Window Farming: Gardening for Apartment Blocks

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Not everyone has the space needed to grow their own herbs and veggies, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t keen to give it a go. Britta Riley and Rebecca Bray were two such people, and rather than try and find some scratchy communal plot they decided to put a twist on window sill plants.

Riley lived in a five-storey apartment block in New York (where residents pay through the nose for every square foot) and didn’t have the room to spare for pots of soil-dependent plants. So she researched hydroponic gardening methods and experimented with various vertical growing systems until she came up with a solution that was workable and sustainable.

Together, Riley and Bray developed the Windowfarm Project to help other people in high-rise buildings with the same problem. The aim was to create an ongoing online community project, where people could learn about the benefits of hydroponic window farming, develop their own systems and share the results with other community members. Through the project’s 13 000 members, who contribute to the R&DIY (research and develop it yourself) process, Windowfarm has been able to create 12 unique hydroponic garden systems.

Hydroponic gardening methods have been proven to be more effective that soil methods; they take up less space; plants grow more quickly and have been known to get bigger than soil-grown plants; no nutrients are lost during the growing process; and plants can be grown all year round.

Of course there are also environmental benefits. Growing your own food decreases your carbon footprint, you are less reliant on dwindling resources, and the growth process uses absolutely no fossil fuels. Growing kits or systems are also made out of recycled materials, such as plastic cold drink bottles, so you’re doing your bit to ease the burden on municipal landfills.

Then there are the health benefits of eating more organically grown fresh produce, not to mention the aesthetic value that flourishing plants will have on your little patch of concrete jungle. Finally, there is the satisfaction of reaping the rewards of your efforts.

The only produce you can’t grow in a window farm is root vegetables, so no carrots. But you can grow squash, spinach, tomatoes, lettuces, sugar peas and snow peas, as well as basil, mint, mustard, parsley, dill and thyme, among plenty of others.

You might not be able to get a three-course meal out of your window farm (unless you’re a very creative vegetarian), but you will be able to accompany most meals with something freshly picked from your previously stuffy apartment.

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