Introduction to vertical herb farming
Vertical herb farming is cultivating herb crops in vertically stacked layers and vertically inclined surfaces. Herbs are beautiful plants, versatile in the kitchen, and also easy to grow. You can grow a different variety of herbs from seed, starter plant, and even cuttings. In vertical farming, use structures or columnar trees to create garden rooms or define hidden spaces ready for discovery. Some vertical farms have conditions similar to greenhouses, using natural sunlight and mainly solar heating during the day. Other vertical farms are indoors, using artificial lighting and humidity and heating controls. The method of growing the plants in a vertical farm involves the following elements;
- Temperature control
- Humidity control
- Artificial lighting
- Control and monitoring of nutrients and fertilizer
A step by step guide to vertical herb farming, cultivation practices
When undertaking vertical agriculture as a small to medium business and planning is essential. You need to ensure that you can sell what you grow, and that production costs are not too high. The first step to ensuring this, therefore, is picking the right plants. For Vertical herb farming, the first challenge is a climate management challenge that vertical farmers must overcome is figuring out how much cooling, dehumidification and heating is required to manage the temperature and humidity of the grow space. The second biggest challenge is figuring out how to deliver the conditioned air everywhere within the vertical farm to make a uniform growing environment. Vertical farm space considerations aren’t limited to moving conditioned air through the racking system; they also contain where to put HVAC equipment. Depending on the design, HVAC equipment contains air conditioners, dehumidifiers, circulation fans, ductwork, chillers, boilers, pumps, and pipes. No matter what crop is grown in vertical farms, managing humidity control and air movement in a vertical farm is essential to plant productivity, harvesting schedules, quality control, and, ultimately, profitability.
Advantages of vertical herb farming
- The first and major advantage of vertical farming is producing extremely high yields per available land or area.
- Producing the food throughout the year without the risk of vagaries of nature such as floods, heavy rains, uneven rains, hail and snowfall, drought, dry spells, extremely high temperatures, cold waves, epidemics of pest and diseases, etc.
- Vertical farming reduces the cost of transporting loads of food grains from rural areas to urban areas and reduces the spoilage occurring therein. Fossil fuel consumption in transporting the farm produce to cities from village places is reduced to a greater extent.
- Vertical farming uses about 70 to 95% less water compared to traditional farming. 90%less or no soil is required in vertical farming and thereby no pest and disease infestations.
- Pesticide-free or organic food is formed as there is no use of pesticides. Due to the reduced food supply chain, consumers obtain fresh produce with all its original nutrient qualities.
- High productivity per unit area that means almost 80% more harvest per unit of area in vertical farming. It will lead to the greening of the urban areas and help to reduce the rising temperatures and mostly air pollution in cities.
Growing herbs in a sunny window
- If you fill up your vertical garden and still want more herbs, and you can always put them in a windowsill.
- Plants that love a lot of light and warmer temperature range will do best in a south-facing window because these get the most hours of sun during the winter. Rosemary, thyme, basil, bay, and oregano will do well here.
- Mint, parsley, chives, and chervil prefer cooler temperatures and do not require quite as much sun, so they will do better in east or west-facing windows, which get 6 hours of sunlight a day.
- You should avoid placing more delicate herbs such as basil in a window as cold air coming from the glass can damage the plant leaves.
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Best suitable herbs for vertical farming
Some popular herbs for vertical gardens are;
Coriander, parsley, basil, mint, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, nasturtium, salvia, lemongrass, chives, chili, tarragon, oregano, Vietnamese mint, fennel, chervil, dill, lovage, watercress, wild rocket, stevia (sugarbush) and ginger.
The types of herbs you select will depend on what you want to use them for. Some plants are better to be started from seeds, while others are difficult to grow that way and purchased from a garden center or nursery. You must always check for pests before you buy them. Aphids, spider mites, and scales are common on herb plants.
Basil is one of the most popular herbs in the world today and also a popular choice for small scale growing in urban environments. The plant growth will be stunted in small growing containers. This will be true even if you apply flawless water and nutrient solution in the form of compost or other organic matter. The common type of basil is sweet basil; other types contain purple basil (less sweet than common basil), lemon basil (lemon flavor), and Thai basil (licorice flavor). Basil plant will grow best in a location that gets 6 to 8 hours of full sun daily, though it can perform well in partial sun, too. The soil must be moist but well-drained. Basil plant works great in containers or raised beds, as these allow for better drainage.
Basil is another herb that is best if used fresh, particularly in soups, sauces, and fresh pesto. It likes a little humidity, so be sure when choosing a location and design for a vertical garden that you take this into consideration. Basil plants should be watered at the base of the plant, not on the leaves, to prevent rot. It must be started from seed and replanted every few weeks to keep a fresh supply.
Chives and mint
Chives and mint are some of the best vertical farming crops. Although categorized with herbs, both chives and mint have a quick turn and also produce densely like grass. It is easy to harvest and these herbs are some of the best crops for new vertical farmers to start with.
Chives are the perfect crop to cultivate in a vertical manner. Chives are made of slender hollow leaves that grow in clumps up to 12 inches tall. They have a garlicky flavor and best when used fresh. Harvest the plant leaves as needed and use them in savory dishes. Chives plants are considered a cool-season crop, which means that they grow best in the spring and fall. The harsher temperatures of summer cause them to go dormant until cool weather arrives again.
For a head start in colder regions, start seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost. Transplants require good growth before being set in the garden. Chives grow best in full sun, they will tolerate light shade. Soil needs to be moist, fertile, rich, and also well-draining. Before Chives planting, incorporate 4 to 6 inches of well-composted organic matter.
The lavender crop is very easy to grow vertically. The cultivation of lavender for profit can start lavender through seeds or cuttings. It can cover by a light layer of sifted soil. But growing from seeds is requiring much effort and knowledge. If you are a beginner to lavender cultivation you must use cuttings. Lavender flower farming is the most profitable commercial crop. The flower so looks beautiful in the garden. If your passion is gardening this must be on top of your plants’ list as it is the easiest thing to grow.
It is a large leafy plant that is part of the mint family. Its leaves have the scent of lemon with a hint of mint and it will grow to 24 to 36 inches but thrives on being cut back. It is a perfect plant for growing indoors, as it loses its flavor when dried. Growing lemon balm is easy. The plants aren’t picky about where they grow and will grow in almost any soil, but they require rich, well-drained soil. Plants will grow in part shade to full sun but flourish best in full sun.
Parsley is more than happy to grow in a pot on a vertical garden as long as it gets some sun. Grow regular, curled leaf, or Italian parsley, and all three to use in Italian dishes, soup, and stews or on noodles.
Rosemary herb is super fragrant and well suited for vertical gardens. It has woody stems and grows very easily. If you grow Rosemary from seed it can take some time, so we recommend buying a starter plant for this one. When rosemary starts to overtake your vertical planter, move it to the garden and it will be a beautiful accent to your in-ground garden. You can also check this: How to Make Money from Rosemary Oil Extraction.
Vertical herb farming considerations
Take these all elements into account when gardening vertically outdoors;
- Anchor your vertical farming structure in place before planting to allow you to avoid disturbing the roots or stems of plants. Pair heavy or more demanding herb plants with sturdier structures.
- Tall herb plants or structures cast shadows on the vertical garden that will affect the growth patterns of nearby plants.
- Herb plants grow differently in a vertical garden. Herb plants grown in a vertical garden might need more frequent watering and fertilizing because they’re exposed to more light and wind.
Set up the irrigation system for vertical herb farming
To keep plants growing on a vertical surface, you’ll need an irrigation system that can give moisture throughout the fabric layer. And you can make one out of poly tubing with fittings that lock. It’s a tube across the top of the panel with emitters that drip water down.
You can buy a standard valve and irrigation drippers, but you’ll want a propagation timer that can be set for seconds rather than minutes. You want a quick flow of water for about 10 to 15 seconds from 3 to 6 times a day, depending on weather conditions and particular setup. Attach an emitter every 2 to 3 inches along the top irrigation tube and find the right balance between keeping the wall wet while not overwatering the plants. Attach the frame to the wall by using stainless-steel hardware (to avoid rusting). Hooks are fine if you think you’ll want to remove the frame or brackets screwed into the wall and the frame will also work.
Environmental factors that affect plant growth
Major and well-studied environmental factors that affect plant growth contain temperature, light intensity, light quality, humidity, and CO2 concentration in the air, air-current speed, and nutrient and root-zone environments.
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One of the great advantages of a controlled environment and consequently of Vertical farming is the possibility to tweak and adjust each environmental factor to maximize the productivity and desired results for each crop. Understanding these all key factors is crucial to maximizing the biomass production in vertical farms. Of course, controlling each component comes at a cost, and each level of control brings different outcomes. Each grower needs to find whether a control system (usually automated) will make sense case-by-case, comparing the expected gain in production and control versus the investments involved. This type of cost-benefit analysis is crucial when growers are determining if they will build a vertical system instead of a greenhouse, which would rely on natural sunlight.
Vertical farming ideas for herbs
Vertical garden structure
Fences, arbors, trellises, obelisks, and other types of structures make it easy to grow vertical farming plants. Hanging baskets can be considered elements of vertical planting as they break the horizontal plane of gardening. Attach drip irrigation for easy watering, or add a rope-and-pulley system to allow easier access to hanging baskets for watering and tending your vertical garden.
If you have an existing structure such as a shed or garage, add a trellis in front of one of the walls so vertical farming plants have a structure to support their stems but don’t cause any damage to the wall. Be sure to leave some space between the trellis and the wall for good air circulation.
Mounted Mason Jars – Glass mason jars mounted on an old piece of barn or pallet wood can make a lovely Vertical herb garden.
Wall Box – Keep your herbs close by so that you can pick them freshly the moment you need them and add them to cooking or baking.
Herb Wall – This one consists of hanging terracotta pots filled with herb plants.
Curtain Rods – This Vertical herb garden is snuggled into the kitchen window for optimal growth.
Recycled Bottles – This impressive and attractive Vertical herb garden recycles plastic bottles into herb homes. The system is self-watering allowing the excess water from the higher plants to drip down to the lower plants.
Components of a vertical herb farming
The goal of vertical farming systems isn’t just to save space and it’s also to find a more economical way of producing food for the growing population and to reduce the cost and consequences of getting that food to where people live. Vertical farming equipment creates “farms” where plants are stacked in trays on shelves, instead of laid out horizontally across larger plots of land. In these structures, plants don’t rely on sunlight, rainwater, and pesticides, but LED lights and minerals instead. A commercial vertical farm relies on an artificial, warehouse-like structure, thermally insulated, in which ventilation is kept at a minimum, and artificial light is used as the sole light source for plant growth.