I built my window farm in march of 2010. since then, I’ve learned a lot, and I thought I would share my
experience with you guys.
First of all, mine is a 24 plant reservoir system. The air lift system had already been adopted as the superior system by the WF community when I began my WF, but I just wasn’t on board. I didn’t like the gurgling sound, the limited number of plants, the fact that it had to be turned on for so long. I’m not criticizing the air lift system, but it just wasn’t for me. The reservoir system, in my opinion, is beautiful, the number of plants it can support is seemingly endless, the water pump is completely silent, it only runs for two minutes every four hours, and the sound is like a soothing rain. My system has been tweaked just a bit to fit my preferences, and I’ll describe the details of my system at the end of this post.
So, I started by garden from seed using peat pellets. I’m no gardener by any stretch of the imagination, I don’t know how to prune, harvest, or tinker with nutrients. So I just tried a little bit of everything- lettuce, cucumber, peppers, green beans, cherry tomatoes, okra, spinach, and a few herbs that I didn’t start from seed, but bought planted. I washed the dirt from the roots when the little guys were big enough to transplant into the WF, which seemed like it would be really traumatic, but none died, not one.
Everything was off to a good start, it was looking beautiful. Visions of serving coffee to curious neighbors who stopped by to ask about my awesome garden danced in my head. But the cold hard reality was a lease violation from my apartment complex. They didn’t like my “display” and insisted that I take it down immediately or be evicted. Not to be deterred, I simply lowered my blinds, and opened them facing upwards so they could get light, but people from the ground floor couldn’t see in. This worked fine, and provided trellis for the okra and cherry tomatoes. I moved to a different apartment four months later, one with south facing windows that didn’t mind if I had a WF.
The lighting system was always a concern for me. Something about repeating columns of dripping water and electricity just didn’t sit well with me. I wouldn’t leave the lights on when I wasn’t there, and eventually I just took them down. The garden didn’t seem to mind too much, some of the veggies got a little leggy, but overall, I think it was alright.
Results of the first Crop
Some veggies did better then others, the cherry tomato plants got HUGE. Like, four feet tall. If I had known more about gardening, I would have had a better yield. The lettuce did really well, not the spinach. I didn’t get very many veggies, a few cucumbers and okra, maybe one green bean and a couple cherry tomatoes. I’ll do some more research before planting a bunch of veggies again. The Basil and sage, however, were wonderful! they stayed nice and bushy around their respective bottles, perfect.
It was fall and I didn’t have the gardening bug like I do in spring. I wanted something simple and pretty to look at through the winter. So I picked up some rockwool and a package of flower seeds. I think they were marigolds. Just a package that was at the grocery store. I dropped a couple seeds into the rockwool and put those into the WF. Not long after that, I had a wall of pretty flowers to look at during the dreary months of winter. Unfortunately, I didn’t even think to take a picture for you guys. Sorry.
Spring approaches again, and I want an herb garden. It’s been nearly a year, and I need to clean the WF before planting (can we call it planting?) the next crop. The modular nature of the system made it pretty easy. Fresh hydroton, I ran the net cups through the dishwasher, rinsed the bottles, and scrubbed out the reservoirs. The tubes were lined with algae, which I knew better than to buy clear tubing, but it hadn’t clogged the tubes or anything, so it wasn’t a big deal. Pipe cleaners woulda worked, I’m sure, but we used a metal coat hanger and put a bit of cotton on the tip, the tubes were like new.
I really liked the herbs from last spring, so I pick out a bunch of herbs that were already planted in the gardening section of any store at this time of year. Lets see- I got cilantro, dill, sage, thyme, tarragon, basil, mint, and a few peppers for the husband. Each plant was in a disposable pot, and actually had three plants in each pot. I know it seems traumatizing, but it worked for me: I take the plants out of the pot, and gently but firmly shake as much dirt off as possible. Then I ran it under water to get the rest of the dirt off and try to untangle the roots as best as I can. Some of the roots simply will not come untangled, and some roots do get broken. I tried to minimize this, but it’s unavoidable. The plants were just fine, though. Not one died, even though they were probably quite shocked.
And that’s my garden right now.
My system is a six column 24 plant system. The window it’s in now is bigger than my last, so I may add another row on the bottom for a 30 plant system. My top reservoir is a four inch diameter, six foot long pvc pipe, with drippers I found from HomeDepot. I keep the top reservoir hidden behind a valence. Here’s a picture of my drippers. They come with six on this head, but the drippers just pop right off.
At the end of each column, I have a tube which drains the water into a 1 inch pipe, which is angled so the water drains into the bottom reservoir. My bottom reservoir is a plastic box with lid that I picked up at walmart, but I spray painted it to prevent algae from growing in my reservoir. The bottom reservoir holds the water pump, which is for fountains pumping water 8 feet high, I found this pump for 40 bucks at home depot. Something like this: http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?storeId=10051&productId=100083846&langId=-1&catalogId=10053&ci_sku=100083846&ci_src=14110944&cm_mmc=shopping-_-googlebase-_-D28X-_-100083846&locStoreNum=589
Beckett 3/64 HP Submersible Fountain Pump
Model # M400HD
Internet # 100083846
I tried finding the hydroponic materials locally, but most places just look at me funny if I ask for hydroponic supplies. Eventually I found hydroton, nutrients, rockwool, and net cups (for .25 each!) at a local head shop. Which is always kinda fun.
My WF did end up costing a lot more than an air lift system, my water pump alone cost $40. but I like it.
A few problems that I ran across: my system drips into a pipe that drains into the bottom reservoir, the tubes fell out a few times. Tape didn’t work, and I didn’t want to glue it in place, so I sewed it in place. I ran a needle and thread through the tube and around the drain pipe and tied it off. I can cut it off if I need to but it’s strong enough to keep it from falling off. I haven’t had many leaks, I used gorilla glue around the drippers, so it expanded and stopped any potential leaks.
I originally drilled little holes in the caps and kept them on the bottles, but they clogged really easily. If a hydroton pebble fell out of the basket, if roots grew down into the cap, if dust or dirt accumulated in the cap. So I’ve thrown away all the caps and just leave the bottles open.
So, ultimately, I love my Window Farm. All of my friends and family think it’s cool, it’s like a conversation piece. Everyone is really interested and curious, plus the fresh herbs are so handy. While Everyone I know seems really intrigued, no one else has made one. Which kinda surprised me, I thought everyone I knew would want to have a window farm. Maybe it’s because my husband and I are such avid DIYers?