Growing Green in Vertical Spaces

Making the most of small spaces is an obsession of mine.  I live in a studio: my bed must always be made, my clothes hung, and a place reserved for every item I own, because if there isn’t, there’s nowhere to walk, no door to shut to hide my messy side.  Another aspect of city living in a small space is being made more aware that I am a trashy person. I make too much refuse. Reduce, reuse, and recycle is the song of city living: How can I repurpose that spaghetti sauce jar? What might I make with empty moisturizer tins?

How to combine living simply and off the (very little) land you have with reusing and reimagining?  Like a city making space within a limited amount of land, you start to think “up” rather than out. Are you in a small space and wondering where to grow?

Vertically! Vertical window gardens, that is. And many people reuse soda bottles to do so. Which raises so many questions — How do you prepare the bottle? Is it safe to grow food in plastic, with the reports of the reported dangers of BPA in some plastics? More importantly, will I be judged if I admit I drink soda?  (Though, always with a chaser of wheat grass, of course!)   Or that I only drink said soda with rum?

All important questions that we will answer today, in your weekly GROW support group.

I live in surrounded by the farmer’s markets and vegan menus of Silver Lake, and don’t actually drink soda, and am silently judging all you who do. I kid – I’d trip a toddler** for a Coke made with real sugar, like the ones in glass botttles from Mexico.  But if you do have left-over 2-liters or live next to a frat house and don’t mind combing their yard/recycling bin post-party, you too could grow your own hanging window garden.  But! As the concerns about growing food in plastic are real, take extra caution, and visit Resilient Communities to choose the right containers before you begin.

This system is great for year-round growth, and embraces the reuse philosophy in its very system, as Window Farms describes: “nutrient-spiked water is pumped up from a reservoir at the base of the system and trickles down from bottle to bottle, bathing the roots along the way. Water and nutrients that are not absorbed collect in the reservoir and will be pumped through again at the next interval.” offers set-up instructions and a community of growers.  Who’s the DIY guru who’s going to give this a shot? Be sure to check back with us in the comments or on twitter to let us know how you’re growing! @TheCityfarm & @RebeccaSnavely

**I stole this expression from a Floridian friend. We both love toddlers and would never trip one. In fact, I have to refrain from using this forum to post photos of my 1-year-old nephew is new to the toddler and ADORABLE.

 vertical window garden with plastic bottles -  Mike Kissel Wisconsin

Photo: Mike Kissel’s Wisconsin Window Garden