What is a Vertical Garden?
A vertical garden is very similar to a vertical farm, which is the practice of producing food in vertically stacked layers, such as in a skyscraper, used warehouse, or shipping container. The modern ideas of vertical farming use indoor farming techniques and controlled-environment agriculture, or CEA technology, where all environmental factors can be controlled. These facilities utilize artificial control of light and environmental controls such as humidity, temperature, gases, and fertigation. Some vertical farms use techniques similar to greenhouses, where natural sunlight can be augmented with artificial lighting and metal reflectors.
The only real difference between a vertical farm and a vertical garden is that a vertical garden is set on a much smaller scale. This means that it is not going be in skyscraper, but rather, is more likely to be built in someone’s backyard, or in an urban setting, likely set as a small scale public decoration. For the individual, a vertical garden could include a broad mixture of herbs, spices, delicious vegetables, or even beautiful flowers. For the small scale urban setting, it will likely be an arrangement of flowers and shrubbery meant to engender a sense of comfort or provide a sense of color to an otherwise bland and gray urban color scheme. This setting may also include roaming vines. The vertical garden could also provide for a successful community garden.
Why Should You Grow a Vertical Garden?
There are a number of reasons why vertical gardening is for you. Old souls love to putter in the garden, but the oldest of souls usually complain about their backs and knees hurting. Vertical gardening enables you to grow veggies without ever bending over or getting on your knees again. You can grow vertically in plant pockets, hanging planters, stacking containers, recycled pallets, in stacked flower boxes, table garden systems, plant trees, in greenhouses on tables, and in upcycled ladders. If you can imagine it, you can grow it. You can also save space with a vertical garden, especially if you have no land or a very small yard. Grow up the side of your fence, on a wall, the deck, your balcony, in a greenhouse, or even inside in the garage. Some vertical garden systems are portable and can be moved from outside to indoors on wheeled apparatuses, which means that your garden can be moved inside during colder months. All you have to do is invest in a grow light. Vertical gardens make the idea of community gardens much more feasible, as they are much easier to set, require much smaller paces, and as mentioned, can even be grown indoors.
Vertical gardens also require much less work and time when making preparations, as there is no need to till or dig. They also use less water because in many vertical gardens, water is recycled through the planting system. There is also less chance that animals will be able to damage the garden, whether it be digging dogs, or hungry rabbits or deer. This is also an easier way to protect your plants from soil-borne pests. Vertical gardening is also easy and even more advantageous because you can move planters around to take advantage of beneficial conditions. There will be no problem with weeds, which will save you heaps of time that would have been spent pulling up random growth. This is made possible by the fact that little to no soil will be used. This will also make it possible for you to increase your average yield, especially with vegetables, as you will be able to relocate your garden to take advantage of better lighting and air conditions.
One of the greatest reasons of all for using a vertical garden is that it allows you to avoid the prying eyes of municipal authorities, those people forcing others to dig up gardens and destroy their food supply. Vertical gardening allows you to grow food in less obvious places, even under grow lights, out of site of the food police. Of course, there is also the fact that vertical gardening can return yields year round because of the nature of its portability.
Some Unique Things You Can Do On Your Own
Stackable Herb Tower
Unlike other garden tower projects which require nailing and drilling, this one turns out pretty easy and practical. Just stack different sizes of flower pots on top of each other. The inner pot in each layer is inverted as the base to support the outer pot for the upper layer. It is a great space saving solution thanks to its vertical planting structure.
Strawberry Tower from PVC Pipe
This requires that you, of course, plant during the appropriate season. First, you cut a set number of PVC pipes to the height that you desire your strawberry plants to grow. Additionally, you must provide openings for the plant to bud. You want to make sure to use a wide enough pipe so that you can put a watering tube down the middle of it. The most important aspect is location. You want to place your crafty device in an area where the plant will get the appropriate amount of sunlight and fresh air.
Vertical Pallet Garden on the Balcony
If you have a small balcony but still want to grow a lot of plants in the limited space, here’s the solution for you. Find a pallet and make a vertical pallet garden! For this project, you’ll need the pallet you found, two large bags of potting soil, sixteen six-packs of annual flowers, one six-pack per opening on the face of the pallet, and two six-packs per opening on the top of the completed pallet garden, a small roll of landscape fabric, a staple gun, staples, and sandpaper. The rest is pretty easy – plant like you would in the ground. The types of plants to grow can vary and can include vegetables.
Cinder Block Succulent Outdoor Planter
This is a smart and inexpensive way to add a wall planter feature to your backyard. You can also pretty much plant whichever small style plants you like. Collect enough cinder blocks, which can be purchased at your local hardware store, purchase a sufficient amount of potting soil, and then arrange the cinder blocks as you choose. The designs are rather liberal. Then use the openings in the cinder blocks like you would your normal planting pot.
Build a Vertical Herb Spiral Garden
Construction materials and methods vary. So, after deciding on the best position and gathering your materials, you can have one built the same day. You will need cardboard, without ink or tape, and a weed mat or gravel. This is optional but useful to kill weeds if building your spiral straight on top of your lawn. Alternatively, you may need a drill for drainage holes if you are building on concrete. You will also need a long stake. Secure a one meter length of string to the stake and tie it at the other end with a lightweight stake, bamboo cane, or chalk. Use this to draw a line on the ground to measure out the circle.
You will then need organic matter such as mushroom compost, worm castings, lucerne, coir peat, mulch, straw, or garden soil. These help build fertility to feed your garden long-term. Quantity depends on the diameter of your spiral. You will need compost to plant your herbs into. Preferably, it should be homemade so it will be full of living microorganisms or alternately, a certified organic compost. You will also need rock minerals and organic fertilizer to add nutrients to your soil. Additionally, you will also need mulch and pond materials if you intend for the spiral to have a self-watering system. Construction is relatively simple and will differ depending on your chosen style. Instructions can be found all over the Internet.
These are but a few of the many options available to you. A good Internet search will provide plenty more easy to do options.
A Community Garden?
The Center for Innovative Food Technology investigates alternative growing practices and methods allowing for unique production capacities for increased food production. One such example relates to a high density vertical growing system designed for non-traditional production locations. The system enables plants to grow in significantly smaller spaces and in varying ground covers from concrete to parking lots. The production potential can reach 1,500 to 2,000 pounds of strawberries per season and 1,500 to 2,000 heads of lettuce per month.
A vertical system can be constructed in various sizes from four stacks equating to eighty plants or upwards to a design for thousands of plants. The common reference is that in one acre this system supports plants that would traditionally require eight acres of farmland. The options are endless, from a small scale farm operation, to research in commercial production, or backyard gardening without soil. The vegetables or flowers are grown in a coconut potting medium with the primary purpose of holding in moisture and maintaining the root base. The plants use a hydroponic system enabling nutrient application to the plants. Any vegetables can be grown with the exception of root crops.
One can only image what this could do for communities around the world that suffer from food shortages. Imagine communities that have very little access to potable water, open land, or sufficient food supplies. They could organize a community-wide effort to grow the food stuffs that they are not able to purchase due to poor supply or monetary restrictions. If they cannot afford such a fancy system as is described above, there are other efforts that can be made to build a system that will provide for their needs. They could alleviate problems with poor nutrition, and possibly, even poverty, as they begin to sell their excess products to the communities around them. This could do a bit of work to help them escape the cyclical poverty that they tend to find themselves stuck in.