GREENLIGHT: Local Company “Patch” Brings Urban Gardening Inside The Home

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.

  • Patch Planters
  • Patch Planters
  • Patch Planters
  • Patch Planters
  • Patch Planters
  • Patch Planters
  • Patch Planters

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.

You can also get your Patch at Walrus on Cambie and at Strathcona’s Harvest Community Foods.

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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.

There are 4 comments

  1. Admirable. But realistically all they grow is salad and herbs. What percentage is that of the food consumed over a winter, particularly a Canadian winter? 0.001 percent? And no protein or complex carbs. And they are not really growing ‘vegetables’ as claimed as that would connote, say, something more than just lettuce.

  2. @Saskplanner — you’re right! This planter grows grows leafy greens, herbs, and heartier treats like kale, spinach, chard and mustard seed. Perhaps having herbs and leafy greens on hand more often and in your own kitchen will help increase the percentage you consume over the winter? I know it has for our office staff. Over the winter we try and eat locally here in the Lab, I can’t wait to see if we’ll be getting greens too!

    This winter will be our first Vancouver weather run with this product, and we couldn’t be more excited! Despite the winter traditions we’re used to, it’s such a great time to see what yields we can produce in the coming months, indoors, with self-watering planters. We’d love to know how it grows for you as we’re trying to contribute to solving the exact dilemma you’re describing!

    Back in the lab we’re working on the “vegetables” you mentioned, we’ve got more sizes and shapes testing and will be launching them in the upcoming months. This includes things like zucchini, carrots, beets, beans and more! Anything in particular you’d like to see??

  3. I think root vegetables might bring tough because of the depth needed but peas would have a chance because their growing season is short.

    I’ve just built raised beds that I can cover in the spring and fall to act as cold frames to see if I can extend the season here. Good luck.