solution finder

27 April 2018

Vertical Gardens

Author/Compiled by
Robert Gensch (Xavier University)
Niels Sacher (Xavier University)
Executive Summary
The term vertical garden refers to any kind of construction and support structure for growing plants in an upwards-directed, vertical way and thereby efficiently and productively making use of the existing space for food or other kind of plant production. A huge variety of different designs and concepts are available including greywater towers, green walls or living walls. The reuse of different composts (e.g. compost, vermicompost or terra preta) from household wastes and reclaimed water (e.g. greywater) or urine can be considered in vertical gardening allowing to enhance food production and to close the nutrient and water cycle at a local level.
Advantages
Local reuse of compost and reclaimed water from household wastes (human excreta, biodegradable wastes and greywater)
Low cost
Minimal agricultural area required
Contribution to household food security and alleviation of food shortages and poverty
Temperature insulation by growing plants on the walls of houses
Simple and easy to understand
Disadvantages
Unpleasant odours may appear during the irrigation with greywater and urine
A certain amount of labour required
Regular watering or irrigation system has to be in place
In Out

Greywater

Treated Water, Food Products

Vertical gardening aims to advance the productivity levels of urban and sub-urban agricultural production sites where most often available space is the biggest agricultural limitation. Plenty of different design solutions are available. The design of vertical garden (sometimes also called green walls) depends on the available material, space and local preferences as well as on the creativity and imagination of the users. Crops that can be grown comprise food crops (vegetables, fruits, herbs) and non-food crops (e.g. ornamental plants, medical plants). As a growing media soil, compost, vermicompost, terra preta compost, acrylic material as well as aquaponic and aeroponic solutions can be used. The crops can be grown in sacks, bags, flowerpots and all kinds of available receptacles like bins, cans, tins, bottles, tanks or boxes. They can be placed on yet unused places like on the roof of houses, balconies, on the top of walls or just hung up. Were space is available, earth beds of larger surface may even be installed, but require some expert design to control water drainage and infiltration.

Further vertical garden solutions that allow for a good utilisation of available space are cultivation arches, greywater towers or cultivation bags (see pictures below).

 

Cultivation arch, cultivation tower and cultivation bag, Gampaha, Sri Lanka, source: RANASINGHE (2008)

Cultivation arch, cultivation tower and cultivation bag, Gampaha, Sri Lanka. Source: RANASINGHE (2007)

Other systems like cultivation umbrellas, cultivation bangles or some kind of cultivation that have also been proven useful (see picture below).

Cultivation umbrella, cultivation bangle and cultivation tat, Gampaha, Sri Lanka, source: RANASINGHE (2008)

Cultivation umbrella, cultivation bangle and cultivation tat, Gampaha, Sri Lanka. Source: RANASINGHE (2007)

A variety of different substructures like cultivation ladders, pyramids or racks can be designed and constructed to grow plants vertically (see pictures below).

Cultivation ladder, cultivation pyramid, culitvation rack, Gampaha, Sri Lanka, source: T. RANASINGHE

Cultivation ladder, cultivation pyramid, cultivation rack, Gampaha, Sri Lanka. Source: RANASINGHE (2007)

Cultivation Ladder, Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, source: R. Gensch

Cultivation Ladder, Cagayan de Oro, Philippines. Source: GENSCH (n.y.)

Walls, murals and exterior walls of houses are also often used as a vertical gardening alternative either just as beautification of the wall or to grow vegetables and other crops along the wall. Vertical gardens also have a positive effect on the house climate (keeping the walls cool in summer). Walls can be used easily without big additional construction work. Either the wall will be modified with additional bricks or holders can be used for growing plants on the surface of the wall (see pictures below). In Botswana for instance, Gus Nilsson, a Swedish horticulturist has developed a system of intensive horticulture for dry tropical areas, based on walls with built-in containers (WINBLAD / SIMPSON-HERBERT 2004). Plants should be selected according to the orientation of the wall. Walls directed North will have different characteristics with regard to exposure to the sun, wind and rain then those directed South.

Cultivation wall, cultivation holder, Gampaha, Sri Lanka, source: RANASINGHE (2008)

Cultivation wall, cultivation holder, Gampaha, Sri Lanka. Source: RANASINGHE (2007)

To make sure plants do grow well on vertical surfaces regular water and nutrient supply needs to be ensured. Irrigation techniques like bottle irrigation (see also irrigation chapter) or regular watering with watering cans and alike can be used. Essential plant nutrients like Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium should be applied according to the needs of the plants and in similar amounts as removed from the growing medium with the harvest. A good solution to do this is by making use of compost, vermicompost, terra preta compost and/or human urine or other organic fertiliser sources (see also chapters on urine use small- and large-scale, use of compost). The use of treated or partly treated greywater and reclaimed water can also be a cost effective alternative water and nutrient source, particularly in water scarce areas.

 

Jojo Rom tends part of his 30-square-meter container garden at his home in Davao City, Philippines. Source: AVRDC (2011)

Applicability

Vertical gardening is an excellent opportunity of growing food in areas where space is limited, particularly in densely populated urban areas. The different vertical garden technologies are an effective, simple and sustainable method of enhancing food security for urban communities, slum dwellers and other communities where agricultural production areas are limited. Most solutions can easily be implemented with locally available material at low cost while it offers a livelihood opportunity at the same time and contributes to the local food security situation.

Library References

Small Spaces, Big Returns

Growing vegetables in containers can improve diets and raise incomes for urban residents in the Philippines.

AVRDC (2011): Small Spaces, Big Returns. Shanhua, Tainan: AVRDC - The World Vegetable Center URL [Accessed: 18.01.2012]

Greywater use in peri-urban households in Kitgum, Uganda. Kampala, Uganda

This study was undertaken within the ROSA project (Resource oriented Sanitation concepts in peri‐urban areas in Africa) in order to understand greywater characteristics and to demonstrate a low cost reuse option involving direct application of untreated greywater to small so called “greywater towers” at household level in peri‐urban settlements in Kitgum Town Council.

KULABAKO, R. ; KINOBE, J. ; MUJUNGA, J. ; OLWENYI, S. ; SLEYTR, K. (2009): Greywater use in peri-urban households in Kitgum, Uganda. Kampala, Uganda. In: Sustainable Sanitation Practice: Volume 1 , 16-24 . URL [Accessed: 19.05.2010]

Box 5.4 Vertical gardens in Gaberone, Botswana

Short description on a container gardening system for dry areas based on walls with built-in growth boxes made of hollow concrete blocks and developed by a Swedish horticulturist in Botswana.

WINBLAD, U. SIMPSON-HERBERT, M. (2004): Box 5.4 Vertical gardens in Gaberone, Botswana. In: WINBLAD, U. ; SIMPSON-HERBERT, M. ; (2004): Ecological Sanitation - revised and enlarged edition. (pdf presentation). Sweden: 83. URL [Accessed: 22.05.2012]
Further Readings

Container Gardening – A Way of Growing Vegetables in the City. Paper presented at the Urban Vegetable Gardening Seminar

Paper on container gardening in Cagayan de Oro (Philippines) as a way of growing vegetables in urban areas.

DEVEZA, K. HOLMER, R. (2002): Container Gardening – A Way of Growing Vegetables in the City. Paper presented at the Urban Vegetable Gardening Seminar. Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines: Sundayag Sa Amihanang Mindanao Trade Expo URL [Accessed: 19.05.2010]

Greywater use in peri-urban households in Kitgum, Uganda. Kampala, Uganda

This study was undertaken within the ROSA project (Resource oriented Sanitation concepts in peri‐urban areas in Africa) in order to understand greywater characteristics and to demonstrate a low cost reuse option involving direct application of untreated greywater to small so called “greywater towers” at household level in peri‐urban settlements in Kitgum Town Council.

KULABAKO, R. ; KINOBE, J. ; MUJUNGA, J. ; OLWENYI, S. ; SLEYTR, K. (2009): Greywater use in peri-urban households in Kitgum, Uganda. Kampala, Uganda. In: Sustainable Sanitation Practice: Volume 1 , 16-24 . URL [Accessed: 19.05.2010]

Re-use of Greywater for Agricultural Irrigation

Study on the use of greywater for agricultural irrigation in the South African context with special focus on comparing the irrigation of plants with nutrient solution, greywater and tap water.

SALUKAZANA, L. JACKSON, S. RODDA, N. SMITH, M. GOUNDEN, T. MACLEOD, N. BUCKLEY, C. (n.y): Re-use of Greywater for Agricultural Irrigation. Kwazulu-Natal: University of Kwazulu-Natal URL [Accessed: 19.05.2010]

Greywater Management in Low and Middle-Income Countries, Review of Different Treatment Systems for Households or Neighbourhoods

This report compiles international experience in greywater management on household and neighbourhood level in low and middle-income countries. The documented systems, which vary significantly in terms of complexity, performance and costs, range from simple systems for single-house applications (e.g. local infiltration or garden irrigation) to rather complex treatment trains for neighbourhoods (e.g. series of vertical and horizontal-flow planted soil filters).

MOREL, A. DIENER, S. (2006): Greywater Management in Low and Middle-Income Countries, Review of Different Treatment Systems for Households or Neighbourhoods. (= SANDEC Report No. 14/06 ). Duebendorf: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science (EAWAG), Department of Water and Sanitation in Developing Countries (SANDEC) URL [Accessed: 09.05.2018]

Small Spaces, Big Returns

Growing vegetables in containers can improve diets and raise incomes for urban residents in the Philippines.

AVRDC (2011): Small Spaces, Big Returns. Shanhua, Tainan: AVRDC - The World Vegetable Center URL [Accessed: 18.01.2012]
Case Studies

Greywater use in peri-urban households in Kitgum, Uganda. Kampala, Uganda

This study was undertaken within the ROSA project (Resource oriented Sanitation concepts in peri‐urban areas in Africa) in order to understand greywater characteristics and to demonstrate a low cost reuse option involving direct application of untreated greywater to small so called “greywater towers” at household level in peri‐urban settlements in Kitgum Town Council.

KULABAKO, R. ; KINOBE, J. ; MUJUNGA, J. ; OLWENYI, S. ; SLEYTR, K. (2009): Greywater use in peri-urban households in Kitgum, Uganda. Kampala, Uganda. In: Sustainable Sanitation Practice: Volume 1 , 16-24 . URL [Accessed: 19.05.2010]

Small-scale Systems for Greywater Reuse and Disposal

This work aimed at evaluating two systems – vertical gardens and mulch beds – that were implemented as an alternative to current greywater disposal practices in low-income households in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Literature on greywater reuse and disposal systems and risks connected with greywater irrigation were studied as well as relevant site-specific parameters. Experiments were carried out on two new vertical gardens in addition to soil analyses, interviews and observations in households where vertical gardens and mulch beds had been in use for several months.

EKLUND, O.C. TEGELBERG, L. (2010): Small-scale Systems for Greywater Reuse and Disposal. Uppsala: Department of Energy and Technology, Swedish University of Agricultural sciences URL [Accessed: 06.01.2011]

Introduction to Greywater Management

The report gives a comprehensive description of the main components in successful greywater management. Examples as well as recommendations are given for designing and dimensioning treatment systems.

RIDDERSTOLPE, P. (2004): Introduction to Greywater Management. (= EcoSanRes Publication Series, Report 2004-4 ). Stockholm: Stockholm Environment Institute, EcoSanRes Programme URL [Accessed: 19.05.2010]

Box 5.4 Vertical gardens in Gaberone, Botswana

Short description on a container gardening system for dry areas based on walls with built-in growth boxes made of hollow concrete blocks and developed by a Swedish horticulturist in Botswana.

WINBLAD, U. SIMPSON-HERBERT, M. (2004): Box 5.4 Vertical gardens in Gaberone, Botswana. In: WINBLAD, U. ; SIMPSON-HERBERT, M. ; (2004): Ecological Sanitation - revised and enlarged edition. (pdf presentation). Sweden: 83. URL [Accessed: 22.05.2012]
Training Material
Awareness Raising Material

Introduction to Greywater Management

The report gives a comprehensive description of the main components in successful greywater management. Examples as well as recommendations are given for designing and dimensioning treatment systems.

RIDDERSTOLPE, P. (2004): Introduction to Greywater Management. (= EcoSanRes Publication Series, Report 2004-4 ). Stockholm: Stockholm Environment Institute, EcoSanRes Programme URL [Accessed: 19.05.2010]

Studies suggest that up to two-thirds of city and peri-urban households are involved in farming

Article on the contribution of households to urban agriculture and food production.

FAO (1999): Studies suggest that up to two-thirds of city and peri-urban households are involved in farming. In: Spotlight / 1999 Issues in urban agriculture. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO): URL [Accessed: 19.05.2010]

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