Traditional vegetable gardens are often seen as the main type of gardening system. You can use other vegetable growing systems to effectively replace the traditional garden depending on the limits of space, resources and imagination. Determining which system is best suited for your needs will help in choosing which method of growing you use for your vegetables.
Four types of vegetable growing systems are found outside of traditional gardening: hydroponics, vertical, container and greenhouse gardens. Hydroponic systems suspend the plants in a liquid nutrient with no soil. Vertical systems grow upright and have little, if any, contact with the ground below them. Container gardens utilize pots, planters and other vessels to grow small amounts of vegetables within each container. Greenhouses are an enclosed system that uses solar or radiant heat to stimulate growth.
Each type of vegetable growing system has distinct features. Hydroponic systems use liquid solutions in place of soil to provide nutrients to plant roots; these systems can be open or closed systems where the solution is recycled or discarded. Vertical systems use walls or fences or allow plants to hang from poles or lines. Container gardens feature a controlled environment where everything from the soil to the location is predetermined by the gardener. A greenhouse is used to lengthen growing seasons or to grow vegetables that would not normally survive in the environment.
There are various benefits associated with each system. Hydroponics have the benefit of being able to grow vegetables where suitable soil is either limited or not available; hydroponic systems also avoid most root problems with insects and disease. Vertical systems have the benefit of needing little or no ground to work; vertical gardens have similar yields to traditional gardens using a fraction of the space. Container gardens can fit into any setting or space such as fire escapes, rooms or patios. The main benefit of greenhouses is the ability to extend growing seasons to year-round capacity as well as provide a method of growing non-native vegetables in expanded growing zones.
Each growing system also has various disadvantages. Outdoor use of hydroponic systems is limited because of moisture issues both in evaporation and weather. Vertical systems work only with vine vegetables and are not well suited to heavy vegetables such as squash, pumpkin or large cucumbers. Container gardens can be limited by the number and size of containers; container gardening also often requires transplanting to larger containers as plants grow. Greenhouse garden are enclosed structures and need monitoring to keep temperatures at a consistent level.
Each system has many of the same maintenance issues: temperature control, moisture control and controlling light are examples. Monitoring of each system is also essential to ensure proper plant growth and to keep potential pests away.