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The hanging gardens of Brooklyn

03 May 2010

Hydroponic pods growing strawberries, cherry tomatoes, and boy choi might just seem like a drop in the, um, bottle.

But I love the ingenuity and the aesthetic of Windowfarms, a new way of growing some food in your house, built from recycled plastic bottles and a few other odds and ends.

“The simplest window farm system is a column of upside-down water bottles connected to one another,” says an NPR article. “Plants grow out of holes cut into the sides. An air pump is used to circulate liquid nutrients that trickle down from the top of the column and make their way to the plant roots.”

Things like this that get people thinking creatively about how to solve problems themselves, and get them a little more in touch with where the stuff comes from they depend on, are essential.

So I take it as great news that NPR reports: “Urban farmers use the Internet to exchange ideas for improving the window farms technology. It’s a process [Britta Riley of Brooklyn, NY] calls ‘R&D-I-Y’ or Research and Develop It Yourself.”

However, I wonder about the sustainability of this—where do the nutrients for the plants come from? They mostly need water and sunlight, but they also need trace metals and some nitrogen, phosphorus, and so on to grow. (Proteins, DNA, chlorophyll, and so on have these elements as essential building blocks.)

The Windowfarms site has how to manuals you can download.

Even though they’re all about sharing how they do things, I couldn’t find any Creative Commons-licensed photos of Windowfarms. So here’s copyrighted photos on a Flickr set devoted to these hanging gardens.

Google video has a bunch of short clips on Windowfarms.


books I've read on failure & grace

The World Without Us
The Last Oil Shock: A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
Hell and High Water: Global Warming--the Solution and the Politics--and What We Should Do
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
The Tipping Point
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time
The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization
Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail
The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850
Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff
Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World

Mason's favorite books »