Published on September 19th, 2008 | by Bryan Luukinen1
Organic Grow Box: Grow Food Anywhere! Even on Your Fire Escape.
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.
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.
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.