Grow Tomatoes On Your House's Walls

Build the perfect bed for juicy tomatoes, and use the wall of your house as vertical support.


| February/March 1993



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My tomato foliage heights of more than 10 feet, covering the entire west side of my home.


MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

I am an organic farmer who subscribes to the utilitarian in building design-especially when it comes to gardening. The simple, inexpensive project below not only provides food and income, but also the comfort and energy savings from the vast shading it offers. Believe me, living in a small home with little insulation on a somewhat spartan income has been a most powerful motivation. My only regret is not building this ecosystem 10 years ago, when this old house had no air conditioning. The whole project will cost you $75, and by selling your delicious home-growns, you'll more than make up for the cost.

Building the Frame  

Materials: -roll of plastic
-50' x 5' roll of 2" x 4" wire fencing
-small roll of bailing wire
-12 large washers and screws
Tools:
-wire cutters
-screwdriver (cordless drill)

Construction Method  

Start by spreading out a cheap roll of plastic around the base of your house for protection (it will be in direct contact with the tomato bed). By placing plastic between the ground and the bed, you will also keep the tomato roots from reaching non-organic residues such as lead-based paints. You may want to attach the house-side fencing edge to furring strips that are securely fastened to your house frame. Make sure that your gutter system is in good working order; the rain run off from your roof may be too much for your plants. This could cause tomato-cracking and soil nutrient wash-out. A couple of 55-gallon drums strategically placed to catch this run-off will ensure an ample supply of relatively pure water for your tomatoes. (If any of you have roofs that are coated with lead, consider the possibilities of toxins running off with rain water.) Each plant requires approximately two gallons weekly.

Next, choose a wall facing south, or even better-west. Contrary to popular opinion, tomatoes do better with some shade; they live longer and the fruit is tastier. Clear an area several yards away, along the length of this wall. Unroll the fencing along the length of it, placing a few bricks as you roll to keep the wire from recoiling. Next, pull up the fencing's edge (nearest your house) and attach it to the wall at a 24" height using screws, large washers, and your screwdriver. Space screws every four to five feet along the entire length of the wall. Then pull up the outside edge, securing the opposing edges together with baling wire and leaving a 12"-wide opening. Of course, you may vary these dimensions according to your needs and the particular layout of your home.

The basket-type bed you've just created will conform dimensionally to the weight of the growing medium, becoming wider and more cylindrical at the base. The ends of the bed are enclosed by cutting off the last vertical strand of the outer edge and then bending and securing the edges together with the exposed horizontal strands. Remember, the ground is to support the weight of the soil medium, not the house fastening points!

Filling the Basket (with organic growing medium)  

Materials:  





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