Vertical Gardening 101: Process, Challenges, Pros & Cons


A vertical garden, also referred to as a living green wall, wall garden or vegetal wall, is a garden that grows upwards with the help of support structures. You grow your greenery on vertically suspended panels either on a growing media or using hydroponics. You can design your system to be free standing or incorporate it to pre-existing structures.

Vertical gardens are especially attractive to urban dwellers who have limited space. These can be utilized by the urban poor living in populated areas or rented spaces. The technology is efficient, drastically cutting down on the perennial concerns of food insecurity.

Notably, a vertical garden is not limited to just the outdoors. You can incorporate a vertical arrangement into your interior spaces for that extra oomph.

Additionally, the plants introduce a natural airflow to your space and work well as natural air cleaners. You can also use these as noise buffers or privacy screens giving any building block a refreshing edge.

Types of vertical gardens

a)     A-Frame Gardens

These are shaped like the letter ‘A’. A pipe is place on each pole making an A-shaped structure. The pipes can, however, be configured to suit the type of balcony one has.

The A –Frame gardens are particularly effective for balconies that are extremely windy as the structure supports the set-up.

b)     Hanging Gardens

In this set-up, the crops dangle from a post or rooftop. You create a support system that will be able to hold the pots or pipes in place without interference from the wind. The structure should be sturdy enough to support the number of pots you intend on having.

c)     Tower Gardens

This is the most suitable for residents that only have a balcony to try out farming. The elongated nature of the system makes it possible to get a good harvest even with the limited spacing.

Video by Agri Buzz on YouTube.

Considerations when planning to erect a vertical garden

a)     Decide on the type of garden you want.

Other than the four mentioned above, there are lots of technologies coming up. For those tight on budget, you could consider going with a container-style garden. This involves simply attaching potted plants on a wall and displaying these according to your preferences.

Another option would be to go with a pocket garden. This involves utilizing an old pair of jeans or canvas. Here you’d create slots where you will input your seeds or seedlings.

b)     Think about placement

When it comes to vertical gardens, placement is only limited to your imagination. They provide more wiggle room allowing you to scatter these to fit your needs.

However, there are some things you need to consider. The direction of the sun and the amount of sun exposure you require for your plant of choice.

It is advisable to go for a sport with half-exposure as opposed to having you plants receive full sun or shade throughout the day.

c)     Choosing the plants

The choice of plant species for your vertical garden is largely dependent upon the climatic conditions of your locality. It is advised to go for plants that are light, those with a spreading channel of roots and finally go for evergreen plants.

Other considerations should be the geographical location of the site, the rate of air pollution in the locality, the shade, growing medium type and depth and the nutritional needs of the plants.

Also, consider the rate of plant growth and its susceptibility to strain as it will not be a natural agroecosystem.

Some other factors that will determine what you grow is the wind speed on your balcony, the amount and distribution of rain and the overall temperatures.

Video by GrowVeg on YouTube.

While these do not have anything to do with the plant itself, consider the purpose of your vertical garden. When you are doing it as an agribusiness project, go with plants with little nutritional requirements and shorter maturity periods.

Consider going for grasses and mosses especially if you live in areas that experience lots of air pollution.

Herbs would do great too in vertical gardens, especially when you go for a potted set-up. Lavender and rosemary do well on vertical gardens.

These do well especially on the spots of your garden where your setup receives full-sun throughout the day. Lettuce, coriander and oriental cabbages thrive in a set up where their water requirements are sufficiently addressed.

Consider plant species with tolerance to drought, intense wind exposure, solar radiation and extreme temperatures.

Automating your vertical garden set-up

For most city dwellers and commercial indoor agriculture entrepreneurs especially in this digital age, automation is the way to go.

Here, you will combine engineering and the overall design of the system.

When it comes to vertical gardens, one can choose to have the system exclusively run on their phone or have it only partly automated. You can have an automated drip irrigation system for your garden or combine this with manual watering.

For more advanced set ups, you can consider having robotic planting, maintenance and harvesting at the end of each farming cycle. This would be more exciting for urban agribusiness enthusiasts with a busy lifestyle.

Automation facilitates efficient inspection of plants for overall health, monitoring pests and diseases, and inspect moisture levels by adjusting the holding tank water levels as needed.

Advantages and Challenges of vertical gardening

Advantages of vertical gardens include:

a)     Improving of the local biodiversity

Vertical gardens provide biodiversity and habitat otherwise made difficult by urbanization. Including more plant varieties in your set-up further advances the creation of a healthier ecosystem, especially when the vertical gardens are incorporated in traditional farming systems.

b)     Sound isolation and privacy

Urban farming enthusiasts can get more than the financial ramifications of the vertical gardens. Those doing the vertical set-ups on their balconies can use them as sound barriers.

To enhance this feature, increase the depth of the growing media, use buffers when making the structures and plant evergreens.

c)     Increasing energy efficiency

Energy efficiency may not jump at someone looking to try make money with vertical gardens. Your vertical garden can improve thermal insulation during the cold months.

In this manner, the gardens will help you save on heating costs. To enhance thermal efficiency, go for fuller species and structures with insulation properties.

Challenges Facing Vertical Gardening

a)     Maintenance frequency

Much as automation is possible, vertical gardens still require frequent maintenance. This is, however, reliant upon the type of vertical garden, the plant species chosen, and the climatic conditions at the time.

Maintenance usually includes inspection of each of the plants to check for pests and weeds, uprooting infected or older plants and inspecting the irrigation system as well.

Notably, maintenance required for a vertical garden is more difficulty than doing the same for the horizontal gardens.

b)     High costs

Regardless of the set-up, vertical gardens generally come with significant cost implications. Elements such as the isolation material, irrigation system components, plant growth media and drainage systems cost quite some money.

Additionally, you have to consider the routine maintenance costs which may build up depending on the species.

c)     Irrigation system problems

The first component of any vertical garden set up that fails to work is the irrigation system. For most automated set-ups, the drip irrigation system usually fails requiring extra maintenance.

To troubleshoot this, ensure no soil gets into the waterway. Have the automated system checked out to prevent overflows that could drown the seedlings or seed during the early growth period.

What You Can Do About Vertical Gardening

Urban population growth as a result of rural-urban migration has put a strain on the availability of food for the growing masses.

Precision agriculture is the way to go and vertical gardening is just one of these technologies. These efficiently use limited space as well as providing urban settlers with simple small-scale means to grow their own food.

Fortunately, you can scale up the technology and produce nutritious food despite the space constraints.


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