Water desalinator
Aquaponic system
Edible railing
Energy monitor
Water meter
Human made bogs

When we decrease our dependence on purchasing all of our food we can realize healthier available food options, and we end up freeing up capital as well.  Looking into where food comes from leads to questions concerning how, where, and in what conditions the food we eat is made, distributed, and sold.

Growing food in urban spaces represents a challenge. When space and resources are at a premium, working together with neighbors and community groups lessens some of the burden. These are some of the ways we have been working to make growing food a more attainable goal.

Soil and Gardening
We are able to make our own soil by adding existing soil to our vegetable and grain food scraps. We add coffee grounds, fallen leaves and other brush to make a soil rich with nutrients. Making our own soil takes some time but it’s free, and it saves a lot of valuable waste from ending up in a landfill.

How To Make Compost:
Find an old trash can and drill holes in the bottom and sides. Start adding stuff…
1. Keep a closed bucket in the kitchen, so you’re not making multiple trips to a larger pile.
2. Avoid meats and dairy products in your pile (they tend to attract critters).
3. Alternate layers of green and browns and keep damp.
  Greens are:  fruit & vegetable peelings, tea bags (including string & paper tab), coffee grounds (including paper filters), egg shells, and grass clippings.
  Browns are:  leaves, shredded newspaper.
6. End with a layer of browns on top - keep all food covered.

Mix or let sit…  
1. If you decide to just let your compost sit, you will want to have several bins so that you can fill one up and just let it cook while you fill up another one.  This is why the “three bin system” is so popular - you don’t have to do much turning or mixing, although it will take longer for you to have get finished compost to use in your garden.  If you use a wire bin system as pictured above, when your first bin is finished you can lift up the bin and reuse it.

The Tire Railing is constructed with used tires mounted onto the crossbars of the base railing. The tires are sourced from the waste stream and are filled with soil. They hold one plant requiring large root space such as potato, or several smaller plants. The tire planters are various sizes.

Indoor gardening has become an efficient way to supply food, clean the air, and recycle water waste. Tumbling refers to planting in hanging containers. This vertical growing structure is well-suited for plants that like to let their leaves sprawl, such as tomatoes and strawberries. A reused plastic water bottle can make a suitable hanging container. By hanging bottles in succession, an irrigation system can be installed. Another type of hanging container structure is the use of fabric pockets or bags.

Garden Railing: One of the goals of WetLand is to showcase a model for interdependent living where resources are decentralized. This will be achieved by having a percentage of food being grown locally, and having power generated by the sun. This will also be achieved through  the gathering, purification, and storage of water on-site. The objective of the edible railing design is to create a safe perimeter for WetLand that also serves as a food source. The railing will provide a percentage of the caloric intake for inhabitants and guests and add an aesthetic appeal to the perimeter of the garden.

As part of a ten-week elective seminar at the Workshop School, students collaborated with WetLand to help design and create a decorative border and railing.  Students were engaged in creative discussions throughout the brainstorming sessions and ultimately decided on building a simple fence framed by 2x4 lumber with two rows of gutters supported by wire below the railing.  The gutters are essentially long planters filled with sweet potato vine or other hearty vegetation.


Water Storage and Harvesting
Water is our most valuable resource. Around the world, water is privatized and in many cases it becomes too expensive for people to afford. Water pollution from industry and sewage renders many water sources useless. But when we know how to care for, test, and clean water, we can make it useful again.

Rainwater harvesting is one strategy to reduce dependence on municipal or private water sources. On any lot, there are three potential sources for harvesting the rain: direct rainfall, street harvesting, and roof harvesting. A water catchment system for roof rainwater is simple, and can store water for outdoor irrigation.

Gutters: Roof water gathers in the gutters and runs to a pipe towards a tank.
The first rain of the day is the dirtiest as it cleans the roof. This water is directed away from the tank in a “first flush system” and cleaner water continues to the tank. The rainwater is collected through a screen to remove leaves and debris. It is then funneled into the top of the covered tank.

Storage: The tank should be a dark color to prevent algae from growing. It should be screened to prevent mosquitoes from entering. Rain barrels are a popular way to begin rainwater harvesting, especially in urban areas. They are low cost and often free, they can be installed along houses, under decks, or in other unused spaces. A wide range of options for cisterns exist. They can be made from plastic, ferrocement, metal, or fiberglass, ranging in size from 50 gallons to tens of thousands of gallons.

In order to figure out the size of the tank you will need to store the rainfall collected in your rainwater harvesting system, it is important to know how large your collection space is. Most rain events are 1 inch or less.

The following filters can be used to treat water to create potable water systems, but not all filters are needed to create a potable system.

Activated Carbon involves treated charcoal creating a porous carbon that absorbs water impurities
Reverse Osmosis involves pushing water through a semipermeable membrane that will only allow water molecules through
Slow Sand Filtration involves running water through sand
Distillation involves boiling and condensing water molecules in a separate uncontaminated container
Ion Exchange involves using ion exchange resin beads that will react with contaminants and bind to contaminants
Ultraviolet Light involves the use of ultraviolet light to kill pathogens
Microporous Basic Filtration involves a filter with certain diameter holes to keep contaminants from passing through.
Ultrafiltration is similar to microporous filtration but with smaller diameter holes

Solar distillation uses the heat of the sun in a simple piece of equipment to directly purify water.   The equipment, commonly called a solar still, consists primarily of a shallow basin with a transparent glass cover.  The sun heats the water in the basin, causing evaporation.  Moisture rises, condenses on the cover and runs down into a collection trough, leaving behind the salts, minerals, and most other impurities.


Solar water disinfection is a method to disinfect water using sunlight and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles. Water from contaminated sources are filled into transparent water bottles. For oxygen saturation, bottles can be filled three quarters, then shaken for 20 seconds (with the cap on), then filled completely. Highly turbid water (turbidity higher than 30 NTU [Nephelometric Turbidity Units]) must be filtered prior to exposure to the sunlight.
Filled bottles are then exposed to the sun. Effectiveness can be increased by placing on a dark or reflective surface, e.g. a roof made of corrugated metal, or by painting half the bottle, such that when laying down the clear half is facing the sky. The treated water can be consumed. The risk of recontamination can be minimized if water is stored in the bottles.


Cloudiness: Cloudiness affects the strength of solar radiation and thus also the effectiveness of the method. Rule of thumb:
    • If less than half of the sky is clouded over, 6 hours will be enough to completely disinfect the water.
    • If more than half of the sky is covered with clouds, the bottle must be placed in the sun for 2 consecutive days.

Ten Good Reasons To Grow Food in Cities

  1. Great tasting, fresh, and nutritious food right outside your door.There is no doubt about it, home grown food tastes better and is more nutritious than imported foods. In fact, the nutritional content of fruits and vegetables begins to decline the moment they are harvested. Considering the typical weeks or months it takes for much produce to get form the field to our plate, it is no wonder that both taste and nutritional content have highly declined.
  2. Practice good “economy”.Both economy and ecology come from the same Greek word oikos meaning “household.” When we grow some of our own food, we are beginning to bring together both the ecology and the economics of our household. Many urban dwellers find that they are able to save a substantial amount of money every year by growing some of their own food. Such a practice also reduces many of the “hidden” environmental costs (use of fossil fuels, water, pesticides, soil erosion) of the food that we eat. Furthermore, much of the food we import is grown by underpaid workers in difficult conditions on land that is much more needed to sustain their local populations.
  3. Nurture your physical, emotional and spiritual health.The therapeutic benefits of gardening are many. The physical activity involved in regular gardening activities contributes to general health and well-being. The pride and satisfaction that comes from harvesting one’s own produce is hard to match. Growing and consuming our own food, however, goes one step further – it connects us to the earth in a fundamental way that has been lost for most of us. Thomas Berry says that “Gardening connects us to the deepest mysteries of the universe” and many gardeners find that this is so.
  4. Create beautiful, aesthetically pleasing spaces.Gardening is a very creative activity and growing your own food is no exception. Developing a landscape with diverse food producing trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals adds tremendous colour, texture, smells and tastes to the local environment and in turn attracts many insects, birds, butterflies and other creatures. Such a beautiful landscape nourishes both the body and the soul.
  5. Conserve wilderness, natural areas, and bio-diversity.As world population and consumption increases, the pressures on our little remaining wilderness and natural areas builds. When we grow some of our own food, we help to reduce the pressure on yet uncultivated lands. This is particularly critical as the available agricultural land on the planet is finite and is degrading at a very alarming rate. Our own gardens can contribute to supporting bio-diversity both by decreasing pressure on wilderness areas and by providing additional habitat for local flora and fauna.
  6. Connect with your own bio-region.One cannot help but learn about their own ecosystem when actively gardening. Gardeners, and particularly food gardeners, are invariably more attentive to the seasons, the weather, the water cycle, and the local flora and fauna. Our gardens and we ourselves, become active participants in the bio-region in which we live.
  7. Learn and preserve endangered wisdom and essential knowledge for living.While most of us are the descendants of small farmers, there are relatively few people who now know and practice the essential human activity of growing food. With close to half of the world’s population now living in cities, it will become increasingly important for urbanites to play a role in learning and passing on this critical wisdom. From Africa to Asia to Latin America, city dwellers in the Southern hemisphere are leading the way in developing intensive urban agriculture. Many cities in North America are beginning to rise to this challenge.
  8. Contribute to local food security.Most of us depend on others, usually “far away others” for all of our food. When food production is far removed from where we live, we are vulnerable to events or circumstances that could interrupt this flow of food. The inevitable decline in the availability of fossil fuels will spell great changes for world food production and distribution in the coming years. It will be in all of our interests to invest in local food production – from our own yards, to our communities, to the farms that surround our cities.
  9. Help to preserve diverse seed stocks.The diversity of world seed stocks have been rapidly declining over the past 100 years. As more and more agriculture is controlled by transnational corporations whose primary agenda is to exert control over food production for profit, fewer and fewer strains of many fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes are now available. The development of genetically modified crops further threatens the integrity of our food supply. By planting and collecting diverse seeds, you are helping to protect our common heritage created by countless generations of small farmers over the past five thousand years. For information on seed conservation in Canada go to “Seeds of Diversity”.
  10. Reduce climate change.Growing our own food is a tremendous way to reduce our impact on climate change. “See The Earth Policy Institute”. Most large scale, conventional farming uses tremendous inputs of fossil fuel in the form of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, fuel for machinery, and other indirect means. Fruits or vegetables grown thousands of kilometers away must be refrigerated and shipped from the field to our community. Much of the food (some estimates are as high as 50%) never gets eaten as it is lost due to spoilage at various stages of the production and distribution chain.When we choose to develop a yard lush with fruit trees, shrubs, vines, and diverse annuals and perennials, we are reducing our own use of fossil fuels and are also contributing to the absorption of CO2. This very simple act can be a major step in redirecting our path towards a more sustainable future.

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