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Urban Farming 101 - Window Gardens, Hydroponics, Vacant Lots

Updated on September 23, 2017

Innovative urban gardening ideas

Urban farming could save the nation! If we work on self-sustainability via urban farming for city dwellers (or countryside farming for those with acreage) we will be able to survive even if food distribution services cease to function. Relying on these chains of food distribution is reckless and foolhardy, because there's not guarantee that others will forever come to our rescue with food.

There's another good reason for producing your own food - and that is that food from unknown sources could contain undesirable poisons. If you didn't raise the food, you don't know what it was sprayed with or how it was watered or fertilized. Trusting food manufacturers and large scale farming businesses is not a good idea these days. They will feed us poisons (fluoride and GMOs, for example) just to be able to make more money. That's my main reason for being into urban gardening.

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer
Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer
Part of my love for the book is that it takes place in the city where I was born, and in an area I'm familiar with as I was raised in the East San Francisco Bay Area. My father worked in Berkeley. In 2012 while I was visiting the Bay Area I drove by and saw the property this memoir describes. All of the East Bay Area is really "home" to me...

Farm City - a memoir about urban farming - By Novella Carpenter

I've been reading this memoir, Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, which is written by a woman who farmed next to her apartment in Oakland, CA. I'm loving it - the book is very entertaining and gives the feel of being an urban farmer and plenty of motivation to others doing it.

If you want to know more about what it is like to be an urban farmer, Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer is a book to put on your reading list. It was published on May 25, 2010 and is available in hardcover, paperback, Kindle, audio, and Audible audiobook download editions.

Novella Carpenter, urban farmer - Author of "Farm City"

The Backyard Homestead - Produce all the food you want...

The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!
The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!
I bought this book for myself early in 2013 as I thought we would be doing some farming while we were in Happy Camp, but that changed, and I moved north a few months later to live in a senior apartment community. I gave the book to my son-in-love when he and my daughter moved to a farm with plenty of land for cultivation. He was very favorably impressed with the book, as I was. It contains detailed information on all aspects of homesteading including a multitude of crops and animal husbandry. Worth looking into!!

If you don't have a vacant lot for your urban farming...

...a window will do.

Window farms are an absolutely spectacular way to engage both children and adults in the process of urban farming.

For children - this is educational. You can teach children where food comes from, and how it grows. Involve them in the scientific aspects of urban farming. Window farming is a perfect project for schools or homeschoolers.

For adults - window farms provide security and the joy of autonomy. Rather than being dependent on processed foods in the local market, and forced to buy vegetables of unknown origin and quality, a window farm enables us to experience culinary self-sufficiency despite living in an apartment in the city.

How urban window farms got started

Creative artist Britta Riley, co-owner of Submersible Designs, developed the concept of window gardening in 2008. She wanted to grow vegetables in her Brooklyn, NY apartment. Her goal was to develop a hydroponics system that fit into the very narrow space of her windowsill.

Using locally available materials and a few items from the local hardware store, Britta made the first window hydroponics farm, which now has become an international movement toward self-sufficiency for city dwellers.

The project is fueled by donations, volunteers, and global collaboration encouraging innovation through a process of R&D-I-Y (Research and Develop It Yourself).

Will urban window farming work for you?

Window farming results are directly proportional to the effort and dedication expended. If you love the idea of having homegrown vegetables, if you're in a home with a window, if you are willing to spend time putting together your system for sustainability, this could become an outstanding and rewarding hobby for you.

Kits may be purchased through the Windowfarms project in New York (see link below). They provide kits for homes and schools at a nominal price. Bottles are pre-cut and painted, and all needed supplies provided. Additional supplies can be found online at Amazon or through hydroponics stores if there are any in your area.

Each hydroponic system relies on an aquarium air-pump system; be prepared for a bit of noise. Innovators have found ways to muffle the sound.

If you love home grown vegetables, and especially if you don't have room outside for a garden, give window farming a try.

The window farms project

A Book Novella Carpenter recommends for urban farmers - Get started or learn more.

The Encyclopedia of Country Living, 40th Anniversary Edition: The Original Manual for Living off the Land & Doing It Yourself
The Encyclopedia of Country Living, 40th Anniversary Edition: The Original Manual for Living off the Land & Doing It Yourself
This book has great reviews! Carla Emery started writing The Encyclopedia of Country Living back in the sixties during the 'back to the land' movement, and now revises it frequently. The newest edition (pictured) is due out on October 30, 2012. Her first edition came out in the 1970s, self-published, and she traveled the country and appeared on many television shows to promote the book and the country farming lifestyle, which for her, included homeschooling, goat-keeping, gardening and writing. She was also a country living instructor. From this book you will learn everything you need to know to successfully run an urban farm, from seeds to canning. Chapters include an introduction to plants, grasses, grains, canes, herbs, flavorings, trees, brambles, food preservation, animals and beekeeping.

Your urban farming comments are welcome... - Are you an urban farmer?

Submit a Comment
  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Yes, yes and another yes, I grow what I can on the lot that I have........yummy stuff!

  • Sylvestermouse profile image

    Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

    6 years ago from United States

    Really fascinating! We plant in our backyard, but I can well imagine my son would definitely embrace window farming.

  • microfarmproject profile image


    6 years ago

    I LOVE this! Our mission at The Micro Farm Project is to teach people how they can grow or raise their own food in the city, and this is a fantastic way to do it. Thanks for sharing!

  • SusanDeppner profile image

    Susan Deppner 

    6 years ago from Arkansas USA

    I'm a backyard farmer, if you consider a 4x4 plot and a few pots a farm. Love these innovative people and ideas!

  • Diana Wenzel profile image

    Renaissance Woman 

    6 years ago from Colorado

    I really love the window farming concept (and reality). Everyone can be a gardener or farmer because who doesn't have at least one window? Urban farming is really where it is at these days because that is where the population density exists. I've been reading Paradise Lot. It really drives home this message of transforming city spaces into thriving urban homesteads.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    Yes. I'm an urban farmer.

  • flinnie lm profile image

    Gloria Freeman 

    7 years ago from Alabama USA

    I have a small garden, chicken in my back yard, 6 or 7 aerogarden. I love gardening and growing some of my own food. Thanks for sharing.

  • flinnie lm profile image

    Gloria Freeman 

    7 years ago from Alabama USA

    I have a small garden, chicken in my back yard, 6 or 7 aerogarden. I love gardening and growing some of my own food. Thanks for sharing.

  • CuAllaidh profile image

    Jeff Johnston 

    8 years ago from Alberta Canada

    really cool idea, might have to look into it a bit more.

  • Frischy profile image


    8 years ago from Kentucky, USA

    Interesting idea! I would love to learn more about this. I am featuring this lens in my lens on backyard farming.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Love it well done

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    I haven't tried window farming, but this looks like such a great idea! I live in an apartment, and other techniques I have tried haven't quite worked as well as I had hoped, yet. I will definitely look into this!


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