If You Build It, They Will Grow!

  • A large storage bin
  • Large piece of Styrofoam
  • Box Cutter
  • 4-6 Liter Cups
  • PVC pipe
  • Drill
  • Gardening or Vegetable Soil
  • Perlite and Vermiculite (Optional)

Find or buy a tote or storage bin. The wider and deeper the better. Just make sure it is not translucent.

Find a large piece of Styrofoam. This will act as your false bottom.  If you live near a fruit market or grocery store, you should be able to find Styrofoam in the garbage. The lids to fruit and fish containers are perfect. Styrofoam is great because it's easy to cut, its sturdy and best of all, you get to recycle a material that takes thousands of years to breakdown in landfills. Once you have your Styrofoam, trace out the shape of your bin & cut it out with a box cutter, but make sure its a bit larger than the base of your bin so that when you place it in your bin, it doesn't drop to the bottom.

Find 4-6 plastic liter cups or yogurt containers and evenly distribute them on the Styrofoam. You can find liter cups in most food markets.  

Trace the bottom of the liter cups onto the Styrofoam.

Find or buy a piece of PVC piping. Cut it just a couple of inches taller than your bin. *Make sure to cut one end of the pipe on an angle in order for water to flow out without getting clogged. Alternately you could drill several large holes along the sides.

Trace the PVC pipe onto the Styrofoam.

Using a box cutter, cut out all the holes.

For drainage, drill approximately 20 holes all over the Styrofoam.

Drill a hole into the side of your bin, about 3-4 inches from the bottom, just below where your false barrier will be resting. This will ensure that the reservoir doesn't overfill on a rainy day.

Drill a hole into the base of each container and holes along the sides of the containers. The holes shouldn't be more than 5mm wide.

Fill the containers with a 2 parts soil, 1 part vermiculite and 1 part perlite. If you don't have those, simply adding soil works as well. Press down the mixture into the containers so that it is nice and condensed.

Place the containers upright and arrange them so that they line up with the holes in your Styrofoam.

Place the Styrofoam into the bin and make sure it is pressed tightly against the cups to ensure that they don't move.

Insert the PVC pipe with the flat side facing up. You can add a little bit of organic fertilizer over each cup so that when water is wicked up, it will bring plenty of nutrients to the roots of your plants. Then add your soil mix over the false bottom. Make sure you lightly pack it down and fill it to the brim. With a few rain falls the soil level will drop so make sure to be generous with the soil.

Now you are ready to water the bin. Make sure to fill the reservoir to its full capacity, until the water begins to drain from your overflow hole. This will ensure that you will only have to water once a month or less.

Now for the best part. Add your plants! Most plants will do well in the containers, especially root vegetables. The amount of plants you can plant depends on the size of your containers and the type of plants you are planting, but generally you can fit about 5-10 plants in each container.  If you're planning on using the containers on a really high rooftop, you may need to cover the soil with mulch or plastic bags to prevent the top layer of soil from drying out. Also, avoid using translucent containers as they will encourage algae to grow in the water reservoir. 

And that's it! Just sit back and watch your plants grow!
Happy Urban Farming!