Vertical gardens, or plants on walls, offer a unique and cost effective opportunity for assisted and senior living communities to improve nutrition, meal taste and prestige. By providing a convenient method for growing and harvesting produce developers and mangers can provide their chefs with low cost fresh herbs and produce that enhances the quality and presentation of the food they prepare. Living walls are a highly visible symbol of management’s commitment to providing their residents with fresh, healthy and delicious diet fare.
One company from West Michigan recognized the market readiness for a planted green wall system that was designed to easily grow healthy plants that would provide and abundant harvest of edibles. Dave MacKenzie, president and founder of LveWall and LiveRoof, explained that the available living wall solutions may have looked pretty for marketing photos, but failed to provide for basic plant needs, which resulted in the plant’s steady decline. “It was a long road to simplicity,” states MacKenzie. “It took years of research and testing to develop a system that is designed to last and to provide a positive payback.”
The resulting LiveWall system offers a simply installed, easily maintained, and high producing green wall. The first commercial LiveWall was successfully installed in April 2012 at the Grand Pines Assisted Living Center in Grand Haven, MI. President Scott Reenders is so impressed with the vertical garden that he plans to implement similar projects at several of his other facilities this spring.
“It made the front page of our local paper,” Reenders said. “You cannot buy publicity like that. The promotional value alone would have made the green wall worthwhile but we also benefit from the large volume of herbs that we harvest from our wall, year after year.” Reenders estimates that his wall yields about one ounce of herbs and greens per square foot per week during the growing season.
With wholesale herb prices of $1 to $3 pe3r ounce, a green wall can produce anywhere from $25 to $150 per square foot of fresh produce annually. Factor in the waste reduction that comes with only cutting what is needed and the expense saved in transportation, and the wall produces enough to pay for itself in herbs alone in two years or less.
The word of mouth value of a living wall cannot be underestimated. “Our living wall is near our office entrance” said Reenders, “showing every prospective resident and their family that our facilities are different, that we care enough to provide fresh food. Our LiveWall serves as a direct reflection of how we care about their other lifestyle issues, too.” In fact, the LiveWall routinely receives high marks in surveys completed by residents and family members.
Aaron Shapiro, the facility’s chef, said he only had one complaint, joking, “There are so many herbs,” he said, “I’ve had to come up with new recipes.” He added that the Grand Pines healthy menu is salt-free, and the herbs greatly enhance the meals. When not in season, he harvests the herbs and dries them for use throughout the year. “Our favorite part of each day,” Shapiro said, “is heading out to our LiveWall to harvest fresh herbs.”
LiveScreen is a fully assembled version of LiveWall which is wheel-mounted for easy access and moving. “We are also using LiveScreen at several of our other facilities this spring,” Reenders said. “In addition, we ordered wall planter inserts fully grown with popular, more expensive herbs such as rosemary and oregano, so we can start cooking with them as soon as they arrive.”
LiveWall, LLC will showcase its living walls solutions at this year’s Assisted Living Federation of America annual conference and exhibition in Charlotte, N.C. on May 7 and 8. In addition to enhancing chef prepared meals at senior and assisted living communities, LiveWall will promote living walls for resident enjoyment and therapy.
LiveWall is a vertical, green landscape wall system that makes it easy for anyone to create and maintain a beautiful, organic, sustainable garden no matter where the space, transforming ordinary walls into inspiring vertical landscapes. Designed to last decades and with a healthy regard for plants, the LiveWall planted wall system achieves simplicity and and sustainability in harmony with nature. The LiveWall system supports plants as nature intended, with roots growing down, stems and leaves growing up and the plants are watered with rain-like misters. Simple, effective and attractive, LiveWall is the result of four years of research and development by the professionals who created LiveRoof.