Agri-business News 169711489_21beca7aa1

Published on September 19th, 2008 | by Bryan Luukinen

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Organic Grow Box: Grow Food Anywhere! Even on Your Fire Escape.

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Using a nifty technique called sub-irrigation, the folks over at Inside Urban Green have been growing all sorts of things, including two tomato plants that yield a half-pint a day, in a Rubbermaid container, or grow box. They’re doing so while conserving water and taking up very little space.

Anywhere there is sun, you too can have fresh tomatoes, basil, eggplant, radicchio, sunflowers, whatever your heart desires, for less than the price of ten* local, organic heirloom tomatoes at your local farmer’s market. And it’s organic if you want it to be. And please believe it’s local. And it’s damn convenient if you ask me.

Though their specific technique involves Rubbermaid and polystyrene, there are a number of different ways to put together sub-irrigation, or self-watering pots. Learn how after the break.

Simple, sub-irrigation grow box (article at Inside Urban Green)

image credit: Rooftop Garden Project

This one uses polystyrene that functions as an aquifer cover that separates the soil from the water below. The soil acts as a wick (as in most of these boxes), drawing up the water as it’s needed. Sure, Rubbermaid tote containers and polystyrene are not very “green” products, but if you’re repurposing stuff you’ve already got, or you can pick them up at Goodwill, your footprint gets a little lighter.

Note that UV-resistant plastic is a good idea if you don’t want your tub to break down over time. Again, this isn’t perfect, but it sure beats trucking your tomatoes in via diesel truck from California or Mexico. Check out successful tomatoes and peppers grown in the grow boxes by the Rooftop Garden Project, and watch your mouth water!

Ecological Grower (pdf)
The Rooftop Garden Project has instructions and a blueprint for making your own “Ecological Grower with Water Reservoir”. Similar instructions here, but they go into a little more depth about which types of soil to use, fertilizers, and other amendments so you can get great results from your container.

The containers really can be made of anything, and if you stick with it for a couple of years, your yields could be great. Feeling Ambitious? Set up your own rooftop garden! (large pdf)

Earthbox
It’s a commercial version of the grow box and Ecological Grower, if you’ve got the means, it’s not a bad alternative. Plus, they’ve got a bunch of helpful tips for growing different crops in a setup like this, as well as a guide for setting up your system that you might not have found otherwise. So, you could just steal those and give the evil laugh of frugality. Mwahaha!

Tomato Success Kit
This one includes everything but the tomato plants. For the true lazy gardener (which seems like kind of an oxymoron…) This kit will get you there, but no patting yourself on the back, because you did this the easy way. Seriously. What are you so busy doing? Curing cancer? Oh. You are? Nevermind. Way to go!

With a small amount of space, a nominal investment in supplies, and a little bit of sunlight, you too can have delicious, fresh produce at your fingertips in the middle of the city, the country, or even (gasp!) the ‘burbs! Oh, and you’re going to be pulling CO2 out of the air and fixing it in a very delicious form.

If you want to affect global climate change, why not do it through fresh, homegrown food? Oh, and if you live in USDA plant hardiness zones that have double digits, you might be able to do this until November or later. Lucky!

*Price quoted in this story, a comparable amount for local, heirloom tomatoes in season.

Lead image credit: Coffee Monster at Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Read More about Food Gardening:

Could Neighborhood Gardens Lead to More Sustainable Food?

Eating Local: Planting Your Fall Garden

A Victory Garden Planted in Patio Pots

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About the Author

I'm an environmental scientist, food lover, gardener, aspiring farmer, and one helluva cook. I'm passionate about food politics, the environment, rational governments, cooking, food, and life. I live in Corvallis, OR, but I've been lots of places. Most don't get nearly the rain we do here. I think food is one of the most important things in life. We all eat, and therefore we all make an impact on the world with our food choices. We have all gotten too far from our food, and once we get closer, the charade of the industrial food system becomes more apparent. Do not dispair; grow something to eat, choose food that your grandmother could identify as such, and think about where your food comes from. If we all did one of those three, real, good food would be much more plentiful - and the world might be a better place.



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