By CAITLIN CHANDLER & CODY BERLINER
In 2009, as interest in sustainability grew stronger, people began to find ways to incorporate their outdoor gardens within the home, specifically in their windowsills where a lot of natural light is received. “Window-farming” as it became coined, were DIY kits that included a hybrid, hydroponic indoor gardening system, and were compact solutions that were ideal for urban dwellers who longed for the ability to incorporate home grown elements into their kitchen routine. The units were made out of recycled materials and hung vertically in any window. They were modular, and proper nutrients to vegetative, fruiting, and flowering plants were supplied all in one system. It was really a one-stop-shop that offered a one-size-fits-all solution for the urbanites with a green thumb.
We are now currently in a transition period where the continued interest in sustainability is mixing with the desire for healthier, less polluted home grown food. And the rise of food pricing across the country is motivating this behavior. People are now taking a more mainstream approach than the previous window farms, which required a significant time investment, and new forms of window farming are becoming available that offer the ease of similar DIY efforts but do not rely on electricity and the guesswork from years past. Systems are becoming more developed with interesting design features, including the ability for self-watering systems to simplify the process of growing your own vegetation.
In the past, electrical pumps were used in these window farms to help aerate the water, but as the popularity of home grown vegetation has increased, so has the desire to try and eliminate electricity from the process all together. A new built-in, hand-operated mechanism has been included in many recent window farms that, and when pushed periodically throughout the day, ensure that the water does not become stagnate.
Although it may have less of the green factor of ‘doing-it-yourself’ like a window-farm made out resourced materials, the newer concepts help to eliminate the need for electricity, while also being more accessible to those people who don’t have the patience to build their own systems but who are still interested in the benefits of urban gardening.
Furthermore, newer concepts of indoor gardening are being developed in a way that focuses on good design as well as good sustainability practices. Consider the Miroir en Herbe design, an abstract waterfall of herb gardens, constructed within a structure made of mirrored stainless steel.
Or actually thinking about incorporating gardening planters directly within the design of the interior finishes.
As people have become more accustomed to growing things like herbs and plants indoors, the desire to grow fresh fruits and vegetables indoors, without the use of pesticides, has become more popular. The future of window-farming is actually a hydroponic system. There are currently two front runners on the market, the “Urban Cultivator” and “The Nano Garden”. Both are modular units that can be incorporated into your kitchen cabinetry design as if it were just another appliance alongside your wine refrigerator, providing healthy and chemical-free produce and also serving as an education tool for children! Employing LED lighting, the Nano Garden promotes plant growth without the need of sunlight so it’s the perfect addition to any future kitchen. The water used while cooking or washing the dishes is recycled to provide nutrients to the hydroponics.
Even better than window-farming at home in smaller quantities is the idea of growing your own sustainable herbs on a larger scale indoors for commercial use. LYFE Kitchen in Palo Alto California has based their entire franchise around the idea of growing their own food. The centerpiece of their dining area is a wall garden that grows a wide variety of herbs and micro greens. If you see it growing on the wall, it’s guaranteed to be available on their menu!
Lastly, growing your own produce indoors could eventually even become a part of the way people shop for groceries. In place of the produce section as we know it, where fruits and vegetables and herbs are flown in from around the world, grocery stores could incorporate hydroponic systems on-site that would help them to grow sustainable goods under the same roof as they are sold.