Archive for September 2013

On The Farm Update

It has been five months since I constructed my WindowFarm and, like any first-time build, there have been many learning experiences. From the minor water and nutrient adjustments, to equipment changes, and eventually moving the whole build to another window, it has gone through many adjustments. As a result, there has unfortunately not been any production; however, it has been a good learning experience. As I continue to make improvements, I have assembled the following list of take-aways regarding my WindowFarm build:

  1. Lack of a Natural Green Thumb: I have not grown plants other than a handful of herbs since science class in elementary school. Turns out, despite completing some research before building the system, I do not have a natural green thumb. I’ve had very good plant growth, which is pleasant and relaxing for the apartment, but no production so far due in part to reasons to follow and in part to a lack of good luck
  2. Assembly and Planning: Assembly of the WindowFarm was very easy; however, be sure to plan well where you are hanging the system. I chose to put mine next to my computer desk so I could watch it and enjoy the plants each night while I worked. While I enjoyed having the plants growing next to me, this created access issues as I tried to make adjustments. It also prevented me from opening the window because I was concerned that during a storm rain would blow in and that high winds coming off the lake would cause system damage or spills. However, for cooling my apartment, I rely on cross ventilation, so by the middle of summer not having one of my windows open was unbearable. I’ve since moved the WindowFarm to another larger window with less wind concerns, though in the process had some plants break leading to the demise of two tomato plants.

    20130903_175519

    Unfortunately these two tomato plants died off after moving the system to this window. They sustained damage in the move and through a falling lamp that they couldn’t recover from.

  3. Equipment Improvements: I initially had the unit hanging from hooks above the window, with the primary suspension system holding the water tank. This however led to a long suspension that was not very sturdy feeling. I’ve since strung it so each level is suspended from the one above it (creating two connections to support each level) and installing a ratchet/pulley system to run up to the hook. These improvements have made each column much more sturdy, but also led to some plant breaking and flower loss while they were installed.
    Two connections, bottle-to-bottle and suspension has kept it more sturdy.

    Two connections, bottle-to-bottle and suspension has kept it more sturdy.

     

  4. 20130903_175529Lighting Additions: Shortly after starting it became clear I was not getting enough sunlight and needed to add some artificial lighting. LED bulbs were a very efficient method, each using less than 5 watts, which means with my electric bill already carrying a full size desktop computer, Playstation, and projector, the WindowFarm lighting and air pump aren’t noticeable on my bill. That said, make sure if you going to add LED lights you have a plan. My addition greatly improved my growth, but like a mom whose children just left for college, I now have no lamps in my apartment for normal use.20130811_200734_smaller
  5. Group Like Plants Per Column: Hindsight being 20-20 this seems like a no brainer, yet it is not something I did. By planting tomatoes in one column, and eggplant in another, and peppers in another I could have made adjustments to nutrients, water, and lighting conditions to fit plant needs. However, by mixing them, whatever I did to help one plant of course hurt the others. Group like plants together: simple, but important.

    In the left foreground an eggplants, on the right a pepper, and on the top the last remains of a dead tomato plant.

    In the left foreground an eggplants, on the right a pepper, and on the top the last remains of a dead tomato plant.

  6. Design Addition: Have vertical supports in place for climbing plants (tomato and eggplant in my case) prior to planting. Trying to add these later led to plant damage and limited my options.
  7. Excel Is Your Friend: I’ve tried to keep good records of water, nutrients, additional hours of light, and so on, but they aren’t good enough. As I work on design changes, an additional system, and plan for the plants next season I wish I had better records.

This project has been a positive learning experience and with the number of flowers I’m getting, I still expect some eggplant and pepper production, but I am making some design changes before planting my kale and spinach seedlings. I also am working on a horizontal design for some raspberry and blue berry bushes this fall.

Hopefully some of these notes will be useful to others who try to build home systems. As I say, while it wasn’t the instant success I would hope for, it has been a fun experience and I’m excited to keep making improvements as I move forward.

Coming up:

In addition to the WindowFarm, I have been working on the parking lot digital model mentioned in my last post, but am also making some necessary computer component upgrades. After five years, I found it was necessary to make some improvements and has resulted in generally a new build. I hope to have my first models, matching some of the pictures shared previously, very soon. Then I will work more on detail development of the site. In the mean time I will do a post with some hand sketches and developmental ideas. I also plan to do a post reviewing Scatter, Adapt, and Remember by Annalee Newitz. In short, I highly recommend it as a well researched and very insightful read using geological and and anthropological history as a base to proposing our climate change adaption options.

As always I welcome comments and questions with my WindowFarm build, and look forward to the next post. Have a great week!