I’ve had a serious case of green thumb envy my entire adult life. How can I claim to be such an avid environmentalist, yet incapable of keeping a cactus alive? So when my husband suggested growing some of our own food in our tiny garden, I felt a wave of panic. He may have been blessed with a green thumb, but has also been cursed with a hectic travel schedule. I had visions of him creating a nursery oasis in our backyard, only for me to kill everything the first time he left the island for more than 48hrs.
Then I met Nadine Keller, co-founder of Aerospring Gardens, and she was a beacon of hope. I had seen pictures of their vertical gardening system but was worried that even this statuesque tower would prove no match for my ability to kill anything potted and living. Surprisingly, Nadine shares my brown thumb and in her own words she had “never met a plant she couldn’t kill until she met the Aerospring”.
So why would someone with a brown thumb decide to start an urban growing business? It was simple; Nadine was fed up with the cost of fruit and vegetables in Singapore. One night, returning home after a trip to the grocery store frustrated at paying $4 for a single (semi-decent) tomato, she looked at her partner Thorben and asked “Can we grow our own?” The answer was yes!
Thorben began to design a system which would take a lot of the guess work out of growing their own food at home. He needed to build a system that would be self-watering as they were time poor and as he pointed out “three months effort can be undone with only a few days of not watering or one day of too much rain”. He also wanted to use hydroponics instead of soil, which allowed more plants in a smaller space.
After a few months of tinkering with different materials, their first prototype for the Aerospring was born. At first this was just a personal project so Nadine and Thorben could enjoy growing their own food at home. But as they started to use the system they quickly realised that they had created something that many people could benefit from. Today the Aerospring makes it possible for even those of us with limited space in city centres to grow some of our own food.
Still unsure of the benefits of growing hydroponically versus the traditional method of using soil? Well let’s go over a few of my personal favourites:
1) Hydroponic gardens require one fifth of the space
Saving space is a huge priority for most of us living in Singapore. Very few of us have the luxury of a large garden, so hydroponics is a lifesaver if you only have a few square feet of sunlight to play with. Plus, Aerospring is a vertical system which takes space saving to the next level, actually making it possible to produce the same yield as a soil garden using about one fifth of the space.
2) Hydroponic gardening requires 90% less water
Let’s think about how we water soil gardens. Usually we dump a bunch of water on our gardens every few days and try to saturate the soil in the hopes that some of that water will hit the roots of the plants. Unfortunately most of the water runs off our gardens, drips out of our pots or is evaporated. Hydroponics cuts out water wastage as most systems use a ‘recirculating nutrient reservoir’. This means that the roots will only take the water they need and the rest will go back into the reservoir for future use.
3) 75% reduction in fertilisers and nutrients
In the same way that hydroponics reduces the amount of water wasted, the same is true for fertilisers and nutrients. Because all of the nutrients are added to the water that is circulated in the system, you don’t waste nutrients that run off into local drainage systems or have nutrients that never actually hit the roots of the plant.
4) No weeding!
I have never met anyone who enjoys spending hours on their hands and knees weeding their gardens while breaking their backs. With this system you don’t need to. Aerospring I salute you for this alone.
5) Less pests and diseases
When soil is taken out of the picture, you also eliminate a lot of the different soil borne diseases and pests that plague traditional gardening.
These benefits are just a few and demonstrate why many feel that hydroponics will become a significant food source for urban regions in the future. Aerospring has made growing hydroponically in Singapore accessible for everyone and has introduced us to their philosophy of ‘grow a little of your own food’. This doesn’t mean that your home should be transformed into a greenhouse and that you will never have to venture out to a grocery shop again. It simply means start with growing just a little of your own food, and see where the journey takes you….
I love walking outside to my Aerospring and grabbing just what I need. Long gone are the days of buying packs of herbs to only use half and find the rest wilted at the back of my fridge a few days later. Plus, many of us have lost sight of where our food actually comes from and the carbon footprint associated with it. I finally feel connected to my food again and what’s better than being able to eat produce that was handpicked only a few minutes before? Dinner doesn’t get much fresher than that!
If you would like to learn more about Aerospring Gardens check out their website or their Facebook page.
My Pure Earth