Dish is Square Mile Farms’ Head Farmer. He’s spent the last year experimenting with growing 40+ types of vegetables, herbs and microgreens at our Paddington rooftop farm and in our office farm installations. Using his knowledge of building and maintaining indoor hydroponic systems he is on a mission to help London workers reconnect with their food by helping them grow it themselves!
Over the coming weeks and months Dish is going to share his experiences of moving our urban farm to his home, and provide tips and guidance on how you can also grow at home to help you learn, clear your mind, and grow your own fresh produce! It starts here.
So here we are sitting at home amidst an unprecedented lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping the world. This sudden disruption has already exposed fragilities in respect to the public’s financial security and the unexpected pressure on public services. Most of us have already experienced the impact this has had on the availability of the food that we take for granted, whether that's through empty supermarket shelves or wilted salad leaves in our grocery stores.
One of the things that inspires us at Square Mile Farms is the need to make food production more local. We think this is important in order to reduce the impact its production has on the environment, to improve food security and better contribute to public health. Local production also helps reengage the consumer with the food they eat, helping them better understand these issues. We can build resilience and autonomy through individual action, and we'd like to help you on that journey, starting with this blog!
We decided to temporarily close our vertical farms to aid the collective effort of social distancing (many of the offices that we have farms in have shut their doors). Since we will be spending a large chunk of our time at home, we think that this is a great opportunity to teach you how simple it can be to grow your own highly nutritious food!
My home hydroponic farm. 'Hydroponics' is the use of nutrient enriched water to grow plants, in the absence of soil.
To aid this mission I have brought a little piece of our Paddington farm to my home and invite you to follow our journey over the coming weeks! My house mates have kindly allowed me to recreate our hydroponic flood-and-drain system in the conservatory (in fact they are as excited as I am about growing our own food at home!). I'm using this system for propagating young seedlings, whilst I have also erected a mini vertical system to grow plants to maturity. It took very little time to move and set up: the 4ft rack has the capacity to grow 2,000 seedlings and the vertical system can grow over 30 plants at once. In reality we could have placed these systems in any room in the house.
This really speaks to the versatility of hydroponics and indoor growing - there were no doubts whether we could continue growing despite the current lockdown. The systems come in all shapes and sizes and can be located almost anywhere in our homes. Additionally, most areas in our homes have a climate which is conducive to growing vegetables and herbs. Leafy greens will flourish in these low maintenance systems all year as long as they get their basic needs of light, water, nutrients and airflow, at a temperature that encourages growth.
Natural light shines into the conservatory, hence I have adjusted the timers on the artificial lights to supplement the plants with an additional 4 hours of light, whereas in a location without natural light we would provide artificial light for around 16 hours a day (different plants require different light intensity and duration). In a future article I will outline which systems would work best for different homes.
Trying to grow the most produce from your home is all about being resourceful. We all have different amounts of indoor and outdoor spaces with differing light levels, with a lot of Londoners having no garden or balcony. We want to help you understand the many ways you can start growing food with resources you already have at home, or can easily obtain online. And although we champion soilless, hydroponic systems, there is no line to draw here as long as we are learning and connecting to edible plants!
Here’s what I want to share with you over the coming weeks:
With minimal resources and time you can start growing nutritious microgreens and sprouts with light from your windowsill, harvesting after a week. This can be done with or without hydroponics.
If you would like to use soil, it is as easy as getting plant pots to grow them in. These too can be grown with or without hydroponics.
With some DIY savvy and equipment which is commonly found at home, you can build your own Flood & Drain and Deep Water Culture hydroponic systems to grow nutritious greens.
I will also provide you with access to some ready-made hydroponic systems, for those who would prefer that.
I'll be here to support you and answer your questions when they come up.
Keep following us in order to see the journey of the vegetable and herb plants we have growing at the home farm. Initially there will be Kale, Parsley and Chard, which I will be growing in two different environments: an indoor vertical hydroponic system and a garden vegetable bed. I will observe the growth of the plants and compare the differences in growth and health of the plant; talking through the benefits and pitfalls of both methods of growing.
Flat Parsley, Red Chard and Cavolo Nero Kale seedlings
Let's keep the conversation going! If you have any questions about growing at home feel free to get in touch through social media (@squaremilefarms on Instagram & Facebook or @SM_Farms on twitter) or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also sign up to our weekly newsletter where we share news, updates and tips on growing and eating fresh produce, as well as generally living a healthy lifestyle. Follow this link to signup and join the Square Mile Farms community.
Square Mile Farms bring vertical, urban farming to city dwellers in their homes and in the workplace. We aim to bring people closer to food production and help to create a culture of healthy, sustainable living. Find out more about our offering and get in touch here with any queries. Sign up to our newsletter for tips on a healthy lifestyle and a round-up of relevant news. You can also follow us on social media to stay up to date with our journey, find us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Why not join our online Urban Growing Community for advice on growing at home and much more!