In 1938, Professor Stanley Hart White introduced the Vegetation-bearing Architectonic Structure and System, now known as the Vertical Garden. This system allows people to grow and harvest their food and benefit from self-sufficiency and better nutrition. In this blog, we’ll learn about the various benefits and challenges of vertical gardening.
The modern and popularized concept of vertical gardens is credited to French botanist Patrick Blanc, who has created green walls in various European spaces. This innovative and productive growing system utilizes bottom-up and top-down supports for various plants in small or large garden spaces. Now, let’s look at the various benefits and drawbacks of vertical gardening:
|Advantages of Vertical Gardening
|Disadvantages of Vertical Gardening
|Optimizes small spaces, providing privacy, enhancing aesthetics, and reducing pests and diseases.
|Setting it up is complex and requires expertise.
|Eliminates the need for frequent bending and kneeling.
|Has high upfront costs, ongoing operational expenses, and maintenance complexities.
|Acts as a natural sound barrier, absorbing noise and promoting a quieter environment.
|Indoor vertical farming requires 100% artificial light, leading to high electricity usage and bills.
|Maximizes plant growth in a smaller area and improves the quality of crops.
|Can get water-borne diseases or pests and requires careful management.
|Minimizes exposure to harmful chemicals and pesticides.
|Lack of insects in closed systems necessitates manual pollination.
|Filters air particles, aids in preventing soil erosion, and absorbs rainwater.
|City-based vertical farming lacks immediate processing infrastructure.
|Cools the air through evapotranspiration, leading to significant energy savings.
|Limited profitability with few plants.
|Creates habitats for birds, butterflies, and insects.
|May endanger traditional agriculture and impact rural livelihood.
|Eliminates concerns about proper waste disposal.
|Stacking plants restricts vertical spread and container setups may lead to dry plants.
|Boosts mental and physical health.
|Challenges in ensuring effective water supply and drainage.
Now, let’s go through the pros and cons of vertical gardening in detail.
Benefits of Vertical Gardening
A vertical garden, or green wall, can be attached to a building’s exterior or interior. Unlike a green facade, the plant’s roots are in structural support on the wall, receiving water and nutrients from within the vertical structure rather than the ground. This explains what is a vertical garden and how it works. The major benefits of vertical gardening are:
It is one of the top benefits of vertical gardening. Growing plants vertically maximize limited spaces like balconies, patios, or small gardens. Vertical gardening also creates privacy screens, enhances aesthetics, and lowers the risk of pest and disease issues by keeping plants elevated. With proper setup and care, you can vertically cultivate a variety of plants, including vegetables, herbs, and flowers, ensuring a plentiful harvest while optimizing your space.
Growing plants vertically eliminates the need for frequent bending and kneeling, especially challenging or painful for some. Accessing plants becomes easier, as they are elevated and within reach, reducing the necessity for stretching or straining. This makes gardening more enjoyable and accessible, promoting healthier and more active lifestyles for a broader range of individuals.
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This gardening arrangement offers improved accessibility, especially for those with limited space or mobility. It’s suitable for small patios, balconies, or indoor areas, allowing the cultivation of various plants in a compact space. Vertical gardens can be designed with accessibility in mind, enabling individuals using mobility aids like wheelchairs or walkers to easily reach their plants. Elevating the plants eliminates the need for bending or reaching, ensuring a comfortable and convenient gardening experience for everyone. This is another great advantage of vertical gardening.
Vertical gardens enhance your decor by creating unique and attractive living walls or screens that serve both function and visual appeal. Using colorful flowers, herbs, and plants, you can craft a stunning display that adds color and texture to your space. Additionally, vertical gardening can provide a sense of privacy, whether used to screen an unsightly view or create a cozy nook for relaxation. With the right plant and structure combination, vertical gardening becomes a beautiful and eye-catching addition to any space.
Growing an outdoor vertical garden can keep your home hidden from outsiders. Plant a vertical garden outside your windows, shielding your rooms from prying eyes. Vertical gardens also offer shade from sunlight and privacy from crowds and unruly neighbors.
Plants improve your physical health by producing oxygen and purifying the air, reducing respiratory issues and blood pressure. They protect against diseases and allergies caused by harmful gases, minimizing pollen exposure. Plants also raise humidity, preventing coughs by moisturizing mucous membranes, throat, and skin. For mental health, these gardens boost concentration, uplift mood, and reduce stress, providing a sense of relaxation and visual relief.
Plants are effective at absorbing sound waves, reducing noise pollution in your surroundings. Growing plants vertically creates a natural sound barrier, absorbing noise and promoting a quieter, more peaceful environment. This is particularly helpful for those living in noisy urban areas or near busy roads. This gardening technique can also lower indoor noise levels, making it an excellent addition to home offices or other areas where noise reduction is essential.
Growing plants vertically allows for better spacing, reducing the risk of overcrowding and improving airflow around them. Good air circulation is crucial to prevent fungal diseases and support healthy growth. Vertical gardening also enhances sunlight exposure, aiding leaf drying and preventing moisture buildup, further lowering the disease risk. With improved air circulation, your plants are more likely to thrive, resulting in a healthier and more productive garden.
Plants in a vertical garden filter air particles and turn carbon dioxide into oxygen. One square meter of plant space can produce a year’s supply of oxygen for a person and capture 130g of dust. For indoor spaces, opt for succulents, grasses, perennial shrubs, ferns, and herbs, as they thrive in small areas.
Vertical gardens absorb rainwater through plants, acting as a natural water reserve. This process slows down rainwater flowing into the sewer system, purifies it, and returns water to the ecosystem through evaporation. It stabilizes the groundwater level, lessens stress on the sewage system, and lowers the risk of flooding. These gardens are increasingly popular in large cities, not just for their visual appeal but also to balance the urban landscape, improving health and sustainability.
This gardening technique aids in less soil erosion compared to traditional methods. Growing plants vertically helps prevent erosion from heavy rain or wind. It also shields the soil from foot traffic that can compact and erode it. Using support structures like trellises or hanging baskets minimizes soil disturbance, preserving its nutrients. This reduction in soil erosion is one of the environmental benefits of vertical gardening that helps maintain healthy soil, preventing runoff that could contribute to water pollution.
Utilizing vertical space allows you to grow more plants in a smaller area, maximizing your yield per square foot. This arrangement also boosts exposure to sunlight and air circulation, promoting healthy growth and greater yields. By using trellises or other supports, you can train plants to grow in specific patterns, such as espalier or pruning methods, further enhancing their yield potential.
Growing your own vegetables and herbs provides control over growing conditions, ensuring your food is free from harmful chemicals and pesticides. This minimizes exposure to toxins and encourages healthier eating habits. Vertical gardening further reduces the risk of foodborne illnesses by enabling clean and controlled produce growth, lowering the potential for contamination.
Trellises for climbing plants slow down the spread of soilborne fungus and disease, maintaining plant health. Elevating vining vegetables and flowers off the ground reduces the likelihood of rot.
Raising plants above the ground also protects them from ground-dwelling pests. Growing vining plants on trellises makes it easier to shield them. You can use chicken wire or garden fencing to encircle each plant, protecting them from hungry animals. All this prevents diseases and pests in plants which is among the primary objectives of vertical gardening.
Plants in a vertical garden create habitats for birds, butterflies, and insects, especially in urban areas. Urban ecosystems, in general, support habitats for various species, contributing to increased biodiversity in the environment.
A lesser-known benefit of vertical gardens is their ability to cut energy costs. Both indoor and outdoor vertical gardens cool the air in the summer through a process called evapotranspiration. This process involves transporting water from the earth’s surface to the atmosphere through evaporation and transpiration.
External vertical walls can lower the wall surface temperature by up to 50°F, leading to significant energy savings and reduced air conditioning expenses.
In a shady garden, vining plants can grow upwards toward the sun, thriving better than if left to grow on the ground. This is one of the reasons why vertical gardening is important.
In a vertical garden, you can experiment with planting various types of plants, including decorative and vegetable plants, in rows to enhance the garden’s aesthetics. Additionally, maintaining a vertical garden is more convenient.
Growing vegetables vertically not only looks better but also improves the quality of your crops. When trellised, fruits grow straight due to gravity. This method also prevents unsightly yellow spots on heavier vegetables, which can happen when left on the ground. This farming process produces cleaner food by preventing soil splashing. Whether using containers or trellising vines, vertical gardening makes your garden healthier, improves crop quality, and reduces the time spent on weeding, feeding, spraying, and watering.
Having a vertical garden eliminates concerns about proper waste disposal. You can create a DIY vertical garden using various waste products like old shoes, a broken ladder, plastic bottles, an old basket, and more unexpected items. While benefiting humans, it also contributes to environmental protection.
Vertical gardening is a favorite because it makes garden upkeep much simpler. When using vertical containers, maintenance becomes easier as issues like weeds, ground-dwelling pests, and soilborne diseases practically disappear.
These were the major benefits of vertical gardening, now let’s look at the various challenges of vertical farming.
Also Read: 10 Advantages of Rainwater Harvesting
This farming is a promising technology, but alongside the numerous benefits of vertical gardening, it also comes with some drawbacks.
Setting up a vertical farm is a complex task, usually requiring an expert due to its hydroponic nature, involving factors different from conventional farming. Moreover, since vertical farming is a relatively new field, there are few people with experience, making it challenging to find qualified personnel. However, attempting hydroponic farming doesn’t always require experts. You can get started right away with this indoor greenhouse.
Investing in a profitable plant is complex and requires a high upfront cost. Therefore, careful planning is crucial in making decisions for the farm. Changing the concept after construction can lead to unexpected financial burdens. However, for your first farm, the investment doesn’t have to be large. Coco sticks and net baskets are inexpensive options to consider. This is one of the initial challenges of vertical farming.
It’s important to calculate running costs before constructing the plant. Skilled personnel are necessary to manage both the plant and plant health, but these personnel costs can potentially impact the economic profitability of the company. Optimizing space use is crucial due to the continuous harvesting and seeding of plants.
Considering the cost model for a vertical farm, it’s not just electricity and personnel expenses to think about. The plant’s high complexity and continuous operation mean components will wear out over time, requiring replacement or servicing which will further cost money.
Running a vertical farm entirely indoors requires providing 100% artificial light, leading to high electricity costs even with LED lamps. Considering a significant portion of our energy is still produced from coal, it raises questions about the sustainability of such a farm.
Also, check out Ways to Conserve Energy at Home
Vertical farming systems can face water-borne diseases or pests caused by harmful microbes in contaminated water. Once these microbes enter the water system, they can quickly spread among plants due to the interconnectedness of systems.
While vertical farms isolate plants from the external environment, this protection is not complete. It’s essential to carefully manage how crop inputs, packaging, and staff enter the growing area to minimize contamination risks. For instance, equipment operating near or above growing crops can pose a contamination risk.
While the closed system of a vertical farm prevents pests, it also means no insects are present. This creates a significant issue: pollination. In nature, various insects handle pollination by flying from flower to flower with pollen. In a vertical farm without these insects, pollination must be done manually to ensure a successful harvest. This task requires delicate handling.
Anyone producing and distributing food must comply with all local health or regulatory agency requirements. Failure to do so without prior notification can result in significant penalties. It is recommended to contact the relevant authorities beforehand to prevent misunderstandings.
While the future of vertical farming holds promise, the technology in this young industry is not yet mature. Currently, building a profitable plant requires significant time and investment. Those opting for vertical farming early may have an advantage but must also acknowledge the current high costs.
The concept of city-based vertical farming, saving on transportation and reducing food waste, is appealing. Unfortunately, there’s usually a lack of infrastructure for immediate processing of the harvest. Consequently, the plants often need to be transported several kilometers for packaging. For this technology to be truly sustainable and environmentally friendly, the infrastructure supporting vertical farming must also expand.
Regrettably, only a few plants thrive well in vertical farms due to the relatively high growing costs. Inexpensive foods like potatoes are not economically viable (yet). Therefore, the current focus should be on selecting plants with high economic potential.
Vertical farming faces a challenge due to its significant reliance on technology. A failure in the irrigation system or electricity can result in substantial damage to the plants. Hence, it’s advisable to implement multiple safeguards for the connected technology to prevent a complete failure.
In numerous rural areas, people heavily rely on traditional agriculture. If we were to abruptly shift entirely to vertical farming, many farms could face extinction.
While vertical farming creates new jobs, there should be opportunities for farmers to participate through retraining or conversion.
Stacking plants vertically restricts their vertical spread. Using large plant pots may encourage rapid growth, exceeding the intended setup and limiting their size. In more severe cases, these plants can wither and wilt, ultimately leading to the plant’s death.
Vertical farming faces a significant challenge in replacing the cultivation of tall field crops and other protein-rich plants. These crops don’t fit well into vertical farming systems, and even if they did, the economic feasibility is currently not supportive. This poses a major hurdle for vertical farming to address, especially since a large portion of global farming is dedicated to tall field crops like wheat and soybeans. While vertical farming can substitute traditional field farming for small horticultural crops, it’s not feasible for large-scale field farming.
Calorie density gauges the number of calories a food provides in relation to its size. Currently, crops from vertical farms have low caloric density. For instance, 100g of lettuce and spinach offer only 15 and 23 calories, respectively. The British National Health Service (NHS) suggests 2500 daily calories for men and 2000 for women. This indicates that vertically grown food contributes a small portion to daily calorie needs, showing that, as it stands, vertical farming cannot fulfill all the nutritional requirements of an adult.
Plants can become dry when kept away from direct sunlight and rain, especially in container setups. Unlike ground-bound plants, container plants may struggle to absorb enough water, leading to dryness. To retain soil moisture, manage the temperature and lighting in the vertical setup.
Before opting for a living green wall in your new home, think about the extra maintenance it will need. While indoor vertical gardens can create a peaceful atmosphere, if the upkeep becomes too much for a stress-free life, they may not be the right choice.
Even if you enjoy caring for plants, consider if the added work and maintenance are something you want to commit to. Neglecting long-term upkeep is a mistake to avoid with indoor vertical gardens.
Selecting suitable plants for your indoor vertical garden is crucial. Fast-growing, invasive species and certain climbing vines can rapidly get out of control if not managed.
Improper care can result in damage to your new home’s walls, trim, or ceiling. Also, be cautious as some plants may be toxic to children and pets. Consider this when planning your vertical wall garden.
Simultaneously, the space for the vertical garden in your home must be prepared well to prevent moisture damage. This might involve implementing waterproofing measures around the vertical garden. These factors can result in ongoing challenges and additional expenses, which should be considered alongside the benefits of vertical wall gardens. This sums up all the major vertical garden advantages and disadvantages.
To sum up, vertical gardening is a one-time investment that lets you enjoy 100% organic produce. As mentioned earlier, the advantages of vertical gardening outweigh the disadvantages. Once you grasp your garden’s requirements, setting up your vertical arrangement is a quick process.