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Robert Ray
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http://www.nextworldtv.com/videos/growing-food/window-farms.html

 
Mike Dayton
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WOW,,,,What a great project.  That is a Great idea that started with just one person but has started to grow world wide.  Thanks for sharing.  I loved what they are doing in a city with no place to plant in the dirt.  Not really permiculture,  but still a reasonable option for apartment dwellers.  There is more than one way to have locally grown veggies. 
 
Tyler Ludens
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Neat!  Reminds me a bit of Anna Edey's vertical beds in her greenhouse in the book "Solviva".  I think they were made with PVC pipe, but could even be made from bamboo.  They weren't hydroponic, just watered by a hose or watering can.  Could probably work in a window.

 
                      
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Loved this! My entire afternoon was invested in the information that was made available on this link. Thank you so much!
 
Brenda Groth
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found it interesting too, but a solar pump would really upgrade this from good to great.

I realize that I WAY underutilize my southfacing banks of windows here..esp in the winter months..I need to plan to use them better starting this fall..for better variety in my diet..thanks for the llink
 
Mariah Wallener
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Sigh. So torn about this.

On the one hand, how can anybody not love a way for apartment-dwellers to grow their own food?

On the other hand, just how nutrient-complete can a food be when not grown in soil that is connected to the earth? With no bugs. And nutrients strictly limited to the liquid fertilizers added to water. I know there are organic fertilizer mixes using seaweed and other yummy stuff, but it's just so far from what a plant gets from the earth that I think it's like comparing formula to breastmilk. Sure, the former will keep you alive, but such a poor imitation of the real thing...
 
Tyler Ludens
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You could have a worm bin in your kitchen to produce fertilizer for your plants. 

Personally I would prefer plants grown in soil, they could still be suspended in the windows.  Unfortunately I don't think there are any pictures online of Anna Edeys suspended grow tubes in her greenhouse and I can't scan from the book without violating her copyright. 
 
Mike Dayton
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Sigh. So torn about this.

Torn, Why are you torn?  Eat freash locally grown food or truck it into the city from 1000 miles away.  I think it is great.  When you have lemons make lemon aid.  City dwellers really do not have a lot of options here.  I applaude their efforts to do what they can with what they have. 
 
                      
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Why couldn't the same system work with sand or gravel on the very bottom of each water bottle for drainage & a handfull of soil to put the plants in? If space in the 12oz bottle is the issue why not use the litre size? I know my fishtank air pump has a speed control on it so it could be adjusted to compensate for the slower drainage rate... I'm honestly asking not telling. I quess as soon as I put all the fabu stuff I've learned so far into use I will have to study aquaponics too.
 
Fritz Charlton
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Location: Indiana near Chicago
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I definitely salute their ingenuity, reason for doing it and inventiveness (seriously, many applause) but ewwww plastic bottles?  Really?  It is my understanding that plastics leach out toxins, BPA, for example.  http://content.usatoday.com/communities/greenhouse/post/2011/03/us-bpa-twice-canadas-level/1
 
duane hennon
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PET plastic bottles do NOT contain BPA, so go ahead and build.
taking advantage of the "form" the material is in is one of the best ways to reuse an item

http://www.factsonpet.com/frequently-asked-questions/
 
T. Joy
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Says right here PET is fine for use but not reuse. That's the issue with lots of this sort of plastic, it is not made to be used again and again, only single use and then recycled.
http://domesticgoddesses.tribe.net/thread/243d1968-ce4d-4345-9a60-286eb3705e62
 
duane hennon
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<1> PETE, aka PET (polyethylene terephthalate) Used for most transparent bottles, such as water, soda, cooking oil, and medicine bottles. Generally safe to use (not reuse); generally recycled.

this refers to reusing (refilling) as original, ie, a water, soda, container for human consumption
using the bottle for holding growing medium and fertilizer is OK
 
duane hennon
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Windowfarms is getting some big time attention

http://challenge.bfi.org/application_summary/2296
 
T. Joy
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duane wrote:
<1> PETE, aka PET (polyethylene terephthalate) Used for most transparent bottles, such as water, soda, cooking oil, and medicine bottles. Generally safe to use (not reuse); generally recycled.

this refers to reusing (refilling) as original, ie, a water, soda, container for human consumption
using the bottle for holding growing medium and fertilizer is OK


It's certainly better than food that travels far to reach our table and is sprayed with who knows what and handled who knows how along the way. But... if that plastic can leach into water that you drink out of it surely it can also leach water that flows through it to hydrate the plants. There has to be something a little better to use...
 
Robert Ray
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  Rather than take a dump on the idea and the use of plastic bottles how about a suggestion on something other than the plastic bottles if that is an issue.
  Hurricane lantern globes?  Ceiling light fixture glass covers, many have a hole in the center that could allow the drip some even have holes at the perimeter that could be used to hang them.
Let's have less poo-pooing and more do-doing.
 
Mariah Wallener
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I was being somewhat idealistic in my "being torn". It wasn't until I grew my first vegetable, a carrot that I'd planted myself from seed, that I had my Moment of Epiphany and realized that indeed you are what you eat. When I consider the myriad unknown nutrients and substances that Mother Nature provides in Living Soil I couldn't help but understand that the hydroponically-raised tomato, if dissected down to that degree, must surely be sorely lacking compared to the field-grown one.

I agree that it's a huge step ahead from transporting food thousands of miles, but can still set my ideals high that one day city dwellers will have plots of soil that are connected to the Earth from which to get their food.
 
Mariah Wallener
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Plastics degrade in ultraviolet light. It is a very real concern, BPA or not. Glass might be tricky due to it's weight, etc but I would not want to eat food grown in plastic water bottles exposed to sunlight through a window.
 
Robert Ray
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Being Idealistic isn't a bad thing.
In the video you see how one persons idea was networked out and through collaboration has really brought in some problem solving system improvements that have added to her original idea.
Heck net bags with burlap wicks from bag to bag might be a bit messier but could address the plastic issue.
What do you see as an alternative to plastic bottles?
 
Fritz Charlton
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Location: Indiana near Chicago
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If you want solutions... ok top of head.  Just brainstorming

-Soil Cubes http://www.soilcube.com/
-on grates 
-over trays, pitched for run off and solar optimization
-on 'found' reused shelving and pallet wood,
-or a  PVC frame like this guy http://theselfsufficientgardener.com/the-horticultural-engineer-making-a-seed-starting-rack-from-pvc builds *obviously modified for aforementioned reasons
-framed in reflectors

OR get a glass cutter and some liquor bottles, I am sure there are plenty of those in the Apartment recycle bin.

BUT, I am not the one living in the city. 

At the risk of repeating myself, much props to the ingenuity, inventiveness and IDEA, but I still question the implementation (plastic). 
 
                      
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Is there a big difference in the plastic used for water bottles & the plastic used for PVC or hosing?
 
Shawn Bell
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This seems like a rather obvious solution to not using plastic.

A planter box, a trellis, some soil, a worm bin for continuing fertility.

Just a little attempt at do-doing with some worm poo-pooing (sorry I could not help myself).
Dirty Window Farm.jpg
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duane hennon
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here's what the plastic bottles have lead to
http://www.rndiy.com/

a great permaculture project for those of you out there trying to make a profit, would be to design a system for the people in the cities, rather just whine and complain about what they're trying to do
 
Robert Ray
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My point exactly.
 
Shawn Bell
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Duane and Robert,

I don't believe anybody is really whining and complaining, just expressing concerns about deeply held beliefs.

What these people are doing is tremendous and should be encouraged, growing your own food is a great thing.  And certainly a little BPA is not as bad as the chemicals sprayed on the food by commercial farmers.  And while hydroponic produce may not be as nutritious as food grown in living soil, it is certainly every bit as nutritious factory farmed produce grown in dead dirt and fertilized with petroleum products.

However there is a little bit of a disconnect between "window farms" and "permaculture".  At the window farms site they state that their goal is to develop hydroponic window farming, which is input intensive.  Permaculture farming on the other hand after being established requires very little input as creation does the rest.

Sometimes while striving for what you feel is best, you are not as appreciative as you should be of something that is good.
 
Mariah Wallener
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I was trained as a scientist. It is in my nature to immediately try and "find the flaw" and bring it to attention. I always appreciated this from my peers when I was engaged in research: we all knew it wasn't personal, that we were striving to always improve on our work, and a bit of criticism from a friendly face was always welcome. My intent is not to dismiss what these folks are doing. The collaborative community aspect of it alone is fantastic, and it's all definitely as step in the right direction.

But why stop there? Why should city folks have to settle for anything less than the best food they can get? And I worry that when things like this take off, it actually gives people the same false sense of security and ignorance we are trying to get out of with our factory-farmed meats and foods. For example, all my life it never EVER occurred to me that a chicken raised in confinement that never saw daylight or barely moved around would be different in any significant way from one raised on a farm (other than the ethics of it all). I had to really think about this from a grower/gardener's perspective, had to experience watching a teeny tiny seed grow into a carrot, and ask myself: where did the matter come from? How diverse are the elements that comprise that matter? It was only then I appreciated, gradually, that SOIL is the answer to it all. None of this is meant to criticize, but to hold the goal line just that much further out and hope we continue to move towards it.

The other comment is purely practical: given what I've seen of the breakdown of plastics exposed to UV light I would not want to grow my food in one that sits in front of a window all day.
 
Robert Ray
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I guess we see it in many different ways, ctriticism is good constructive critiscism better. 

Hydroponics/aquaponics could easily be adapted to or incorporated into permaculture. aquaponics would not be unatural as far as nutrients.

And as some of you have said the the collaboration is an incredible to be copied effort.
 
                      
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Again- I'm a newbie so I don't really know stuff I'm mostly asking so I can learn. It seems to me that if you're in a city digging stuff out of recycle bins, pretty much any container is a crap shoot- Lead in clay pots & some glass, chemically treated wood, chemicals leaching from concrete or rubber... I guess my question has to do with "Leaching" is this an instant occurance or is this an Over Time thing? If over time- how much time? Does leaching happen more in standing liquid or is the rate of potential contamination reduced or sped up by moving liquids? Most appartment dwellers are fairly moble- don't stay in the same appartment for entire lifetimes so I would imagine as a person moves or new technologies come along, there will have to be an evolution process in this little system. Therefore is it likely that the use of this system will make a person overly ill within a growing season or two? Or is the same person more likley to become ill from over use of their microwave? I gatta believe that all things are relative to an idividuals needs. As far as "Permaculture" is concerned isn't embracing hydro/aquaponics just the same as Paul's "Embrace the Comfrey" deffinition? Using all that is available to us? If I don't have access to soil but I do have access to plastic bottles- I think Im gonna grow food any way I can.
 
T. Joy
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Whoa, things got testy while I was away. Interesting.

Anyhow, I ran this by some innovative friends and one said to cast pots out of terracotta (she's a potter though  . I can't see why prefab wouldn't work) another friend suggested glass bottles and I just happen to have seen a great youtube video on cutting them cleanly in a way that saves both the top and bottom. And someone else made reference to the famous hanging gardens in ancient Persia with some really clever technology. I'll have to check that out.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm pretty sure most glass these days is relatively free of lead (I say relatively because almost everything everywhere is contaminated with something we don't want  ).  I think glass wine bottles might work ok, with stronger hangers.

Crafty, can you link to that video about cutting bottles?  I want to replace my plastic bottle cloches with clear wine bottles, and need a way to cut them.  Is it the burning string method?

Most of all, I think we need to keep the perfect from being the enemy of the good in these kinds of projects (window gardens and the like).  If people can get interested in growing their food in hanging gardens in their window-sills, maybe they can move on to different ways of growing food in the cities.

Maybe a huge movement in window gardens might encourage builders to build green walls/ apartment greenhouses, etc.

http://www.solviva.com/Greyburg_Greendale.htm
 
T. Joy
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Sure, here ya go. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFXngPx3w3M
Like I said, this is surely better than having food that was grown who knows how shipped from who knows where. For myself though it would be a funny thing to build this out of plastic bottles when I have been working for so long at limiting plastic in our lives altogether, you know? There must be a better way and that's what I aim to find out.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thanks! 
 
Robert Ray
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Yeah forward thinking  .  I find it is so easy to say why something won't work before thinking how to make something work or work better.
 
                      
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To solve the problem of UV deterioration, one can paint the sunward side, or the whole bottle.

A whole design for apartment gardening might include worms, to bee fed primarily cardboard, which they love and thrive on.

And perhaps Tulapia tanks for the daring.

Single males might grow Soldier Flies to feed the fish, also.

A Moringa tree, well and frequenlty trimmed, in a planter, on wheels, if they have a sun-decent balcony.

If they have a balcony, then the towers to grow things on or hanging set up could do much more. They could put mini-greenhouses on their balconies.

As someone said, it is the initiation of a process, of moving out of inertia and into a future of greater possibilities.
 
James Stark
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Someone mentioned a planter box and a trellis......Here's what I do in my south facing windows. That is a watermelon plant in there. It's not quite as simple as some plants (I have to polinate it with a small paintbrush, plus I have to support the melons) but it sure is worth it. Last frost around here is usually around the end of May, so our season isn't very long at all. I grow all kinds of long season plants this way though.
windows003.jpg
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windows005.jpg
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Jocelyn Campbell
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And now the founder of the window farms social media/sharing site (18,000 24K users there) has a Ted Talk video.
 
Sandra Ellane
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Hi, a response to some of the above comments about whether this is even permaculture. I feel it absolutely is. The first thing I learned about permaculture about 15 years ago is that we need to apply sustainable concepts to where we live, be it city or country. An example the instructors gave was how in Mexico City entire families live in one room dwellings, yet are able to grow food for themselves.

Keep in mind how many people will never be able to live on spacious land. This is part of the reason why permaculture has a reputation for being an unrealistic solution- it’s seen as something only rich greenies can get into, as opposed to one that can save the planet.

This may need to be a new thread, but all those years ago I watched a video at a permaculture meeting. I’ve been able to find it online (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6370279933612522952&hl=en#). It’s an early documentary of Bill Mollison and his concept he called permaculture. The quality isn’t the best, but Bill is wonderfully entertaining, and the film is a great summation of how it all can work. Anyway, the very first practical application in the film after the introductory theory (about 10 minutes in) shows Bill himself setting up a garden on a tiny apartment terrace, complete with aquaponics.

I could go on forever about this film and the ideas/concepts/nuances, but I really just wanted to point out that the concept of permaculture can be applied in whatever situation you find yourself in.
 
Vera Lothian
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An idea instead of bottle and to use soil would be the standard terracotta pots with the hole already in the bottom run a chain trough them with a bolt stopping the pot from sliding down the chain. The chain would also double up as a guide for the water so it dribbles down rather than just running trough. Some of the bonsai mesh could be used to stop the soil from falling out. I might have to see if I have neough pots....
 
Brad Davies
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Vera Lothian wrote:An idea instead of bottle and to use soil would be the standard terracotta pots with the hole already in the bottom run a chain trough them with a bolt stopping the pot from sliding down the chain. The chain would also double up as a guide for the water so it dribbles down rather than just running trough. Some of the bonsai mesh could be used to stop the soil from falling out. I might have to see if I have enough pots....


Seems like that could work, I would be concerned about the weight of a clay pot with soil in it though. You would probably need a beefy support system to hold a few of them.

After seeing this last week I have been considering setting up a system like this, I already had most of the supplies. But now I am thinking I might just setup a wire shelving unit in front of the windows instead, only because I have space and need more room to start seedlings.

I don't really see the concern of is this permaculture as being relevant. This window farm is a design, product, concept whereas permaculture is a system of design. To me that seems kind of like saying is this object a system of design. I think a better question would be, how can we apply permaculture to this design?

Some ideas to answer my own question:
*Turn it into an aquaponics system. A fish in the water res would add organic nutrients to the system, one things output is anothers input.
*Different locally available growing mediums could be used, Coco fiber, peat, a sandy soil mix, etc..
*Small solar panel to run the pump, or charge a battery that ran the pump.
*Use a sustainable or local product for the container instead of plastic, though something can be said for recycling done this way.
*Use compost teas or worm casting tea for fertilizer instead of commercially available salt based fertilizer.
*Add worms to the "grow beds" this is rather common in a lot of aquaponics setups, the worms live happily in the grow medium and help clean up the solid fish waste.

Just some thoughts...
 
Shane McKenna
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Location: Utah
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I love the window farm idea, and designed a patio system to play with the idea. Just a heads up, those who are concerned about plastic containers are really going to hate my design. I obviously don't share the same concerns, and your opinions have been noted, but not adopted.

I selected laundry soap bottles for several reasons,
1) They are opaque so they block the sun from the roots.
2) Robust plastic compared to water bottles.
3) Large thread surface area on cap threads, flange on some of the caps, making a much stronger fastener connection.
4) Larger body to put more plants in each bottle.
5) Gather free from laundromats.

Filling the plastic bucket, 3/4 full of gravel, and a little growing media on top, gives more planting area.

System is super simple, and can be moved (I have a little hand truck just the right size).
patio system.JPG
[Thumbnail for patio system.JPG]
 
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