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!Read More
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.Read More
In this latest part of the trilogy we return to European roots (yeah, bad pun intended), with a trio of savoury favourites: parsley, sage and rosemary. Again, let’s look at the nutrition principally in this post, with the growing guides to come.Read More
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!Read More
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!).
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!
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.
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!
Do you buy supplements? I do, and I used to buy a lot more until I recently read a little bit about the industry. The more I read the more it felt like one of those holiday scams; you know, “Oh no Sir, this is real ruby, special price for you”, he said holding up the orange piece of glass, or “We powdered the saffron to preserve it and so you have more,” he said holding a vial, the contents of which smelt like sawdust shavings.
Only, those scams seem to have a modicum more honesty...Read More
In this second instalment of the Chinese five elements posts, we'll talk about 土 (tu, earth), the most commonly-used medium for plant growing, and mineral nutrients (including metals, jin, 金).
Plants can be temperamental little things and getting the right pairing can be important. Then there are fertilizers and nutrients to consider. Your average garden center can be quite daunting on first visit with the array of soils and supplements. So where do you start?Read More
Hello there, I've been playing around with some formats showing how you might grow plants. I started with a popular salad staple across the world, arugula (or 'rocket' as we Brits call it). What I need to know is whether the designs below would be of any interest or use to you? If not, could you let me know why? And if you do like them, what else would you like to see?Read More
In previous posts I’ve extolled the virtues of growing herbs in small spaces. Beyond the culinary benefits they bring to most dishes, and the potential money you save not buying a few overpriced sprigs from the store, many pack a mighty nutritional punch.
This and subsequent posts will focus on a few herbs (and spices) that you can grow at home, examining what’s been written about their nutritional properties. As highlighted in my previous post, Nutrition Attrition, there are contradictory articles. This is not a scientific analysis, nor is it detailed enough to cover all perspectives. What I’ve sought to do is identify consistent comments in both Western and Eastern sources about these herbs’ potential nutritional (and wellbeing) benefits.
For more on the various nutrients mentioned see the nutrient summary in our ‘eating guide’.Read More
In this, the first of four posts, I will look at the traditional Chinese five-element theory. So, why four posts for five elements? One of the elements is wood (木), which I take as a proxy for the green things we’re looking to grow using the other elements.
Those elements are: water (水), fire (火), earth (土), and metal(金).Read More
When starting your urban farm one of the areas that can be a little overwhelming is the sheer variety of seeds. I’m not talking about all the plants you could grow, just the seeds for one plant you wish to grow. To prove the point, type ‘lettuce’ into most online seed stores; on one very popular US store they have 151 pages (15 seeds to a page) just for lettuce and associated salad stuffs. That’s before we’ve even got into the debates about genetic modification, heirloom seeds, hybrids, purebreds (plants that will produce viable seeds once matured) etc. We’ll leave that for another blog, but for now, keep it simple!
One of the most fun ways to get started is to look at what you’re already eating and grow from what you’d normally dispose of.Read More
When I see the endless column inches espousing healthy living I understand why they exist, but question whether preaching is the best medium. Can’t we just decide for ourselves? Yes…
…But, a few minutes of research will show you that there is great discord in the many articles devoted to the subject of nutrition in fruit and veg.Read More
Despite the title, this isn’t an urban legend about college initiation ceremonies, but it does get a little fruity! Today children, we’re going to talk about reproduction… in this case fruit and veg.
One of the challenges for many urban farmers is ensuring the flowers that will turn to fruits or veg pollinate. Insects are our friends here, with bees first amongst equals.Read More
Aquaponics is growing plants and fish together. The theory is the waste the fish produce is fertiliser for the plants, who return the favour by keeping the water clean. I’ve seen this work on a large scale on a recent course I attended on all things ending ‘ponics. There I saw tilapia (a fast breeding and growing freshwater fish) being farmed in tandem with various Asian green veg. Lacking a room I could turn into a pond, I thought I’d have a go on a much, much smaller scale, learn from mistakes and adapt.Read More
Urban Farming means different things to different people. My definition is simple: growing food in an urban or confined setting. I’ve done this in various locations with diverse conditions. Throughout this process I’ve experimented and made plenty of mistakes, and enjoyed some successes. One of the reasons I make mistakes is because farming can be hard. As Brian Breet put it, “Farming is a profession of hope”. But people with hope are good people to be around.
The other reason I make mistakes is I’m a man, and therefore not given to reading instructions properly. In my defence I would argue they’re often quite dry and dull. I will endeavour to not go down that (garden) path.Read More