This guest article is written by Tom Corson-Knowles, founder of Authentic Health Coaching. Tom blogs regularly about whole food nutrition, vertical gardening, and other health topics.
I love eating raw foods and fresh produce. The problem is it can be hard to get! And it can be expensive. Growing your own fresh produce is an awesome way to save money and get higher quality, fresher produce that is organic and vine-ripened. The only problem is, over 70% of people live in cities. So how do you grow your own food in a city? Or if you don’t have enough land or space for a garden?
Well, for those of you who can’t grow a typical garden, now you can grow a vertical garden!
Many people credit Patrick Blanc as the inventor of vertical gardening, but the truth is that vertical gardens have been around at least since the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in 600 B.C. It’s quite likely that it dates back even further than that, but either way, vertical gardens have been few and far between. They’ve mostly been reserved for royalty, tourist attractions or novelties… until now.
Just in the last 5 years, vertical farming projects have popped up all over the world. More than 20 countries either now have a large vertical farm project completed or it’s in progress. So what does a vertical farm look like?
Here’s a graphic of a vertical farm project from Dickson Despommier’s landmark book The Vertical Farm.
When you look at it, you’re probably thinking, “I’m never going to build something like that!” Well, you don’t have too!
Home Vertical Gardening Kits
With recent advancements in aeroponics (a form of hydroponics where the plant roots sit in air instead of in water), there are now home growing vertical garden kits available for $500-$600. The kits generally have spots for 20-30 plants, depending on how big a unit you get.
With aeroponic growing, the crops generally grow 2-3 times faster than in soil because the roots can absorb nutrition much more quickly in an aeroponic environment and the plants don’t have to compete with pests or fungus or other organisms like they would in soil. This means that you can grow a tomato plant, for example, from seedling to hundreds of ripe tomatoes in just 4-6 weeks instead of 12-18 weeks in soil. So you can plant and harvest several times a year instead of just once!
On the right, you can see a chef from New York City harvesting squash from his vertical garden that he placed on the rooftop. Those squash plants are just 5 weeks old!
With a vertical garden kit, you can grow on rooftops, indoors, outdoors, just about anywhere! There’s even a large commercial vertical farm project being build in the Netherlands that is completely underground! The farm will be using grow lights instead of sunlight.
These commercial farms aren’t just environmentally motivated. Even though aeroponic vertical farms use 10% as much land and 90% less water than conventional growing in soil, these farms are mostly commercial ventures – and they are profitable. Likewise, as a homeowner with just one vertical gardening kit, for your $600 investment, you’ll probably be saving at least $50 a month in grocery bills, meaning your investment would “pay off” in a year or so.
Many of my friends who have been growing aeroponically have had such an abundance of food that they had to give away the extra to their neighbors and friends! For those of you who are entrepreneurial minded, you could also start a small side business selling the extra produce from your vertical garden.
So if you’ve been looking for a way to get more fresh produce, vertical gardening just might be your ticket to a healthier lifestyle – and a whole lot of tomatoes!