Growing Produce Vertically instead of Horizontally to get a High Production on a Small Urban Farm

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $6,577.00
Projected End Date: 01/30/2018
Grant Recipient: Pepper Berries rban Farm
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Christine Williams
Pepper Berries Urban Farm & Agape Grow Education Center

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: potatoes
  • Fruits: berries (other), berries (blueberries), berries (strawberries), melons
  • Vegetables: sweet potatoes, artichokes, beans, cucurbits, tomatoes


  • Crop Production: no-till
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, workshop, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture, new enterprise development
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, permaculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, community services, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, public participation, social networks, urban agriculture

    Proposal summary:


    For an urban farmer or gardener land or space is valuable. With our project we can learn and teach how to grow up instead of out. We can get a much larger yield of produce to sell at markets, eat fresh, put up for future months and feed the community if we learn to use our space more affectingly. With building vertical climbing forms we can grow many types of produce, cucumbers, squash, beans, peas, cantaloupes, watermelons, spinach, pumpkins to name a few. With building pallet gardens we can grow a large variety of bush produce to harvest from such as lettuce, cabbage Brussel sprouts, tomatoes, eggplant, etc. By building gutter gardens we can harvest lettuce, spinach, radish, small carrots, etc. With using vertical growing we can grow plants such as potatoes and sweet potatoes to yield a large harvest with not a lot of space. Using our space all around our property we can grow more produce to sell, put up for the future and feed the community that we live in.


    In 2015, we grew potatoes the traditional, 25 ft. x 4 ft., 10 lbs. of potatoes. We also used a 3 ft. x 4 ft. piece of fencing, created a cylinder. We added dirt, straw and compost to the bottom. Planted potatoes around the edges, repeated the procedure until we had used 10 lbs. of potatoes.

    We had record rains in April - July. In the traditional row of potatoes we fought fungus and the potatoes washing out several times. We applied a fungus treatment 3 times and covered the rows several times. In the cages we had beautiful vines growing all summer with no fungus. We checked the towers every few days with a barometer. We did not have to water until the middle of July.
    We produced 90 lbs. of potatoes in the row. That is almost 1 lb. per square foot.

    Towers we had planted 10 lbs. in a 3 ft. x 4 ft. growing area = 40 square feet. The rain beat down the layers. The vines were beautiful but fighting to produce baby potatoes. Most of the potatoes we harvested were in the first 3 layers, 3 lbs. consistently. The lower layers produced anywhere from 5 to 7 lbs. We were not ahead but we did get back our initial investment of potatoes.

    We will experiment with 12 towers 8 with modifications. We will experiment with potatoes sacks, stackable bins and containers.
    We also grew squash, cucumbers, cantaloupe and watermelon vertically. We will build sturdier structures to hold the weight these plants need for optimal yields. We planted tomatoes 3 different ways we would like to expand of the fencing techniques. We will be experimenting with pallet, gutter & square ft. gardens to get high yield for small acreage farmers.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Teach (low income farmers and growers) how to grow food vertically to save space: whether they live in an apartment, duplex, house with small yards, ways they can grow food that will bring high yields of nutritious vegetables and fruit to be able to sell at farmers markets.
    2. Benefit the environment by cleaning up abandoned properties in the inner city, reducing water usage, and teaching organic or non-chemical ways of growing produce in a controlled situation.
    3. Create economic and social opportunities for low income growers to become urban farmers, increasing access to healthy food and use previously vacant land.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.