Growing edible plants indoors, on shelves, with LED lights, means you need space, but how much space is enough? Microgreens are easy because you can stack them them on top of one another but what if you’re growing baby kale, or arugula at home? Well, we wanted to find out.
Growing plants take up space, and space is a major issue when considering growing greens in an urban apartment environment. So how do you go about allocating as much room as you can for your indoor greens farm without making too much of an impact on your living square footage?
That was one of the questions we sought to explore with our first grow shelf. We started off with a number of brainstorming ideas. Julia, undeniably my better half had the awesome idea of suspended farms. Lifted below the feeling by a pulley system. I want to build these for us, but they would be impractical for the average apartment farmer.
We finally settled on an approach that looked at how we can best use a wall without cutting too much into the livable area sq footage to create a growing area for the apartment.
A few weeks prior we also picked up a handful of 9in x 13in in aluminum baking pans that we wanted to run growing experiments in, so decided that this would be our min width from the wall. Our grow shelf would take up 9in of space from the wall.
We also wanted to start quick and simple without having to sacrifice much time to make it pretty at this point. We want to see what works and what doesn’t as a grow area and how much yield we can expect before iterating on designs.
Built Grow Shelf | See the doubling up of the LED strips.
To grow the plants we’re using (9in x 13in x 2.5in) aluminum trays we got for $4 at Home Depot. We’re lining the bottom with a coconut fiber mat to grab excess water from coconut coir substrate. Arugula and Kale will need more than 2 – 2.5 in of substrate to grow to maturity, but we’re putting these constraints in purposefully. Apartments will always be sub-optimal conditions, so what can we realistically expect is the idea here
Shelves will need LEDs attached to their bottoms in order to help the plants grow. We got the LEDs from amazon for $12.99, and a power adapter for $9.99. The wood was an additional $35 – 40 at Lowes in Brooklyn. Total cost around ~$60 for a grow shelf isn’t half bad.
We also took into account the Click & Grow that lives in our grow area and built a space for it as well. Our goal with the shelf however was – save space, maximize grow area. Don’t make the shelves movable.
We came up with this design, also available as a draw.io XML file. The whole set up took about 4 hours to cut/saw the wood into the right pieces, and put it together, and should take not more than 2 hours if you get the wood pre cut. It’s held together with nails, meaning it’s quick and dirty, and not very sturdy, however we never intended to be a sturdy piece of furniture, just a quick inexpensive, experiment hack.
To connect the LED strip, we started from the 3rd shelf from the bottom (of a total of 5), and ran the strip along the bottom of each C board, then up the side and around again. The glue on the strip isn’t the greatest, so we had to jury rig the strip with a bit of string to hold it in place. The 16.4 ft / 5m strip is just enough to light three shelves if you double the strip on each shelf like we did. When connecting the strip make sure the power connector sits at the back and over one of the C boards so that its weight when connected doesnt pull the LED strip off. At this point, you can tighten two pieces of jute or string in an X like in the diagram to the back of the shelf for added stability. And that’s it you’re done.
We’ve had the Click and Grow for about two months now. It’s given us two small lettuces, and we have been picking here and there at mustard greens, basil and parsley. Two months in I think we have a pretty decent understanding of the device and it’s pros and cons. Best put, the Click and Grow is disappointing if you’re looking to grow food at home.If you want a system to grow plants or have a fun activity with the kids, then the Click and Grow could be for you.
Methodology: When reviewing this, or any other product, our first goals at GreenerPods is to see how well the device can help you grow your greens or food at home to make any measurable impact on nutrition and budget, followed by how seamlessly it blends into the home environment, and lastly how well it’s designed as a product. (more…)
Why is what we’re doing important? Why is growing food at home something that – for us – should be embraced in every household? The answer is complex and involves a number of factors it’s nutrition, eating better, fresher, and healthy, it’s understanding to respect the food we put into our bodies and where it comes from, it’s taking an active part in that process, its also sustainability and decreasing our carbon footprints – just imagine the hundreds if not thousands of miles it took your “fresh” baby kale to travel to your supermarket, the plastic container it came in, it’s production and carbon output.
The point I’m trying to make here is, the agricultural supply chain is inherently more complex than how we perceive it most of the time and there are numerous elements we often forget to apply when considering our own eating habits. To me home grown food, is additionally important because it allows a means for people to get the freshest greens and in turn nutrients available on their kitchen table with little to no work. Recently, a University of California, Davis study showed that vegetables can lose 15 to 55 percent of vitamin C, for instance, within a week. Some spinach can lose 90 percent within the first 24 hours after harvest (see chart on page 4).Now what if that same spinach was picked fresh in your kitchen in February and tossed into a salad? That’s what we’re trying to accomplish here – in part.
For part one, (the ordering experience) head over here. Otherwise, continue reading.
Hamama Greens is Based out of SF and they produce home grow kits for microgreens. When writing this review I reached out to them via their website, and Camille, one of the founders was awesome enough to answer my questions, so some of this comes directly from her.
In addition to general questions about the device, I asked Camille what she’d like to accomplish with Hamama, and her quote was pretty awesome. “Our goal is to help as many people as possible experience that gardener’s high and get hooked. The feeling of eating something healthy that you had a part in producing.” Which to us is very solid. We’d love for every household in the US to grow a portion of their food at home, in fact that’s a big part of our mission so this resonated pretty well with us.
Cool, so let’s start it off with this – we’ve had them growing for four days and so far it works, and pretty well, but onto that in a bit. First let’s look at what you get for $35 bucks (looking around the internet the price here seems to have increased. (more…)
Let’s start off with this Hamama Greens has a pretty great mission which we align with here, they “want to help create a world where anyone can grow and eat fresh food as a part of a healthy lifestyle routine.” Right on! As someone who believes accessibility to fresh nutritious greens is pivotal, this initiative speaks to me. Price wise it’s also economical, the starter kit which comes with everything you need to get going is $35, this comes with enough seeds to grow your greens for a month, and then a monthly subscription to seeds at $16/month.
From my research this is one of the less expensive options, which is awesome, as economic accessibility to fresh greens is super important, and the monthly seed subscription won’t break the bank. Lastly if you love the system, Hamama Greens also offers a microgreen flat they call a grow tray for $25. Not bad at all. You can all this on their website, and they use Shopify with a custom domain to process all transactions.
I ordered over thanksgiving weekend and the microgreen kit was shipped that Monday by USPS, and arrived here in Brooklyn NY, Friday morning. We’ll get to setting all this up soon and will post updates here.