by Claudia Chan | The city feels like it’s going through a major growth spurt right now, a green one that is. More than ever before, community gardens, urban farms, and front yard plots are popping up at the turn of every corner. And it’s no wonder, really. Food-growing space in the city is increasingly hard to come by and is therefore very much sought after. Urban farmers and avid gardeners have proven to be resourceful and innovative with their uses of space – from rooftops, public parks, and abandoned expanses to fences off, unused parking lots. Of all these possibilities though, one of the best places to start growing food is in the comfort of your own home. And all you need is a sleek little white planter box.
Patch Planters is an urban agriculture initiative that allows you to grow edible greens and culinary herbs both outdoors and indoors. I like to think of it as a miniature DIY (do-it-yourself) farming concept. It’s a simple, transportable, wholly versatile container box that produces greens just about anywhere – on your windowsill, tabletop, porch, or in your kitchen, classroom, even your office.
Kent Houston, the director of the Vancouver-born company, came up with the idea when his landscape contracting company volunteered with the building of the first SoleFood Farm site at Hastings and Hawks a few years ago. From his experience there, he recognized an opportunity to provide a solution for urban agriculture efforts – a portable container system that would last longer and offer more functional qualities. Instead of using traditional planters that require a lot of wood, eventually biodegrade and go to the landfill, he opted to design a compact planter box that’s fully recyclable made with Tyvex and 60% post-consumerist materials.
Patches come with a built-in sub-irrigation system. In other words, it self-waters. A small amount of soil sits in a screened in-section of a reservoir at the bottom of the container. The soil wicks the water up into the rest of the soil through capillary action; similar to the way a sponge soaks up water. The beauty of the Patch planter is that you can’t underwater or overwater and it gives you a greater yield because it always has the perfect amount of H2O. Even the most careless among us will never have to worry about killing our plants.
Patch is farming made easy. It challenges the idea that growing food is time-consuming, difficult, back-breaking, gruelling work. In fact, it makes growing vegetables simple, fun and accessible. Truly anybody can grow food, including yourself.
Don’t let the turn of the cold season discourage you. It’s not too late to start growing greens like arugula, romaine lettuce, mint and parsley for the winter. Just make sure your Patch gets enough light at a south-facing window (alternatively, some inexpensive fluorescent lamps would also do the trick).
Patch is really keen on supporting local non-profit initiatives. Currently, they’re working in collaboration with Growing Chefs!, a project that I’m a big fan of (I volunteered with them this past Spring), and with the purchase of a planter online, they donate another to a classroom to teach kids about growing food.
Claudia Chan is an advocate of all things green. Born and raised in Vancouver, she is inspired by the work of local urban farmers, eco artists and policy makers who make this city the most lush and livable to work and play in. Her mission with Scout and her “Greenlight” column is to impart her enthusiasm for bike lanes, community gardens, farmers’ markets and more to her fellow Vancouverites.