Feetpot Farming is a system of growing that combines the water saving properties of hydroponics with a wide choice of soil and soilless growing media. Standard nursery pots are modified to receive water from below by way of cotton wicks. When needed, nutrient solutions are applied from above on a weekly or monthly schedule. The solutions are applied in small doses, usually one or two ounces. A dose is more concentrated than prescribed for watering with the idea that it will be diluted by water within the medium.
Each plant is in its own container so the harvest can be moved to the consumer. We call this “the moveable harvest.” Absolute freshness is assured and waste is reduced. When harvest is done at retail, waste at retail is reduced. When harvest is done in the kitchen, waste in the kitchen is reduced. Feetpot Farming takes the guesswork out of watering so retailers, chefs, and home cooks all become experts at keeping produce fresh and vibrant.
Cedar table-farm without plants. Water from a reservoir is pumped continuously through a series of eight Fiscars planters.
New “Table Farm” uses window box liners instead of rain gutters so we don’t call it a “Gutter Garden” anymore. The window box liners add extra wind protection for rooftop installations. The extra wind protection also enhances performance in sub-freezing weather. Because the window boxes are shorter than rain gutters, only 3 feet long instead of 5 feet long, they are easier to maintain.
How it Works
A small pond pump circulates a shallow stream of water through a network of window box liners on a table in my back yard. A five gallon bucket serves as a water reservoir. The pump sits in the bottom of the bucket along with a deicer. Water is pumped from the bucket through a connected series of window box liners and back into the bucket. A frame over the top of the window box liners supports a row cover to create a protected space when needed. When the temperature in the protected space dips to 35 degrees F the deicer is turned on. The protected space is then kept evenly heated by the slightly heated water.
The key component that makes all this work is a standard 4″ nursery pot with a simple modification. Nylon standoffs, available at most hardware stores, are attached to the bottom of the pot as feet. These feet are there to hold the pot above a water source. The pot contains nutrient rich organic soil and a cotton wick. The wick is used to draw water from below into the soil.
During summer months the moving water prevents mosquitoes from breeding. During winter months the water heats the air space around the plants and the feet on the pot transfer warmth from the water to the root zone.
So far so good! The Gutter Garden has weathered freezing rain and a light wet snow. The lettuce held up just fine – we picked some for a lunchtime salad today.
For its newest growing system, Daylight Design has moved outdoors. The Gutter Garden is a simple hydroponic system composed of 5 foot lengths of vinyl rain gutter connected in series with PVC pipe. A small pond pump in a water reservoir (5 gallon bucket) keeps water flowing gently through the system. The Gutter Garden is ideal for growing lettuce and other greens in Daylight Design’s Feetpots™. The “feet” hold the pots above the water running through the gutters, and a wick pulls water into soil in each pot.
As outdoor temperatures began to drop this fall, we added a row cover to cover the plants and a heater (bird bath de-icer) to the water reservoir. The heater turns on when the water temperature reaches 35 degrees. So far, this has been enough to keep the greens healthy and thriving, even on nights when temperatures dipped into the low twenties.
The next big test comes with the advent today of snow and freezing rain. For this eventuality, we added a frame made of PVC pipe to support the row cover. Will this simple greenhouse-like structure keep the lettuce crop safe from the elements? We will let you know.
Seven months ago we started petunia seeds on a Tabletop Sunstation. Two months later we had the first bloom. Today, five small pots of plants produce an ongoing riot of color, cascading down our Wall Garden.
The process was easy: plant seeds in pots using Four Starts, which divide each pot into 4 chambers, producing plugs with deep roots. When the plants are off to a good start, transplant the strongest to individual pots. Grow on Tabletop or Freestanding Sunstation; place in Wall Garden for ongoing display. Keep water in the trays. That’s it.
Trailing petunias on Wall Garden
The variety we are using is called Blueberry Lime Jam. The seeds were purchased from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. We regularly deadhead (pluck off) the spent blossoms, and they just keep on coming. How long can this go on? We’ll let you know!
With a Sunstation it’s easy to get a wide variety of plants, including tomatoes, off to a good start. Trickier is finding good compact tomato varieties that will produce delicious fruit when grown indoors.
We planted the seeds for these Totem tomatoes on November 30 and put them in bigger pots on February 7. The next step will be to move them to a spot with a light that encourages blooming rather than growth. We will experiment with giving the plants a little less water as the fruits are maturing, as this may enhance flavor. We’ll let you know!