Gardens Grow Up: Vertical Gardening Gains Ground

Verti-Gro systems are available for consumers to purchase.

A plot of land, an acre or two. Isn’t that all you need to start a farm? Maybe you just have a 10-foot by 10-foot area in your backyard. You can start growing a few vegetables and herbs, but just those that can fit in the space you have.

Not anymore. Agriculturists, both professional and amateur, have realized that plants don’t have to grow in the ground. It may sound revolutionary—and it is! And for more reasons than just because it looks cool to see plants growing in towers or on walls instead of in the ground.

Todd & Alex of Montecito Urban Farms. Photo courtesy & © Montecito Urban Farms.

Vertical gardening could dramatically change the way the world grows food. Did you know that by growing plants in towers, you can harvest the same amount of food you would from a plot of land seven times the size? Most vertical garden towers only need an area of 2.5 square feet. And vertical gardening requires up to 90 percent less water than traditional farming—can you imagine what that means for developing countries with little water and where fresh produce is difficult to grow?

That revolution may take some time to materialize, but in the meantime we can use vertical gardening in our own homes, apartments, condos and other living spaces—even schools and community centers! Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to go out on an apartment balcony or an inner city school yard and pick lettuce, kale, tomatoes and cucumber, to name a few, for a salad? It is not fantasy—it’s a reality.

If you’re handy with a hammer and keen on building things, then take a look at Sunset Magazine’s how-to on building a vertical garden tower. But for those of us who are happier getting something pre-assembled, there are plenty of options.

Alegría Fresh, a vertical farm in Laguna Beach, has vertical gardening systems available for purchase. Photo © Alegría Fresh

Most vertical gardens on the market use a variety of materials to support the plant life, but none use soil. This means that the produce you grow via your garden tower will be better than organic. For example, the towers from Montecito Urban Farms use an aquaponic system, delivering the nutrients the plants require for growth directly to the roots, eliminating the need for soil. Alegría Fresh, a vertical garden farm in Laguna Beach, California, uses coconut “coir” or husk fibers to root the plants and a hydroponic watering system. Verti-Gro also uses hydroponics to feed the plants in their tower systems. There are even small wall systems that are perfect for small balconies or indoor growing, which would be a boon for those living in cold-winter areas. All systems allow for rapid plant growth and yields, as the plants don’t have to push through the soil to find nutrients, and provide a better crop quality than even organic farming or gardening methods can achieve.

All vertical gardening systems are easy to use even for the most novice gardener, and remove most of the backbreaking work of digging, turning, fertilizing and watering the soil. One of the best benefits is that the systems reduce the number of insects and other garden pests to almost zero.

Where do these amazing vertical growing towers go from here? The owners of Montecito Urban Farms and Alegría Farms have seen the future. Montecito Urban Farms grow these top-notch leafy greens and vegetables for local restaurants, while Alegría Farms provide a delivery service for local subscribers who want to receive produce literally picked that day. That’s fresher than the farmer’s market!

At Go Raw we are dedicated to the freshest ingredients in our products, and are so happy to see an evolution of traditional farming methods. And we all know that the longer a tomato, a bunch of lettuce or green beans sit around, the more nutrients and enzymes they lose. That’s why fresh food is so important, and what could be fresher than picking it from your own garden? With this new technology, you don’t have to have a lot of space to have a productive garden.

Do you have a home garden? What do you think of these vertical garden towers? If you could have a vertical garden, what would you plant in it? What’s your favorite salad green?

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