Edible wall! Cinderblock wall vegetable garden wows at Big Red Sun

The cinderblock wall planter idea just keeps getting bigger and better. At Big Red Sun‘s recently reopened boutique nursery in east Austin, I spotted this edible wall planted in artistically stacked concrete blocks—a riff, perhaps, on the succulent wall at Potted that inspired my own succulent wall?

Jenn at Big Red Sun told me the edible wall is a temporary installation for the upcoming East Austin Studio Tour, and it’ll come down when the 9-day event is over. For the theme Homesteading Chic, the nursery is also showcasing an edible garden in a pocket planter, and a hydroponic set-up hangs in their front window, attracting curious passersby. A little more info can be found here on Big Red Sun’s blog.

But the cinderblock garden is what really caught my eye. It’s a vegetable garden. It’s a wall. It’s art. It’s a political statement.

It’s very cool. OK, so maybe it’s not the most practical way to grow vegetables, and if you tried this during an Austin summer your tomatoes would last about 30 minutes in such a shallow, heat-absorbing container (succulents work fine though). But as inspiration for gardening it’s fun and unique and makes for a great exhibit.

Check it out while you can. And don’t eat it all.

Coming soon: A tour of Austin’s reopened Big Red Sun Nursery.

All material © 2006-2011 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

20 Responses

  1. Jenny says:

    Interesting! I like yours better. As you say not practical at all. Why didn’t they put in succulents I wonder? Is that broken glass on the top of the wall? Reminded me of England where you see lots of walls with broken glass cemented on the top, to act as a deterrent to those who would like to climb over. Glad that Big Red Sun is back. Need to pay them a visit.

    They put in vegetables because of the theme for E.A.S.T: Homesteading Chic and Guerrilla Gardening. Like I said, they have several other unusual vegetable displays as well. I’ve seen broken glass atop walls in Mexico for a security barrier, like you said, and assume they are riffing on that—and maybe they want the security too. —Pam

  2. Darla says:

    Now that’s a unique spin on the block wall container isn’t it? Imagine trying to keep all of those little pockets watered. And to have to take in down in 9 days? Sheesh!

    Yes, I’d never seen vegetables planted this way and thought it was a fun, attractive display. It would have to be temporary though because of the impracticality of it. I’m sure they’ll come up with something else to delight and inspire in its place. —Pam

  3. How cool is that. How do people come up with these neat ideas?

    They are very creative, aren’t they? And they might have seen this idea online, as many of us have. —Pam

  4. That is very cool! Are those broken, blue bottles on the top? They look pretty..:)

    Yep, those are broken bottles cemented on top of the wall. A pretty security measure, I assume. I saw lots of this in Mexico when I was there a few years ago. —Pam

  5. I like the visual drama they created by doing the CMU planters in a big length, and I wonder if it is intended for seasonal or annual displays? That would make more sense. For cool season vegetables this seems perfect, and when the Death Star returns to rule, they might change out to heat-tolerant succulents.

    The broken glass on the wall cap is like some their bowl/pedestal planter rims – oh yeah!

    The liability issue is real, regarding the height and potential instability, as stated in the comments on the link you provided. Seems such limits must be considered in heights, accessibility, etc. But the nursery may have fastened and stabilized the CMU planters, including using the wall/fencing behind it?

    Political – not sure I see that!

    Hi, David. The political aspect comes from their own positioning of the display as part of the guerrilla gardening movement. I figure anytime grenades are pictured prominently in publicity art, there’s politics involved. :-)

    I believe Jenn told me that the entire display will come down after the E.A.S.T. event. I don’t know how it was constructed. —Pam

  6. Scott Weber says:

    Wow…that’s commitment to an idea! I’ve toyed with this idea as well (on a much smaller scale…and definitely of the succulent variety)!

    It’s a fun idea. I’m curious to see how and where it will pop up next. —Pam

  7. I love it. I think it would be better suited to herbs which can stand the heat and require excellent drainage. It also makes sense when you place the block so that water from the top drips down to plants beneath — this is a strategy I use a lot when watering my own potted plants. I put little pots inside larger ones so that the excess water from the small pots drips down to the big pot.

    Never waste a drop.

    A smart watering strategy for dry times. —Pam

  8. Pam, how come the soil doesn’t fall through?

    They put screening in the bottom. Check out my post about my succulent wall’s construction. —Pam

  9. commonweeder says:

    What a great installation. Just fabulous. Food and Art!

    Yum on both counts! —Pam

  10. Love it. This will make that landscape designer in the Bay Area’s head explode. I love Big Red Sun. Plan on being in Austin for the Art from the Ashes exhibit in the spring and will definitely see the new nursery. Thanks!

    Who is the landscape designer you’re referring to, Annette? Seems like there are so many there! It’s great that you’ll be in Austin next spring for Art from the Ashes. Is Potted taking part in the exhibit? —Pam

  11. This incarnation is impressive. Not that yours, Pam, is any the less so! In fact, I was just looking at a similar pic to yours yesterday, and wondering how I could translate the idea into a very low (just 2 or 3 high) wall to separate a planting bed from a patio area…

    Mine is very low too, which makes it a whole lot easier to construct. Have fun putting your own stamp on this idea! —Pam

  12. Jordi says:

    great and practical results have given me a great idea for a corner of my garden
    Un Saludo

    Terrific—have fun with it! —Pam

  13. Dewi says:

    Goodness me, such a wonderful design. Very creative indeed!

    Yes, it is. Original credit for the idea, so far as I know, goes to Annette Gutierrez at Potted in California. —Pam

  14. Gail says:

    Is that ever the coolest~Succulents would make it less of a maintenance issue but, for awhile cool season veggies could work. gail

    It’s fun, isn’t it, Gail? —Pam

  15. Michelle D. says:

    As I’ve said in the past, this is a terrifically innovative design. I LOVE IT, but to make it safe for both private and public consumption it has to be properly constructed and engineered so that no person or animal will be injured. You wouldn’t want to live in an unsafe house so why would you want any other unsafe structure around your family and property?
    As design professionals we have a responsibility to adhere to the UBC, that is the basic and first step, understanding your professional liabilities is the second. Great design does not have to suffer for the lack of good engineering. Newton had a great little thing going when he came up with F=ma.

    Safety considerations are always important when constructing walls. I have no idea how this one was constructed, but I know your general point is to remind people to construct with care and awareness of the risks. —Pam

  16. It is beautiful, even if somewhat impractical. I do wonder whether or not the concrete in the blocks may affect the soil composition somewhat, leaching excess lime into the containers. Still, artistically done, and the glass certainly looks much prettier than barbed wire!

    They’re definitely going for an industrial-chic look. As to the concern about lime, I can attest that in my own cinderblock succulent wall it hasn’t been a problem. For edibles, I don’t know. —Pam

  17. laguna dirt says:

    this looks great! so sculptural. for what it’s worth, i just built a raised vegetable garden bed on top of my concrete patio in southern california using concrete block. not too organic, but so far so good. i would love to see how these veggies are doing in about a month or two!
    here’ my garden (not as cool looking, and certainly not very organic, but it’s the best i got!): http://lagunadirt.blogspot.com/2011/11/diy-concrete-vegetable-garden.html#comments

    Thanks for the link, LD. I can’t comment on your post, so I’ll leave my comment here: Beautiful, and your new veggie garden is so handy right there on your patio. From garden to table in a few steps, right? I especially love rainbow chard, both to eat and just to look at. —Pam

  18. Suzi McCoy says:

    Great idea, Pam. May we use this photo in our trends report?

    I’ve sent you an email, Suzi. —Pam

  19. […] But stealing the show is a temporary vegetable garden wittily planted in a stacked cinderblock wall. Click for my post with more-detailed images of Big Red Sun’s vertical edible garden. […]

  20. Tristan says:

    How did you attach the screening to the bottom of the blocks?

    Let me refer you to my original post about my succulent wall, in which I explain, Tristan. —Pam