Our Apartment Agriculture section features examples of small-space growing from our imaginative and industrious readers. Follow along and submit your own entries. More details here.

Fall/Winter 2016/17:
Jenifer Sheppard’s Pallet Garden

Jenifer Sheppard's contest-winning pallet garden.

It’s a small balcony but it’s amazing how many plants can fit with the help of hanging baskets and rail planters. The vertical garden only takes a few supplies: an old pallet, landscaping mesh, a staple gun, and soil. I’m surprised how well it’s doing! Make sure your pallet was heat-treated rather than fumigated, and you’ll need to water almost daily as the soil is relatively shallow.

Current contents: pineapple sage, calibrachoa, basil, mojito mint, oregano, chives, watercress, cherry tomatoes, and thyme. In the bottom, shaded row are rhodochiton and fuchsias. I added a shelf to the right for sweet peas because I couldn’t live without them.

Spring/Summer 2016:
Malachi Stewart’s Homemade Aquaponics

Aquaponics is a self-sustaining system that only needs a pump for electricity (and maybe a lamp if you don’t have enough natural light). The aquaponics system uses the nitrogen cycle—when fish excrete ammonia, which is converted into nitrates, which in turn are absorbed by the plants. This is a fun, easy, and rewarding weekend project.

In the picture of my grow bed, you can see that I added cloth to the end of my pipe to adjust the input. It may take a while to get the input and output just right. Also you will need lots of light for your plants. My system is in front of a window and under a lamp so I get a mixture of natural and artificial light. This set up works best for me, but you can adjust as you wish.

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Instructions

Assembly time: 3 to 4 hours (with materials)

Materials: Sump tank (big container), grow bed (small container), pump, connecting pipe, little pipe, your choice of plants, gravel, small, freshwater fish, and scissors.

Construction:

  • Place the grow bed above the sump tank, use a table or stool if you have to. Connect the pump to the connecting pipe then place the pump in the sump tank
  • Cut a hole in the bottom of the grow bed. Use your second shorter pipe and push the pipe through the hole and apply adhesive (hot glue works well)
  • Fill the bottom of your grow bed with gravel, being careful not cover the pipe at the bottom. Put the other end of your connecting pipe (the longer one) in the grow bed you can use tape to hold it in place
  • Anchor plants in the gravel—I find strawberries work well. Fill the sump tank with water and turn on the pump
  • Wait a few days then add fish. I use goldfish but there are many freshwater fish options