What Is Vertical Gardening?

The perfect way to increase your possible food production in a small space without reducing harvest quality! While square foot gardening has its uses, vertical gardening gives plants better air flow, which in turn, reduces pest and disease issues. Better still, you’re not limited to growing in soil. In fact, you don’t need any ground space at all!

vertical gardening

Vertical gardening means growing up, not out. Anyone on a tight budget will find it wonderful that it’s possible to build your own vertical gardening system, whether they want to grow food in traditional container mixes or turn it up a notch and apply technological advancements to the way they grow fresh, pesticide-free food. It can best be accomplished in vertical garden structures designed for soilless growing, both indoors and out. More advanced forms of growing crops vertically take advantage of hydroponic, aquaponic, or aeroponic systems.

Best of all, it is what you make of it. Be that growing fresh organic food for yourself in soil or recycled bottle garden on the balcony. A simple hydroponic tower garden or two on the deck in summer that move indoors to continue giving you food over the long, cold winter. It lends itself well to larger installations, like a living wall, in a community garden that can feed the neighborhood. Maintaining a small forest of tower gardens can help school kids learn where food comes from, or local charities bring healthier eating to those in need.

But the possibilities – don’t stop there.

Vertical gardening is highly scalable. And when you apply advanced technology to soilless growing methods, you can easily turn it into a massive hydroponic or aquaponic vertical farm in a warehouse that can supply a whole city with food. One can grow acres and acres of leafy greens, herbs, and other shorter food crops in multi-tiered stacks of all trough and tray loving crops… in a small fraction of the space required when grown in the ground. Hydroponic towers also work great for growing strawberries, as many small farms discover, switching from labor-intensive field-growing to towers for both U-pick and commercial production.

While most plants grow very well in vertical gardening, they don’t all behave properly for the situation. And one must plan how to plant a living wall, garden tower, and even a pocket garden. You want the shortest plants on top, gradually getting taller as you work toward the bottom. Or grow one crop per unit. Why? Larger plants above smaller ones cast shadows, cutting the amount of light they receive. Food plants don’t perform well in the shade. If you must grow big plants, put them on the bottom row, though vining plants still require trellising which doesn’t pair well with growing sideways.

Hydroponic and Aquaponic Vertical Gardening

On a commercially produced scale, hydroponic and aquaponic vertical gardening works just as well in the city as it does on a rural farm. You can grow this way year round indoors or seasonally outside. Tiers of plants growing horizontally are easily made on site from PVC pipe and a basic recirculating system, like NFT.

Other growers employ an ebb and flood system in trays stacked from floor to ceiling, growing anything from livestock fodder to lettuces, microgreens, or cilantro under lights. And then there’s the vertical hanging tower designed by Bright Agrotech that allows growing, even more, plants per square foot: in a greenhouse, a shipping container, on a rooftop, or wherever that itch to grow takes root. These are easily transported to market without harvesting the plant until it’s sold to a consumer!

Image Courtesy of Luisgopa, iCreative,  Tower Garden, and Bright Agrotech (respectively).

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Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine

Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.