portrait

Ingo Schommer

SilverStripe core dev, testing fanatic, and passionate DIYer. With his heart somewhere between Germany and New Zealand. Contactable as @chillu or via mail.

After being inspired by a TED talk about window farms, I decided to build my own! I’ve always been a tinkerer, and like greens around me. One day I’ll have an awesome veggie garden, but for now a window farm is the best option for our small city apartment.

So why not just put plants on the window sill? Its just more space saving with a window farm, as you use less room for containers through hydroponics and efficient continuous watering. And it was as much fun to build the whole setup than to harvest fresh veggies now!

One word of caution: Its neither the cheapest way to get fresh veggies (see my shopping list), nor the most environmental friendly. There’s the building/shipping of required parts, plus the small amount of energy consumed by the pump and artificial lights during the winter. In the end, I see it as a hobby for people without easy access to a real outdoor garden :)

So here’s some nerdy details on the farm, probably most interesting to fellow window farmers:

  • Water flow: Using a t-valve system. I was able to achieve constant slow bubbles through the right tube material (PVC, low “water resistance”), and valves to control the amount of air.
  • Suspension: Fishing string is practically invisible, easy to work with, and surprisingly strong. But that’s only for the topmost bottles, the other ones hold up themselves through the screwed in bottlecaps.
  • Reservoir: The thickest and lowest water bottles I could find (1L), as I want to maximize the height and light exposure on the window. Works as long as I’m home to refill every couple of days, need to come up with something better for longer breaks. Using about 1m of tube underneath the reservoir (mostly hidden in pictures), to have more water pressure against the t-valve, and avoid the bubbles going the wrong way. I’ve also split up this tube loop and re-connected it with an “i”-style tube connector. That allows me to easily exchange the water by letting it flow into spare bottles, and saves me from deconstructing the system, which will put too much strain on the frail tube outlets.
  • Plants: Basil and Parsley works the best for me, just planted cherry tomatoes, two types of strawberries, chives, garlic chives, rucola, lettuce, and oregano.
  • Lights: Using two 13W lights which are on 12h per day, so roughly 7ct energy costs per day. I’m hoping to turn them off during summer.
  • Safety: The lights look close to the water sources, but are actually an completely separated suspension, with drip loops for safety. I’m not using check valves, but rather gravity: The pump is sitting higher than the water reservoir levels, ensuring that no water can reach the pump or its electricity.
  • Other: Used three IKEA containers underneath the windowfarm both as a basic failsafe to catch drips and leaks, but also as easy waterproof flower pots to grow more plants in.
Apr 23, 2012

Copyright © 2013 Ingo Schommer