that’s just me. OK, OK, I’ll pass on the bombing, too, but those stairs, eh? Eh?

And what’s that red stuff on the walls? Art, I think, but not humanly made.

Sedum Soaking up the Sun

All the water it needs just trickles lightly down the rock from the rain, and if the rain doesn’t come, well, it’s sedum. It can take that, too.

Usually sedum is recommended as a living cover for self-insulating green roofs without need for tar or troublesome draining systems, but here in Rüdesheim it’s just a weed, but what a weed…

Cool, Isn’t it!

Note how the spring moss has finished it’s work of soaking soil melt and here, on June 10, is already sleeping the year away until moss spring comes in October.

It’s an entire world living on vertical space. Which got me thinking. And, luckily, I’m far from the first. The community of vertical gardeners is large, and form a wonderfully inventive sector of the urban agriculture movement, but why stop at urban? There’s a lot of non-urban space that is going unclaimed at the moment as well, and imagine, increasing the available growing space of agricultural fields a hundredfold, by going up? Like this, perhaps…

Flowering Kale and All Her  Friends Source.

Now, that’s clever. The cactus down below looks like she’d like to move up there too. Get a little sun. Dry out those roots. Mmmm.

Here’s another of the thousands of brilliant examples out there …

Space Magic Source

In this model, vertical plantings taking advantage of warm soil and different degrees of morning or afternoon sun, can be planted amongst plants that thrive in cooler soil conditions, a growing season can be extended or lifted out of the frost, and irrigation can take place by feeding water into the top of the pipe, with almost zero loss to transpiration or evaporation during sprinkling.

As I mentioned, there are thousands of ideas out there, mostof them as brilliant as the idea of planting sweet peas in the spring so you can sit out there in the trilling summer sun and eat then out of their pods. Here, however, is an idea that, maybe, deserves a space among them. Back in the wine area called the Rüdesheimer Rotland, some areas are just to steep or small for the owners to care about planting them, and the grapes find their own way…

Sub Vertical Farming

This vine is demonstrating how vertical space can not only be planted on its face or its base, but at its crown as well, with hanging plants making use of the warm space below, while humans have easy access for planting purposes on the heights above.

Yet another way plants are using space out on the Rotland (and this one is humanly created)…

Almond Orchard Using Open Air

Behind these almonds, the slope is planted to vines. They are using the heat rising from this roadway and wall system, and the otherwise unused airspace above it, to grow nuts.  They have a fighting chance to be above the frost as well.

And why stop at plants? If you’re one for animal protein, a little bit of husbandry might also be possible…

Vineyard Snail in Its Vertical Tidepool

With a little butter and garlic (that grows wild among the vines) these things are for sale for $2 a pop down in Rüdesheim below. Minimum order: 6. Does this kind of pest control not make more sense than importing little squids from Indonesia or even squirting roundup on your lambs  quarters?

Certainly, snails may not be your thing, but the idea might be expandable, right? Crows are everywhere out in the vineyards of Europe, snacking on these little guys… might not they be farmed and collected for free range chickens? Wouldn’t the eggs be out of this world? Speaking of out of this world, what is a town to do when the tourists come on bus tours for pork hocks and a beer and leave for their hotels in Frankfurt by 6 p.m., when dinner hour starts at 7? Specialize!

Harley Festival on the Rhine

River shipping castle, now a wine museum, framed by abandoned 20th century industrial security apparatus, as seen by a 12th century trading past now turned into a post World War II rebuilding of vineyard access roadways as watercourses, based on a roman model brought to the Empire from Iraq… 

Well, you get the picture. Things change. We can use old stuff in new ways. Really old stuff. Like walls. Sometimes one has to travel a long way to bring back treasures from the past that can show us the way to the future, even here in the vineyards of the Okanagan Okanogan. As for watercourses… come back tomorrow. It’s an inspiring story.

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