When I experienced vertical gardening for the first time in my backyard in 2011, I knew I was on to something. Although clumsy at the beginning, my results were already superior to what I could have expected from a regular garden or raised beds. Starting with shoe organizer vertical planters, I changed to rain gutters fixed to my fence. Then, I developed an A-frame model to grow lettuce, herbs, as well as a wide variety of vegetables.
The A-frame became my most productive tool for growing vertically. In 2015-16, I was growing enough to sell my yields and make a living out of it. Two years later, I expanded my backyard project to a 37,000 sq.-ft. vertical farm. My revenues kept on growing while providing some of the lowest prices for chemical and pesticide-free local produce. You can find out more about my story in another article.
From my 10 years of experience as a grower and an entrepreneur, here are the 5 ultimate reasons that make vertical gardening THE most efficient way to grow food, hassle-free.
1. It reduces the need for weeding
Weeding is daunting, everyone knows that. Weeds compromise crop growth and yields, thus contributing to increased operation costs. In other words, weeding is for those who don’t know better. When growing vertically, from a shoe organizer vertical planter or in rain gutters, weeds have no room to compete with crops.
The loose rich soil in the rain gutter allows your cultivars to grow stronger and faster. With six-inch spacing between each plant, weeds have no time and space to develop. As an example, growing garlic in a field normally requires constant weeding. The thin blades don’t provide a ground cover extensive enough to smother weeds. That’s why local organic garlic is so freakin’ expensive. It requires too much work.
When growing garlic in a rain gutter, you plant and water, feed, and harvest. That’s it! It’s so easy that I almost feel guilty about it. With a 95% reduction in weeds, the need for herbicides or any other harmful chemicals becomes totally irrelevant.
2. It reduces pest pressure
On less than an acre, my annual yields for each crop can be calculated in metric tons. From all those outputs, very few leaves or fruits get damaged by slugs, snails, or other insects and diseases. Even delicate crops such as spring mix can thrive without worries.
Pests and diseases start at the soil level. By growing above the ground, it is less accessible to pests. Growing in shoe organizer planters or in rain gutter reduces pest pressure by 95%. For slugs, snails, and other insects, it requires too much effort to reach the food and increases their exposure to predators.
As pests often carry diseases when feeding on crops, the risks of exposure are reduced as well. If you can, try to attract beneficial predator bugs such as ladybugs, spiders or wasps. They will take care of the few bad bugs, who were able to make it to the crops.
No pesticides required, EVER!!! Not only do they wipe out the bad bugs, but the good ones too. Although vertical gardening mitigates most of the work related to pest control, I still recommend regular visual inspections. It helps to identify and quickly eradicate the problem if you find one.
3. Easy maintenance
Once the weeds and pest problems are out of the way, irrigation remains a significant task to mitigate. When growing in shoe organizer planters, watering by hand is still manageable. However, once you start using rain gutters on a fence or on an A-frame, watering is burdensome.
I use dripping tape, connected to a water main. Each row of a rain gutter on the fence or A-frame has its own valve. It can be activated when necessary to meet the water needs in a targeted manner.
With such an irrigation system, visual inspections will be the only thing left to do before the next task. Therefore, you’ll only need to pull out a long-chair and have a few cocktails until harvest day.
4. Fast and simple harvests
Either on a small scale such as a backyard or on a one-acre farm, you’ll never have to kneel or bend completely to harvest. It drastically improves the harvesting speed while reducing the required physical efforts. It’s almost like having an open-air grocery store at reach.
At my farm, each row fits exactly one pallet’s worth of lettuce heads. Rows’ widths are made to accommodate the ATV and trailer combo, for a quick and efficient harvesting process.
By having our vertical installations nearby our cooler, we can field pack and quickly get the product cooled to improve quality. Once our pallet is chilled down to 38F, produce can make their way to clients. Such effortless rapidity could allow a small-scale urban farming business to complete a farm-to-table cycle the same day. Now that’s how you bring real value to your customers: better, fresher, faster!
5. Higher yields
At the end of the day, what matters the most is the input versus output metrics. With the A-frame vertical garden, you can expect a minimum of work per square foot with maximum production.
Growing vertical is so efficient and productive per square feet that it makes conventional gardening obsolete.
Growing in rain gutters does not compromise variety. Many root vegetables such as beets, radishes, Paris ball-shaped carrots, and onions thrive in such conditions. Common knowledge would say that crops such as bell peppers and eggplants require lots of space for roots. Well, guess what, they thrive in rain gutters. On a similar space, you’ll get up to 5 times the yield of conventional farming, for a fraction of the work.
Finally, Albion strawberries are the cultivar that produces the best quality berries and yields in the rain gutters. Who needs to pay 6$ a pound for organic strawberries when you can grow them at home for pennies?
What fruits and vegetables can grow in a vertical garden?
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of the food you can grow in a vertical garden.
- Albion strawberries
- A wide variety of lettuces (Spring mix, Rosaine, Cegolaine, Little gem, Romaine, etc.)
- Mini eggplants (purple, white and striped)
- Bell peppers
- Hot peppers
- Swiss chard
- A wide variety of herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro, chives, dill, rosemary, oregano, etc.)
- Bush beans (green and yellow)
- Sweet peas
- Paris ball-shaped carrots
- Green onions
- Red onions
Takeaways on vertical gardening
Most of the vertical growing system will do more than conventional gardening. However, the A-frame stands out and truly belongs in the major leagues of vertical gardening.
All labor-intensive tasks of conventional farming have been stripped out. Only the two most important tasks remain: planting and harvesting. This is ideal for the hobbyist or for small-scale market farmers.
Get higher yields for over 30 different crops, at a fraction of the cost, work, space, and resources needed for conventional gardening.
It has higher yields and requires less work than any other system, with a 95% reduction in weeds, pest pressure, and water usage. If done correctly, you’ll get nothing less than crops that grow on their own. A perfect set up that can be developed in urban settings, where space is limited.
If done correctly, you’ll get nothing less than crops that grow on their own.
Do you want to grow your own food or start a smale-scale urban agriculture business? I can help you!
About the author
Khaled AKA ThePlantCharmer has dedicated himself to developing the most productive organic vertical gardening model in the world. His work and innovations have made self-sufficiency in organic produce possible using less land, resources, and labor than ever before. He is the founder and CEO of In.Genius Farms, located in Laval, Qc, Canada. Follow him on Instagram and YouTube.