Window Farmers
December 5, 2009 4:08 PM   Subscribe

Window Farms is a DIY urban agriculture project started in New York. It's not just about changing the way we think about plants in urban contexts — it's also about creating a kind of "open-source" approach to solving eco-urban challenges. (Treehugger has some more context.)

The folks behind Window Farms are now trying to take it to the next level using everyone's favorite new funding platform, Kickstarter. (Including a cute intro video which is worth checking out.)

And if window farming ain't your thing, maybe one of their other DIY projects is more up your alley...
posted by chasing (14 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Someone else linked me to this, I signed up for an account, activated, and now I can't log in because the site's been MeFi'd. Thanks a lot, chasing!
posted by SansPoint at 4:16 PM on December 5, 2009

"Head of Cabbage"

This doesn't just have to be urban, though. For instance, I really like the idea of hydroponics for the ability to grow in the winter (without a traditional greenhouse) and because it's easier to automate. A regular "greenhouse window" is amazingly expensive. Hopefully these kits are a little cheaper.
posted by DU at 5:29 PM on December 5, 2009

That said, I'm skeptical. "High yield"? These plants are all tiny. 3 sqft of ground wouldn't grow that much food, how is a window going to grow that much more? And tomatoes? Is this some kind of dwarf plant that will fit in a water bottle?
posted by DU at 5:32 PM on December 5, 2009

I'm willing to submit to function over form with the best of them, but crinkled water bottles as window dressing? There has got to be a better solution!
posted by furtive at 6:02 PM on December 5, 2009

I like the idea of this. But I think it would work best for herbs, chili peppers and other small plants unless you've got great light and lots of windows.
posted by shoesietart at 6:10 PM on December 5, 2009

I have a really big south facing window and cannot wait to try this. I'm not sure I would care about what my window dressings look like if I could eat from them.
posted by localhuman at 7:04 PM on December 5, 2009

Had my NYC window(s) filled (FILLED!) with edibles back in the 80's.
Glad you slowpokes finally caught up.

Try stacking 3 or 4 common window flowerboxes. Climbing vine plants in the lower, various bushy plants in the upper. Good climbing vines (cucumbers) can climb all the way up and over the top of your window. I mixed mine with Morning Glories for the 'wake-up' shot of blue.

Water the top planter, everything else gets dripped from that.

posted by HTuttle at 7:14 PM on December 5, 2009 [5 favorites]

From the video: The intention of the project is to build a platform for crowdsourcing viral, small scale innovation, creating opportunities for individuals to find and share new, cheap, quick, and really personal ways to solve environmental issues.

My instinct tells me that there's no such thing as cheap, quick, personal ways to solve environmental issues. Growing plants in the window sounds like a fun project anyway.
posted by katerschluck at 10:25 PM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

I thought it was just a cute hack, and would lean more heavily to a couple Sub-irrigated Planters aka earth boxes with cherry tomatoes. On the flat roof, or the fire escape, balcony, or inside the window.

Or a system of interior window boxes, with a cheap easy-to-diy frame.

But this is a system of interior window boxes, with a cheap easy-to-diy frame. Decent yield for low investment.

On the other hand, a nice sub-irrigated cherry tomato plant:
Have I bragged about my tomatoes yet? Iā€™m actually quite impressed with myself ā€“ in addition to adding fresh tomato to just about every meal since mid-August, I have 8 dinner portions of spaghetti sauce and 12 quart size bags of crushed tomatoes in the freezer already, with the last batch due to be picked and prepared on Friday.

Not bad for three plants grown in tubs on a balcony in the city.

My instinct tells me that there's no such thing as cheap, quick, personal ways to solve environmental issues.

I haven't run the numbers. but veggie gardens are a good way to create wealth and feed yourself. Also: growing stuff is good for the soul. The actual impact is proportional to number of cherry tomatoes you get plus the amount of compost you divert from a landfill. Also, four hours a week every summer mucking about in the garden is four hours not driving to a shop and four hours not buying plastic tat, so it does help the environment and your pocketbook, in the same way that clotheslines do. One consideration is aside from unknowable magic bullets/technological innovation like fusion, AI, nanotech, or more likely basic materials research, we often can only pick up a few percent improvement here or there. But those few percent add up, and we mustn't sneer at them, assuming decent ROI. It's important to run the numbers; those little tiny turbines almost never pay for themselves cash or carbon-wise, and they're an opportunity cost where the installee isn't chipping in towards a larger shared turbine. seems very good.
e.g. New: Recycled Pop Bottle Planters 2.0

Very big on clay pebble hydroculture and basic science; I'm learning stuff with each post, and I think I might be willing to buy a house plant again.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:14 AM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

This idea is pretty cheap. I grew half of my salad makings for the fall and winter using less than $10 in seeds. In my windows. In northern Vermont.
Growing stuff you eat=good.
posted by MtDewd at 8:29 AM on December 6, 2009

I've been wanting to make an indoor garden for spices, but I am worried that (a) my cat will eat them (b) I will use them all up in one month.
posted by rebent at 10:34 AM on December 6, 2009

To go along with their pee-to-fertilizer angle: Humanure
posted by XMLicious at 3:22 PM on December 6, 2009

I am not a gardener but this idea does look sort of interesting. Unrelated: the title instantly made me hope we were talking about Bob Shaw's SF short story "The Light of Other Days". (It features a "window farm" but one that is actually a farm for windows)
posted by Monster_Zero at 8:10 AM on December 7, 2009

While completing the first Prototype in mid-April, we invited a dozen "Pioneers" to join us in creating Window Farms. [...] Currently, the Pioneers are designing their systems.

I really like the idea of growing food in the city, in whatever form it takes. A simple design made out of cheap, widely available items like plastic bottles is a great contribution to this effort. After registering to get access to the information (not very open-source of them, but ok), the reservoir system is very well-developed and the guide complete enough to be easily repeated. The 3-plant air-lift system...not as much, and I'm assuming from the reference above there are other undocumented designs. I'm confused as to why they would request funding before these designs are complete and question the need for $25,000 to fund production of some inexpensive kits, especially when I would need to donate $500 to even get one.

I'm also concerned that one of their goals is: R&D for commercial windowfarm product licensing that will underwrite the non-profit's future. While I think producing these is a worthy source of financing, I would like a guarantee that this design will stay open and anyone will be able to manufacture it without paying for a license.

I'll be sitting out on the kickstarter, but I wish them the best and I may contribute by making one and sharing information on the build instead.
posted by nTeleKy at 8:41 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

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