Retaining Wall Gardens:

I have always been a great student of what can be accomplished or created with living retaining wall blocks. Recently I was contacted by an old acquaintance on the East Coast that had installed one of my concrete, living retaining wall systems. These blocks were designed more than 15 years ago and there are certainly plenty of walls out there with this particular system. This application is noteworthy because the client (Matt) installed it specifically to be used as edible garden space in his yard.

The block wall system has a very large fill receiving pocket and Matt selected a locally produced compost to fill the pockets in the block as it was built. Then planted only edible garden vegetables in those pockets for the living portion of it. We’ve been in touch over the last couple of years and I let him know I would love to see more information so that I could make it the subject of a blog post.

Retaining Wall Garden picture collage

Retaining Wall Garden Collage

Pictures say it all:

He sent me some photographs from the early spring when he had just planted it for the season and then just a few days ago to show me the mature garden plants that he was harvesting. I always say it’s a blast for me to create a product or system and then to see what happens when it gets in the hands of a creative individual. It’s the customers or end users that really make the products showcase their true potential and, in this case, I could not be more enamored with a structural retaining wall, holding up the embankment and doing its job, while also providing beauty, food and habitat for the residents and their surroundings.

Living Retaining Wall planting

Spring Garden Wall

Grown-in garden retaining wall

Summer harvest garden wall

Details from the wall gardener:

“We are growing green beans, basil, zucchini, crooked neck squash, cherry tomatoes, green onions, red onions, 2 types of lettuce, 2 types of kale, dill, strawberries, yellow peppers, cucumbers, pickling cucumbers and cilantro”.

“All of the water run-off from one side of the house is captured, and then released into the wall to both irrigate the plants and filter the run-off”.

Maximum Benefit:

I would say that Matt is getting the maximum benefit out of a needed structural improvement with this project! I post this because I feel like many of our current and future customers installing our Varden P100 living retaining wall modules can gain some inspiration from this project.

There are so many ways to plant a living retaining wall and most planting plans are built around the local climate with regional perennials, focusing on landscape beauty while also minimizing maintenance. Here is a link to previous blogs on the topic. This garden wall project pushes the limits of functionality in a green building product. Why would anyone want to use a block that was not plantable??

Enjoy the pictures and send us your comments because this one should be fun to build a conversation around as the season continues and even as it gets re-planted for the next gardening season.

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About the Author: Mark Woolbright

Mark Woolbright is an inventor and innovator of living walls with over 30 years in design, manufacture, marketing, and installation of plantable, living wall systems. Mark graduated from Eastern Illinois University and is currently Managing Member of Greenwall Ventures, LLC, and most recently, CEO/Founder of Verdtech, Inc. Throughout his career, he has been awarded twelve patents, with more applications pending. Mark has served on the Board of the St. Louis USGBC, as a member of the Green Wall Committee of GRHC which develops course curriculum for its Green Walls 101 course and is a certified Biophilic Design trainer through GPGB. He is passionate about educating the building community on the environmental benefits of Living Walls and best practices for their use. If you have questions on living walls, contact Mark at (314) 279-8905 or View his creations and services at