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Hi, I'm currently a design student at Staffordshire University and am working on my final major project. I am working towards designing a product that allows people with limited or small garden space to grow there own produce. Looking at the concept of vertical farming I want to design something small scale allowing people to use something such as there house wall to grow produce upwards rather than along there garden floor. I wondered if anyone had any thoughts on this to help me with my research or anything you think I need to consider when designing such as the growing itself seeing as I dont have much insight in this at the moment.
Look on Google, there are various types of growing bags for that. One problem is watering, keeping it moist and it mustn't cause dampness on house walls.
Things you'll have to factor: How you will get to your plants. How to water your plants and keep them irrigated (could you use rainwater from the gutters, or pump it?). How to avoid damaging the property with water ingress, or heavy loads. And the aspect of the wall will play a part in your planting.
Note that vertical training of plants/trees such as espaliers has been around for a long time. And some people grow in hanging baskets, and some people plant their tomatoes upside down.
I'd be interesting in hearing planting choices? What are you thinking of planting: salads?
Vertical planting is becoming more popular, I've mostly seen succulents. Search for 'vertical planting succulents'. Even growing somethnig like ivy can act as an insulator for a building. Also note that walls can provide some heat retention.
Succulents don't need much in the way of a growing medium. I think the greatest challenge is getting around the load issues. You can use less soil, and more fertiliser (hydroponics), but then you might end up fighting water loss. Some might not like the idea of using artificial fertilisers.
As Busy-Lizzie has already said. The main concern is protecting the property from damp while not affecting the plants. There are many many books, blogs, websites et al on vertical gardening available (believe me - I've read quite a few of them and they vary from growing carrots on a balcony for fun with your kids to growing your entire family produce in the basement to sustain you when the zombies come).
Other things that would be limits (for me) are:
- What space does the plant itself need to grow? Your design wont be any good if it is too small for produce itself. A potato needs completely different things to lettuce. Perhaps the idea of a "farm" is a little too grand a title and your aims need to be limited to certain products (i.e. tomatoes / peppers / dwarf trees / produce that is above ground rather than carrots and potatoes). Research what kind of produce you expect it to be used for so you know what amount of soil and growing area you have design for.
- How will you keep the plants watered while at the same time protected from water logging, drought, and frost? If you're taking advantage of the height of a wall will your end user be able to water the plants with a watering can or will they need a inbuilt system that waters the higher levels automatically? Will that plumb into a watering butt that forms part of your design or will they then need to provide an outdoors tap? Will they be able to water some plants more than others easily as not all plants want the same amount of water?
- Looks. Its got to look nice even when the plants are still seeds and not able to cover it over. A product is a complete fail if not matter how brilliant it is no one will buy it.
- Maintenance & use. Aside from giving the plants water how easy is it to actually use? In a bid to go small and virtical don't also make it very difficult to add compost too (for example the pots are too deep the average person can't reach all the way in) or too high that you can't then pick your produce.
- You've used the word farm. Are you intending it to be a product that is used for one harvest or will you be able to grow different plants at the same time that can be harvested throughout the year? Make sure it is easy to harvest one crop without disturbing another.
Oh and search for 'living walls'.
Great feedback so far thankyou so much to consider. I understand about the concern on what will be grown but through surveys and what seems actually possible I think the focus will be 'salads' such as lettuce, tomatoes, herbs etc. It seems alot more feasable and practical. Do you agree? I've spoken to some people who think a variety of heights depending on what is being grown but i'd prefer to stick to one product rather than a range. Appearance wise I already have a few concepts in progress but without fully understanding how im going to prevent the damp whilst provide watering I cant really go into too much depth yet. On the living walls im currently trying to contact a company who've done some on the Uni campus so hopefully ill get some feedback there as regards to watering and damp.
Salad on a wall is a much easier concept than a farm. For starts a very simple design is to just go crazy with standard plastic guttering and fixtures.
(P.S. You can get some kind of chemical gloop you paint onto walls to water proof them. Might be worth looking into).
There is now available a sray on waterproofing system, that was used on Grand Designs. They made a cardboard box completely waterproof in 20 seconds.
Water proofing, retention and supply are all the major problems. Commercial growers are already using tower systems to grow mainly salad crops for the supermarkets.
Contacting some of them should help you further, as scaled down their current solutions could be adapted for home use.
Did anyone mention runner beans?