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 theJungle 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.
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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."