Introduction

Planting green roofs and/or green walls can be very elaborate, or it can be quite easy and fun as well, depending on its size, on your budget and how you plan to do it. All family members can participate and maybe you can invite some friends that would enjoy joining the construction project, whom in return would also be learning a way to build them at their own roofs and/or walls and help increase the green areas at home level through building green roofs and/or walls plus benefiting from them.

Setting them up is an easy, healthy and cheap way to grow your own vegetables or ornamental plants. And if you do it with your family you will be adding a lot of fun whilst your kids will be learning a very healthy and fun method to grow your own produce or ornamental plants by means of practicing urban or rural agriculture.

Something very important is that you will help mitigate climate emergency by building a green roof or wall that will contribute to clean up the atmosphere and the surrounding air by capturing carbon dioxide and other nitrogen related compounds plus releasing oxygen into it and cooling down the surrounding areas.

There are even some more benefits and activities for your family and/or personal level actions related to building a green roof or wall, like setting up a compost pile that will provide for natural, organic fertilizer made up from your own garden and kitchen refuse vegetables. For more information on composting click here: or if you want to learn more about an improved method of composting click here.

In the image below you can see a nice example of a cheaply built, ornamental plants green wall in a rural mountain Mexican homestead.

By setting up green roofs and/or walls, you will also get some other benefits like enhancing the thermal capabilities of your roofs and walls, and therefore your whole house, by covering them with edible or ornamental plants. Most everybody loves plants (and I mean most everybody), so adding a green roof or wall will be a means of beautifying your home naturally. Even more, as a beautiful and eco-friendly bonus, your green roofs and/or walls will not only provide you with edible vegetables or ornamental plants, but attract birds, butterflies, bees, lizards, toads, frogs and many other much-needed creatures like wasps, mantis and other beneficial insects.

Do I have to tell you my friends, about the joy brought about by just sitting around and relax while watching how your plants grow, yield, and provide food and/or visual beauty? Not to mention the fresh, relaxing essence of their flowers or the whole plants.

At this point, I have just recalled a phrase I read about, around 50 years ago from Zen Master DaisetsuTeitaru Suzuki, that I want to share with you, my dear readers:

“What life can compare with this? Sitting in front of my window and watching the seasons come and go.”

Requirements to build a green roof

A green roof does not have to be built upon a flat surface, although it eases things out quite a bit. There are green roofs that have been built or planted centuries ago in Scandinavian Countries and some other high latitude places like Scotland and elsewhere, upon roofs having angles of 45 degrees or near that, like the one in the image shown below.

First things first: You have to find out whether the roof you are thinking of using (greening) is strong enough to support the
extra weight added by the materials needed, especially the substrate
-that has to be watered periodically to provide enough moisture, plus the plants you
are planning to grow, which will be increasing the weight load as they keep on
growing. Altogether this may mean a few extra tons up on the roof.

Next thing: Your roof must be waterproofed, otherwise you will have leaks, so you must make sure that you will not have rain or irrigation water going through your roof (no kidding). Therefore, you have to take the necessary actions to waterproof it before anything else is done, the way to do it is up to you my friends.

The next images show you a suggestion for the general lay out of a green roof totally covered with plants, but not mandatory, depending on your roof structure:

The different layers shown in the previous picture are as follows:

Once this is all checked you can select the kind of materials to be used, based upon your budget, your likes and the roof possibilities. Upon this subject there are many options, but basically what you have to do is provide for a place where plants can grow. This can be done by using a wide variety of containers that should be big enough to hold substrate for roots to nurture plants and support their development.

In the next images you can see different types of green roofs:

Green roof 01

Edible plants and small pruned fruit trees.

Ornamental green roof.

Loan upon a green roof.

Raised container boxes.

Your imagination and possibilities set the limit, from wooden raised beds or flat beds laid on the roof, to any other kind of different materials, like perfectly cleaned 5 gallon containers, vegetable boxes, ceramic pots, worn out tires, any kind of sacks or containers… you name it.

Requirements to build a green wall

As I said with roofs, you may need to waterproof your wall before greening it to prevent moisture. You should also check the strength of the wall, considering it will bear an important load from the containers, substrate, water and plants that will increase their weight as they grow and bear fruit.

If the wall is not strong enough or it is hard to waterproof it, it might be a good idea to set up a wired mesh fence a couple of inches away from it. Then you just hang the containers on the fence. Something
else that can be done is hanging containers from a beam.

The following two images show a very cheap way to build a green wall:

PET bottles green wall

Cheaply made green wall

PET disposable bottles being re-used to build a cheap and easy green wall.

Another easy and relatively cheap way to build a green roof is using shoe storage items, as shown in the following images:

Filling up a shoe storage item

Hanging shoe storageA hanging shoe storage item can be easily turned into a green wall multi container.

A green wall can also be just a regular wall where you can nail down some pots, or a totally covered wall with different plants, as shown in the next image:

A green wall made with succulents.

Moreover, if you have a wire fence, it can easily be beautified by planting some climbing plants right in the soil under the fence, or if you prefer, you may use some pots for the climbers. The next image shows a nice easy and cheap plant cove for an otherwise ugly looking wire fence:

Or you can cover a brick and mortar wall as well as shown below.

Climber plants covering a wire fenceA brick and mortar fence covered with climbing plants beautify it and add a colourful sight.

As you can see, the possibilities are many and it is up to your imagination to green up your home roofs or walls without emptying your pockets or bank account.

Tools you will need for the roof or wall

If you are building wooden beds, either raised or on the roof floor, you will need a saw, hammer, nails or screws, measuring tape, ruler, screw drivers, pliers, and a lot of elbow grease. The most common tools needed to build a green wall are also

hammer, nails or screws, measuring tape, ruler, screw drivers, pliers, cord or small ropes and a more elbow grease.

Tools needed to prepare the substrate

You may buy ready made substrate in a greenery, nursery or at the plant section of many department stores. But you can prepare your own soil mix if you have a compost pile and soil from your garden or any place you can access to. To prepare the substrate you will need a pick, shovel, garden shovel, rack, gloves, goggles, filter (I suggest N95), tarp or a heavy duty cloth for preparing the soil mix. If you can ger good soil you only need to add about 10% of compost by volume, but if you have a poor quality soil you will need to add up to 25% compost. Just spread the soli over the tarp, add the compost and mix it well, add some water, buy do not soak it and you are done.

Next, start filling out the pots, beds or any containers to be used. That’s all folks!

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many advantages of having a green roof and/or green wall, the main ones being:

  • Growing your own, healthy vegetables and fruits, or ornamental plants
  • Saving money on produce
  • Beautifying your home
  • Adding up natural insulation to your roof and/or walls
  • Developing a new “hobby” for your family
  • Relax from busy life
  • Help re-greening the planet
  • Help mitigating climate change
  • Etc, etc. etc,,,

    2 thoughts on “Growing green roofs and green walls – DIY easy construction.”

    1. Hello Eugenio,

      Thank you so such for the interesting, informative and authoritative article. It is really beyond me after seeing what you recommend why everyone should not have either a green roof or a green wall if not an offset fence. I understand there are calculations required fro the green roof where everything from soil mixture to ensuring that the roof is built sufficiently robust to take the load of the green in the sky, however with a bit confidence it really isn’t that much of a challenge so far as bearing weight and waterproofing through membranes is concerned. Your instructions are quite clear and one can always practice on a shed roof to get the hang of things and get the confidence to confidently tackle the roof. The same goes for the wall so far as again instructions are followed. The offset fence couldn’t be simpler even for someone who is not confident with any building whatsoever yet look at the result. The beautification alone is sufficient let alone the shade, fresher air and the many other benefits mentioned to the immediate surroundings. I totally enjoyed the simple way you have advised someone should go about these jobs and I am certainly going to give them a go. Thank you so much much again for the interesting eye opener.

      Rami.

    2. Thank you for your kind words Rami. I am glad you found this post useful and informative. I will keep you posted when I have new articles my friend.
      Eugenio.

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