When working with a small footprint, adding more usually means you need to look to building up.
In the introduction to our tiny plot I mentioned that we are exploring the use and efficiency of tower-like growing systems. There are many commercial varieties available across the world wide web constructed of nearly as many different materials. Some even include hydroponic and aquaponic components, grow lights, and a free key chain flashlight. However, in order to show how accessible this method really can be to gardeners of any skill level, anywhere, on almost any budget, our towers will be constructed by hand of salvaged materials and easy to find hardware. We will then compare the edible output of the towers to traditional rectangle planters occupying approximately the same square footage.
The towers will also include the most important component of any agricultural endeavor, composting. No matter where you grow, in the rich flood plain or in a barrel on a scalding rooftop, soil structure and health is key to producing nutritious food. Through compost, we can add both critical nutrients and humus, organic matter in the process of decay, back to the soil. These then feed the plants and aid in the ability of the soil to retain water and continue to release nutrients.
Modeled after keyhole gardens, the towers will have a composting and watering reservoir extending the depth of the soil. As kitchen scraps and water are fed into the reservoir, the food will compost and rich fertilized water will be distributed to all of the roots through small holes in the sides of the tube. Once the compost is finished, the humus can be incorporated into the soil for added structure and the process can begin again. A small receptacle below the tower will also be used to catch the extra compost tea to be fed to the plants on top.
By essentially building all-in-one garden systems, families can potentially raise their own soil, fertilizer, and a wide variety of produce on as little as two square feet.
Photo credit: verticalgardeninstitute.org, sendacow.org, and growtower.com