Thoughts, feeling, comments… Indoor hydroponics, hot or not?

Thoughts, feeling, comments… Indoor hydroponics, hot or not?

The market for more visually appealing indoor hydroponic (and aquaponics) kits is growing. This isn’t a new topic, and one I’ve covered a few times before. But with the marketing splash made by IKEA recently and some of the innovations as products are tweaked, it’s time to have a look again. And please do let me know your thoughts on the visual/décor aspects, cost and general efficiency of these growing kits! 

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I need your help!

I need your help!

It’s been a while. There’s a few reasons for that: work travels, exploring new places (ahead of a possible move) and the associated gardening setbacks. When I travel I am lucky enough that friends offer to come and water plants. However, that’s often not quite enough, so a few two-week trips later and the plants are suffering. I expect the next few months to be similar. So, I need your help! 

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6 Best Herbs to Grow Indoors

6 Best Herbs to Grow Indoors

Some great news: the days of throwing down far too many dollars for a sprig of rosemary are behind you. No more paying through the nose for some limp, wilting and teenage-sulk-looking basil for your pasta, because you can grow those herbs at home. Some recent studies have suggested that transportation of some herbs, fruit and veg can reduce the nutritional value by as much as 40%, which is another incentive!

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The Wellbeing of Gardening: For the Body and Mind

The Wellbeing of Gardening: For the Body and Mind

Before you head out to your patio, balcony, terrace, or just to the windowsill to tend to your delicious veg, you might like to know that according to an increasing body of research your gardening efforts are doing more than beautifying the city: they may actually be making you happier and healthier. Some green-fingered brethren will already attest to this, but what do you think? 

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Bringing outdoors in: Why you should start an indoor garden

Bringing outdoors in: Why you should start an indoor garden

I recently had a friend visit who asked, “Why so many plants indoors, isn’t it messy and annoying?” That prompted a bit of a think about something I’d not thought much about – as I’ve been doing it so long – growing indoors. Why do it? My reasons are partly practical (climatic conditions), partly aesthetic (nice to look at), partly optimizing space, and partly therapy. 

But why do other people do it? 

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Healthy Gut, Healthy Mind: 10 Brain-Friendly Foods to Improve Mental Health

Healthy Gut, Healthy Mind: 10 Brain-Friendly Foods to Improve Mental Health

Brain-friendly foods called “superfoods” can enhance different aspects of brain health. People who suffer from mental troubles often seek help by visiting their primary doctor or psychologist. This normally results in a long list of prescriptions with side effects that, from personal experience at least, don’t always improve and can sometimes worsen mental health. 

Luckily, there are many natural approaches for improving mental health, including the foods mentioned below. 

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5 urban farming ideas using repurposed items

5 urban farming ideas using repurposed items

For most apartment and city dwellers, having any sort of garden space is hard to come by. While some lucky few may have a patio or balcony, most are left with flower boxes, windowsills and maybe a small space outside the front door (or a fire escape). With little work and very little money, you can grow a garden even in the tiniest of spaces. If a windowsill or small balcony is the only space you have, look to these genius space-savvy gardens for inspiration. 

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Urban farming top 5 depression fighters

Urban farming top 5 depression fighters

So folks, for many of you the days will be drawing in and the temperatures dropping. For us in Singapore and surrounds we have a different thing keeping us inside: the haze, caused by destructive burn-back agricultural practices used in Indonesia, especially to clear for benighted palm oil plantations. The air is choking and the sky a shade of beige. So whether it’s a Northern Hemisphere winter or an equatorial choke-out, we’re both likely to be staying indoors more, and that can be depressing. But fear not, urban farming can help! 

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Urban farming flower power

Urban farming flower power

Today we’re talking about plants to grow indoors as autumn/fall approaches (for many) that can brighten up your home with edible flowers. Good for mind, body and soul. We’ve picked some of the easier to grow plants to hopefully allow for the various growing conditions – temperature, light and airflow – in different homes. Having covered a few edible flowers in previous posts, this one looks at a couple of less well-known potential flowery urban farm all-stars. As ever, please do post on the Facebook page or write to us with any of your own successes and tips…

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Urban farming innovation – spatial intelligence

Urban farming innovation – spatial intelligence

Previous posts have touched on the increasing number of products aim at those of us wanting to grow food in very small spaces. We’ve also written about how you can recycle/upcycle and repurpose items to maximise yield and space in your home. In this post we’ve picked a few specific products that promise to help you grow fresh produce indoors, and would really like to hear from you: which, if any, would you consider?

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Five of the best: vertical farming

Five of the best: vertical farming

Seemingly little or no room or space? No problem. From Chicago to Singapore, picking fresh cucumbers and lettuce is as easy as looking up. Vertical farms make growing crops possible in places where traditional farming is impossible. Think crowded New York City where the only backyard you have is a five feet by two feet balcony. In our last post we looked at recycling and re-purposing to use space creatively, so, in the interests of balance, this will look at the ready-made offerings in the vertical farming space. Both options help solve the "no space” problem but also produce less waste and are therefore usually better for the environment...

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Purposeful repurposing, urban farming style

Purposeful repurposing, urban farming style

Whether you have a pot of soil on your barely-there balcony or a fire escape by your window, your own urban garden can provide you with plenty of vegetables and herbs. Many city-dwellers grumble that they can’t grow their own food because they lack the garden space. Truth is, you can actually grow more than you think in compact spaces with the proper light....

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Hydroponic plastic fantastic

Hydroponic plastic fantastic

Those of you familiar with previous posts will know that I’ve been critical of the acolytes of hydroponics for claiming it’s so eco-friendly but ignoring the these questions: what about the LED lights and minerals/metals in solution or powder form with are processed and mined as opposed to more naturally present in soils and compost? This is therefore an attempt to keep hydroponics as basic and as ‘green’ as possible. We'll use only some old bottles, maybe some organic liquid fertiliser and some water…

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Hydroponically speaking

Hydroponically speaking

So I’ve written intermittently about hydroponics, and I have raised a few questions about the main claim from acolytes – that it saves water and need for soil and is thereby more eco-friendly – by asking about heating/cooling costs and the carbon footprint of LED lights, along with using synthesised minerals and vitamins, not organic matter as fertiliser. But this post will assume no lights, and maybe a small hydroponic kit...

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More beans for your buck

More beans for your buck

In this post I’m going to be going old school, or old home at least. A recent question from a friend about what crops offer the most prolific yields sent me into a whirlwind of research. But, then I stopped as I received an email about selling the apartment in London, and it got me thinking about the small yard I had in that home and three crops that staggered me.

This post therefore may not be as relevant to the good folk in Singapore, but I’d welcome input from readers around the world about which plants have been their biggest producers. 

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Internationalising tastes

Internationalising tastes

I recently received an interesting email from a reader asking what to grow in Philadelphia if you like Asian food. This points to something prevalent in our generation, internationalising tastes. Whether because of new citizens bringing their cuisine to your country, or dishes you sampled on your travels, many of us want to recreate and grow those flavours at home. 

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Healthy herbs - part two

Healthy herbs - part two

Having covered basil, thyme and mint in the last healthy herb post, this one will focus on cilantro/coriander, chives and ginger for more of an Asian theme ;) 

These herbs (okay, okay, ginger isn’t technically a herb) have been chosen because they can grow in various different climates, so shouldn’t just be confined to those of us in Asia. I’ll talk through some of the nutritional benefits, and the book we’re editing will provide the growing tips, so stay tuned! 

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Huo 火, it’s hot!

Huo 火, it’s hot!

In the final instalment of our Eastern epic, we’ll be looking at the challenges associated with ensuring your plants get the right amount of heat and light. I’ve used the Chinese word for fire, (huo, 火) as a somewhat clumsy proxy for all things heat and light producing. But bear with me…. 

In my experience this can be one of the most challenging areas for an urban farmer, especially one with minimal or no outdoor space. Add in the man-made elements of central heating, air-conditioning and the uneven lighting you might get in a home (e.g. only getting morning sun) and you need to pick your plants and spots wisely. 

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Japanese design - not lost in translation

 Need something to keep your legs together ladies? Now you draw attention to that fact with a big pink ribbon... 

Need something to keep your legs together ladies? Now you draw attention to that fact with a big pink ribbon... 

I am very lucky that my other job takes me to Japan frequently. I could wax lyrical about Japan for far too long, but from the context of the Urban Farmer what I love is the reverence of nature, seasons, food and marrying that with kooky and often very cutting-edge technology. 

When I’m in Tokyo I always pay a visit to the big Tokyu Hands store in Shibuya. For those of you yet to visit, this is a veritable treasure trove of the bizarre, funny and functional all under one roof. See the adjacent camera-phone photo to get an idea, and apologies for the quality of the snap (hard to keep a steady hand when crying with laughter!). 

Japaponics

On a recent trip I stumbled across some truly cool hydroponic kit. Sadly I was traveling light and couldn't fit any in my luggage, but on my next trip (next month) I’ll be using more of that baggage allowance! 

 One of the Akarina range

One of the Akarina range

Akarina had the most attention-grabbing range. They seem to have married aesthetics with hydroponic functionality. The inbuilt and discreet light could see you place this wherever you have a power socket and have the unit double as a very cool lamp. While I am struggling to temper my enthusiasm, and should test the product first, it does seem to address a big current gap in the aquaponics market: something you’d actually want in your living room that might actually work! 

Another Japanese hydroponic kit manufacturer, Green Farm, also stood out. The website and product is not yet internationalised, so unless you read Japanese you’ll struggle to interrogate the website and product beyond the pictures. What I liked about this product was the enclosed plant-growing cabinet, thereby minimising wasted transpiration and aiding water retention.  

 More of the Akarina range and the Green Farm product at the bottom of the picture

More of the Akarina range and the Green Farm product at the bottom of the picture

Earthy alternative

urbanfarmerly.com/EcoForms pots

Much has been made of the Obama-administration’s ‘pivot to Asia’, even if most people in Asia I’ve met have yet to really understand what that means. So it was nice to see that in Urban Farming the pivot has already happened, as a Northern California firm's pots made from renewable sources were adorning the shelves of LoFt. This store is another Shibuya stalwart shop showcasing a lot of the best design from around the world, from watches to teapots and almost everything in between. 

The company in question is EcoForms. Again, what I liked about their products was the fantastic marriage of a pleasing aesthetic with functionality and of course the renewable credentials.  So, if hydroponics isn’t your thing and you prefer growing with soil (see recent post on that), it’s nice to know that more sustainable options to the usual plastic pots are on the market. 

Over to you?

Would you buy any of these products? Or, more interestingly perhaps, are any of you working on similar products? How important are aesthetics in your urban farm? If, like me, you have to grow a lot indoors (lacking the outdoor space), what technological advances would help you? Let me know your thoughts! 

どうもありがとうございました – Thank you very much!