You would never find Peter Kastan's workspace on the Miami River unless you were searching for it. Inside, though, the place is a green wonderland. A giant living mural of plants encompasses an entire wall, one of the Jungle Walls he makes with wife Mai.
Behind the building, scores of plants thrive in the Florida sun -- all growing vertically. They are Kastan's hydroponic plant towers. With a footprint of only two and a half feet, they can be placed on a condo balcony, townhouse patio, or any other small space.
Plants grow up instead of out, so one tower can become an entire garden. Kastan points out a whole salad on one unit -- four kinds of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, cauliflower, Swiss chard, and Vietnamese herbs, all happily living together in a little plant community.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
The reason all of these plants live in harmony is that they're all evenly fed by an automatic internal timer. Water and a mixture of nutrients are placed in the base of the tower monthly, and fruits and veggies get fed equally. This means no fighting for nourishment like in a traditional garden.
Hydroponic gardening isn't new; marijuana growers have used it for years. In fact, that's where Kastan gets his inspiration. "The pot guys are the leaders in hydroponic gardening. I learned a lot from them," he says.
A basic tower starts around $550, but Kastan sees that as a sound investment. "You can grow anything you want -- strawberries, watermelons. If you see something you want to try, just put it in the tower. Your family can have fresh fruits and vegetables all year, even in small spaces."