Sunday, April 4, 2010

Window Farming

While sitting bored at work, waiting for a computer alignment to run, I came across this on the NPR website.

It's an organization that's working to promote the collaborative design and construction of urban hydroponic vegetable gardens grown in plastic water bottles that hang in front of windows like curtains.
Hence, "window farming."

I'm pretty skeptical that the light that trickles through most windows will produce a crop that justifies the effort and expense of such a system. As someone who's spent many hours making Hoagland's, I can say that hydroponic systems are a real pain and, unless you could somehow feed them with worm compost tea, this system is a little too open-loop for my gardening aesthetics.* It's telling that the plants in all their pictures are pretty spindly. It's a lot more difficult to produce robust, good tasting food with hydroponics than with dirt and sunshine.

It looks pretty cool and I definitely get it from an art perspective, but it seems pretty gimmicky from a food perspective. I'm sure winter herbs could be grown just as well in pots on the sill.

At any rate, their primary focus seems to be developing an interactive and supportive online community around the practice, which is outstanding. I'd love to see more internet-based collaborations built around other forms of amateur farming too.**

We'll see if they prove me wrong about growing useful amounts of food though.


* oh wait! connect your hydroponics to your aquarium and you'll have most of your plant nutrition! On further inspection of the website, they're working on that too.

** hint hint, plant breeding

4 comments:

  1. I've had good success growing things with my Aerogarden systems, which are hydroponic I think (though they have "aero" in the name). Definitely not the same yields (I have 5 tomatoes ripening on one of my micro tom tomato plants in one of my aerogardens right now) as outside, but it's way cool to grow things indoors when it's 30 degrees outside. I could never do this windowsill gardening thing though, as xena would just eat everything. (I keep my AGs in a closet away from her!)

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  2. Very cool! Are the lights on it pretty bright?

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  3. We have friends who have aerogardens, and when we were searching for an indoor seed-starting setup, we looked into it. Our conclusion is that the aerogarden is more for the joy of seeing something growing in the dead of winter, or for pinches of basil out-of-season, then for any real food-growing application.

    I think you are right about the community being perhaps the most important aspect of the homade hydroponics project. Please sign me up for the plant breeding community!

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  4. The AG lights are indeed VERY bright. I'm on an AG user forum and that's something that most new people complain about. I keep mine in the closet, so not an issue for me. :)

    As for yields - as I said, definitely cannot match outside. But for certain things, the yield is more than sufficient. For example, basil absolutely loves the AG environment. I can grow more basil than I know what to do with in the AG. I've also had great success with dill and catnip (I grow the catnip for the cats). I've also grown mixed lettuce and romaine, and just for the two of us, the 7 pod AG grows more than enough lettuce for the 2 of us to keep up with. For stuff like tomatoes, there's no comparison to the yield of growing outside, but it's still fun to grow such things in the dead of winter!

    You can see all my growing pictures here: http://picasaweb.google.com/jsinger42/AerogardenPictures#

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