With the current water scarcity in Cape Town and the recent nationwide listeriosis scare, safe and sustainable farming has become part of popular conversation.
Created by Rebel Earth, the EarthPod is a self-contained, protected, nutrient-rich miniature farm. Built with a unique water-wicking system and hoop tunnel, the EarthPod reduces water usage by up to 80%.
Condé Nast House & Garden caught up with Deborah Weissenberg of Rebel Earth who shed light on the conception of the EarthPod and what best to plant in the sustainable and innovative garden
How did you come up with the idea for the EarthPod?
We wanted to move a large part of our food supply off-the-grid. We liked the idea of having very fresh food, because we love cooking; and we wanted to reduce our dependence on commercial farming for environmental and health reasons.
Because we live in a small house in Cape Town, we had to find a way of growing food that would make use of small, urban spaces. We also had to overcome poor soil; drought; and extremes of wet, dry and windy weather.
After a lot of research and prototyping, we developed the EarthPod as an evolution of wicking beds and square-foot gardening. It has a closed hoop tunnel made of agricultural shade-cloth to protect the plants from predators and the weather, and a sealed base to keep in the water and nutrients.
Its scale is carefully thought-out: the height means you don’t have to grovel around in the mud to grow your crops. The surface area is small enough to look after easily, but large enough to generate a meaningful amount of food.
How does the EarthPod save/use less water?
It uses less water, because it doesn’t waste any. The reservoir at the bottom of the EarthPod is sealed, so water does not run off into the ground. Because much of the watering is done by wicking from the underground reservoir, the water is taken up by plant roots before it reaches the soil surface, so evaporation losses are greatly reduced.
What kinds of plants thrive in the EarthPod climate?
Any plants that grow to a suitable size. We mostly plant annual and perennial greens, seasonal vegetables, salads, herbs and micro greens.
What are you currently growing in your EarthPod?
In our own EarthPods, we are presently growing spinach, kale, pak choy, lettuce, celery, basil, parsley, chamomile, spring onion, leek, sage, violas, aubergines, tomatoes, peas, beans, peppers, chillies, and mint.
For clients, we plant whatever they like that is in season. We recommend a mix of plants, because that makes the system less attractive for pests and also gives you a varied diet. Some plants work better together than others – for example strawberries and blueberries like a more acidic soil than do salad crops.
What differentiates the EarthPod from other small, sustainable farming methods?
EarthPods bring together principles evolved from a number of sustainable agriculture approaches. For example: wicking beds, square-foot gardening, permaculture, and polyculture farming. What makes an EarthPod special is the completeness of its design, its efficiency, and its ease of use.