Apartment living has its upsides, but a bountiful garden isn’t usually one of them. We volunteered to try to overcome the challenges of the balcony by joining forces with Aerospring. Here’s part one of our little adventure.
So you don’t have a garden, don’t have a lot of spare time, but love the idea of growing your own produce? Lapsed amateur gardener Selina and plant killer Lindene both dream of fresh salad, herbs and veg harvested from their fantasy urban gardens – so our friends at Aerospring stepped in to see just what we can grow on a Singapore balcony…
What is an Aerospring?
It’s a garden on your balcony! To be slightly more technical, it’s a vertical aeroponics growing system that was developed right here in Singapore. Promising “no soil, no mess, and lots of success!”, it works by using water rather than soil to cultivate a garden, which means there’s no weeding, kneeling, or digging. The Aerospring grows upwards instead of outwards, making it perfect for the apartment-dwelling lifestyle that many of us enjoy (or tolerate). You can grow a huge range of vegetables and greens, meaning you rely less on imported food, saving yourself money and reducing your carbon footprint on the world. And hey, isn’t it nice to know exactly where your food has come from?
The project guinea pigs: What are we trying to achieve?
Once upon a time, I went on a mission to turn my tiny inner-city patch of turf into a kitchen garden. I had two metres max to work with, but was so dedicated I even had a Bokashi Bin, which turned food scraps into a super-stinky fertiliser that needed to be buried. I managed to grow a lovely little patch of rainbow chard, butter lettuce, thyme and even cherry tomatoes! Fast forward a few years to life in a Singapore condo with two little kids, and the idea of having the time to bury homemade artisanal fertiliser for my salad garden makes me laugh and laugh (and weep over all that time I could have spent napping instead). But I desperately miss having fresh, home-grown salad and herbs – especially when this stuff costs a small fortune at the supermarket and quickly turns into a swamp in the fridge. I also want to show my kids where food comes from: not from a plastic box. Is this even possible, with no patch of soil, or time to look after a vegie patch? Nadine and Thorben, the brains behind Aerospring say so. Show me the way!
Selina Altomonte, Editor In Chief
I am not a gardener. I am a murderer. I’ve even organised a hit on my own long-suffering plants by leaving them in the hands of an even less gardener-y friend while I travelled. Suffice it to say, he was efficient and reliable. Mass planticide ensued. So, when I heard about the self-watering (mostly), ‘no soil, no mess’ approach of the Aerospring Garden, I knew I had to give it a shot. My optimistic mind filled with visions of fresh, verdant mint and basil, juicy red tomatoes, and greens with obscure names of which I would feign expert level knowledge while smugly harvesting them to use in that night’s salad. Essentially, by the end of my daydreams I was never going to need to go to the supermarket again. Will the Aerospring be the enabler of my dreams? Who knows. But I think it’s going to be fun finding out.
Lindene Cleary, Associate Editor
Five top tips for the set-up phase
- The Aerospring Garden performs BEST outdoors so identify a sunny (3-5 hours sun), but not blazing hot (all day sun) location to place it.
- Avoid exposing the bucket containing the water in direct sun all day. If your balcony wall is made of glass you may want to shield the bucket from the heat.
- Ensure the Aerospring Garden is within five metres of an electricity power point.
- Buy a garden hose for easy filling and to spray the plants and underside of leaves (whitefly control).
- Select plants and quantity of plants based on growing conditions and food preferences.
Five golden Aerospring rules
- Never let the water run out! Check your water levels every week, monitor EC Levels (if you have an EC meter) and survey your plants regularly.
- Prune plants, trim dead leaves, check the underside of foliage and junctures of stems for bugs and pests. Remember: paying attention to your plants’ health pays off.
- Harvest your plants continually; mint and basil should be regularly enjoyed so as to encourage plant growth.
- Rotate the plants or your pole; there may be a side that doesn’t receive much sunshine, so try to ensure all plants get an equal amount of time in the sun.
- If plants show signs of bug infestation, nip it in the bud immediately! Wash the bugs off, apply horticultural soap spray or other remedies as bugs reproduce rapidly and can quickly take over your plants and pole!
Stay tuned for part two of The HoneyKids Urban Gardening Adventure, where we’ll share an update on our progress so far. Have we grown anything? What have we killed? Do we need to revive the Bokashi Bin?