10 Plants That Are Fantastic for Vertical Farming
Vertical farming is a wonderful way to make the most of limited outdoor space. You can easily transform a small backyard or balcony into a thriving fruit and vegetable patch. Beyond their space-saving capability, there are additional advantages to vertical gardens; plants will receive much greater exposure to sun and oxygen and be protected from many garden pests, like slugs. What kind of produce should you plant in your vertical garden? Here are 10 excellent choices for vertical farming.
Tomatoes are a favorite among gardeners of almost every stripe. Easy to cultivate, they do well in a wide range of plant hardiness zones. Training your tomato vines to grow up a support system of stakes, trellises, or cages minimizes the garden space you need, while at the same time it safeguards your plants against soil-borne disease.
Peas, both the garden variety and snow peas, enjoy cool temperatures (70 degrees Fahrenheit at most). They do not need a great deal of water or fertilizer, but should be provided with a trellis or poles for climbing.
Cucumbers, zucchini and summer squash are ideal for a vertical garden because these three members of the cucurbit family all yield produce which is relatively lightweight and can be supported by a trellis. An interesting fringe benefit is that vertically farming this type of crop tends to result in straighter veggies.
Melons and winter squash species which produce fruit weighing up to 3 pounds are great in vertical gardens. They'll need a strong trellis – planting next to a chain link fence is ideal. As it ripens, support the fruit with a stretchy fabric sling (fashioned from a discarded T-shirt or pantyhose).
Kiwis are another vine which will add interesting variety to your vertical garden. Trellising gives kiwi plants access to the full sun they crave. Often thought of as a tropical fruit, kiwis are actually capable of thriving in Zone 8 to as far north as Zone 5, so you can even plant them in your Cleveland garden.
Hops are a type of vine which is often used as a decorative planting. However, the hop fruit is prized as a flavoring agent for beer, while the tender young shoots are served as a vegetable in European cuisine. Fast-growing hops can reach an impressive 25 feet in height and require a sturdy support system such as wooden poles.
Passion fruit is a tangy fruit which, depending on the variety, likes the warm weather of Zones 6 to 10. Prune the plant on a regular basis to encourage fruit development and watch that it doesn’t take over your garden. Even if passion fruit is too astringent for you to eat as is, it’s fantastic lightly sweetened and made into a simple sorbet – try mixing with strawberry or peach for a different flavor profile.
Green beans, in the form of pole beans, are simple to grow vertically in a small space and have a longer harvest season than the bush variety, offering you a steady supply of beans for several months. As the name suggests, they climb well on poles. Fasten with hemp twine, which can be composted together with your bean vines at the end of the growing season.
Corn, okra, Brussels sprouts, and sunflowers are ideal candidates for vertical farming. They naturally grow vertically and do not need any support. In fact, these tall plants can themselves serve as a support system for lightweight vines.
Greens like lettuce, kale, and basil also have a place in your vertical garden. Leafy herbs and salad greens prefer at least partial shade, so you can tuck them under large sun-loving plants. Or grow them in a shady corner using vertical planters created from pallets, stacked or hanging pots, shelves, or garden pockets.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.
Updated December 4, 2018.
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