Modern physics tells us that light is both a wave and a particle. Whichever way we view it—either as a ball moving in a straight line or as a wave oscillating through space—light stops traveling once it hits something that will absorb it.
Even in reflective grow rooms, any light not absorbed by the plant is technically wasted. In recent years, a technique called “vertical growing” has exploited these basics of physics. By growing the plants up rather than out, cannabis can soak up all that awesome light energy. And you’ll never need to cover a single thing in reflective laminar.
Vertical growing is exactly that: setting the plants in such a way that they grow beside their light source rather than underneath it. Or, if you’re creative, you can include more lights in your setup without adding space. All it takes is a little ingenuity, a lot of patience and a dash of defying gravity.
In short, it’s nothing new. People have been growing plants vertically since we probably first started gardening (think the Hanging Gardens of Babylon).
Vertical growing is related to, but different from, rotary farming. Vertical farming typically exposes crops to massive amounts of light from one side, either the side or above. Rotary farming grows the crop around the light source in a 360° manner.
Why grow vertically
There are two reasons why to grow vertically: space and yields. Both of these equal more money.
Space is something that professional growers rarely take for granted. However, due to gravity, we tend to think horizontally: Place a flat surface parallel to the floor, then place the plants on top of that surface. Lights come from above. But if we tilt our perspective just 90°, we realize how much space we’re wasting. When light comes from above, that light tends to shower only the canopies of our plants. Buds farther down the plant get less light, which is inefficient.
If light comes from the side, we’re hitting 50% of the plant rather than just 5% to 20%. With the correct placement, the same lights can provide significantly more energy to the plants, which means more yields in the long run. Besides, vertical grows look really cool, too.
How to grow vertically
The culture of vertical growing exists somewhere between sophisticated grow-tech and “MacGyver” DIY. O.penVAPE, one of the largest vape pen manufacturers in the world, uses this method for their grows. You can check out the Spacesaver website to see just how high-tech they can get.
The idea works like this. Say you’ve got your crops growing vertically along a wall, rather than horizontally across a floor or a table. By growing against the wall, this leaves your grow space open to three additional growing surfaces—the other three walls. You don’t have to use all three (and most grows don’t), but just one extra surface will halve your power costs if you grow them around a single light source. Or you can use a single base to grow two separate gardens (with two separate light sources).
But imagine if this scene were a horizontal rather than vertical grow. If it’s “flat,” we’re using considerably more space for the plants. In fact, we’re more than doubling the required floor space if we grew those hanging plants parallel to the floor. By growing up rather than out, we freeing more area for ease of movement and access, storage or even more plants.
But do you want to grow up?
Of course, there are some things to consider regarding this method. The first is that vertical grows, more often than not, require rotation. Because the plants will likely only receive light to one half of their surface, they must be turned regularly for the entire plant to receive equal amounts of light. If there’s a discrepancy in exposure, the plants will begin to bend toward the light source, which can complicate the grow setup.
Second, a vertical grow requires added resources. Depending on how intricate you get, this could require a carpenter or a small construction team. If you happen to have handy people on your staff, that can work out with minimal extra costs. But if you don’t, you may need to hire out someone who can build this setup for you.
If you plan to DIY, check out Bunnings Warehouse for more on building your own vertical garden.
Luckily, for smaller plants, there are options. Companies such as Gronomics and GroVert sell special shelves designed to hold dozens of plants at a time. They’re usually listed as “wall planters” or “vertical gardens.” These shelves can run anywhere between $40 and $400.
In the end, most grows could probably use a vertical system for their vegetative plants. Since cannabis plants in this state tend to be relatively small, these can easily be stacked vertically without causing too much trouble. If you plan to grow mature, flowering plants with this method, you’ll need supports (wires, mesh, ties, posts, etc.) to keep the plants in their proper positions.
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