In land-scarce Singapore, the quest for green space is going up – literally. While horizontal space is being rapidly filled with condos, malls and warehouses, the large expanses of vertical space these structures offer are full of potential. Filling endless concrete walls and thousands of balconies with greenery is a trend that has taken off in the past decade and is now gathering pace and now trending as Vertical Gardening. Increasingly, people are becoming aware of the opportunities to create a healthier and more attractive urban environment. Two members of the Expat Living team trial the Aerospring vertical gardening system.
I’ve always been in awe of the beautiful vertical gardens I see throughout Singapore – those pretty no-fuss and no-mess ones. I love the idea of having a garden and growing my own vegetables, fruits and herbs, but I’m not that green-fingered, so I was willing to investigate a bit further and see how it all works.
Aerospring Gardens is home-grown in Singapore – the dream of Thorben and Nadine Linneberg, who were keen to grow fresh produce in small spaces with no pesticides, and who found a way to turn their dream into a successful consumer product.
The Aerospring is an easy-to-assemble vertical aeroponic gardening system for indoors or outdoors that can be put together in around 15 minutes. The 75-litre bucket has nine or 12 hexagonal planter sections made from high quality, UV-stabilised, food-safe plastic; these all fit together in around 15 minutes. A water hose with connectors and water pump are also included.
The starter kit also comes with edible seedlings in cute little pots that slot into the pole so you can start your urban-farming journey right from your landed house or apartment balcony. All you need is around two to four hours of sunlight per day and the unit to be within five to 10-metre reach of a power point for the pump. Each Aerospring can grow between 27 and 36 plants. All you need to do is check the plants daily, prune, trim and harvest when necessary, and occasionally move plants around the pole depending on how much sun they require. Small bugs are sometimes present, but you do get 50 percent less bugs than in a soil garden. These are easily treated, in any case.
You soon get used to looking after your garden – in fact, it’s kind of therapeutic and addictive! There’s a Facebook site too, where owners post photos and ask questions. Once a month, you need to drain the water and top up it with fresh water and add some nutrients.
At the moment, I’m successfully growing basil, mint, chillies, tomatoes, cucumber, sage, lavender, lettuce, eggplant and kale! And I’m enjoying salads and cocktails grown from my own garden. I had no idea this was a skill I could develop, and I must admit I’m completely loving it.
– Jacqui Young
I had the tiny 5cm seedlings sitting in a little water for 36 hours and my 13-year-old set up the unit late in the afternoon. My four-year-old stirred the nutrient mixture while it was filling – the whole process took less than half an hour. Will need to check sunlight at various times of the day – I’m worried some will get burnt by the afternoon sun but also want to make sure they have enough light to grow. The timer is on 10 minutes every hour – I check constantly and am worried about power outages. I feel like a new mother!
Grey day with rain – all my lettuce is wilted and looks terrible. Others look worse than when they were sitting in water before going into the unit.
There is growth! Some new shoots on the mint, the rocket is taller and the mustard greens bigger. Chocolate mint very droopy, and the mizuna still not thriving, but hopefully some sun today to perk them all up.
All looking good now; moved tomatoes to the sunny side and mustard to the back, out of the sun. Some white dust under the leaves, which I sprayed with soapy water and it seems to have worked.
Came back from a week away and the plants have all doubled or trebled in size! The mints, mizuna and lettuces in particular are bushy and I picked a selection to go into a yummy salad – did not expect to be harvesting after just two weeks.
The tomatoes, chillies and cucumbers are now 10 to 15cm tall; other herbs like rocket and tarragon are slower, but look sturdier. I am picking off grasshoppers when I see them, and some leaves that have mealy mites; something ate all my kale overnight too, but otherwise not as many pest issues as I thought there may be.
I have to string up the cucumber – it’s over 50cm long – and I also loop string around the unit loosely to support the heavy weight of the tomato bushes and chilli plants. The stems are really thick, but as they are still within a small plastic pot, they have no support.
I am harvesting every day now – mint for drinks and a big mint and macadamia nut pesto; salad greens – lettuce can be harvested for 45 days then you replace it so I am enjoying it while it lasts.
The cucumber vine is five metres long; I have trained it along our fence – there are a dozen or more 5cm long cucumbers about to throw off their yellow flower. Lots of green chillies – one is 10cm long. Changed the water and there was not a lot of change in the water level – probably a third of a tank over six weeks.
After nearly three weeks away, we come back to a mass of green cascading from the top to the bottom – armloads of different mints (which I take as bouquets to dinner party hosts), salad greens, and basil leaves the size of the palm of my hand. I am going to replenish the daily harvest herbs and salad leaves, and I’m looking forward to starting to harvest cucumbers, chillies and our own tomatoes!
The first three months of growth on my Aerospring; I took almost daily photos and it is amazing to watch it thrive!
– Danielle Rossetti
For more information, or to buy an Aerospring (from $680) or accessories, seedlings or herbs, visit aerospringgardens.com.
For more helpful tips head to our living in Singapore section.