Introductions and the O’Hare Urban Garden

Hello there!

 I’m Kristen, and I’m currently a Master Gardener Intern in Prince Georges County, MD. However, I live in the North East quadrant of Washington D.C., and my small backyard is perfect for a small urban container garden.

I’m passionate about vegetables, herbs, and anything I can grow that’s edible, although I’m branching out into some flowers and other purely ornamental and lovely things. One of things I really love about my garden is that I have really tried to have a nice mix of varieties, and that includes fruit! I currently have fall–bearing raspberries and strawberries, and new this year, fall-bearing blackberries.

I’m very excited to be joining this blog as a new contributor, as I’ve been reading it for the past two years, and I can only hope to add something worthwhile to the already excellent content. I’ll be concentrating on container gardens and related books, resources, and examples of ways to grow a little something even if you don’t have any ground to do it in!

One of the best things about container gardens is that they are getting to be so widespread now, and come in so many shapes, sizes, and designs. Recently I was traveling for work and had a connecting flight in Chicago’s O’Hare airport.

If I hadn’t been going to a smaller terminal, to get on a connecting flight, I wouldn’t have ever noticed this:

That glowing light in an otherwise dreary airport terminal, tucked up on the second floor was a beacon to me as I was passing through, and I just knew I had to investigate. 
It turns out it was an  urban aeroponic garden that supplies freshly-grown produce to some of the restaurants in the airport. How neat!

 The garden has over 1,100 plants and uses Tower Gardens to maintain a very small footprint. Each Tower is home to 44 plants, and has a small 30″ circular base.

Seeds are planted in small cubes of natural rock-based fiber, then the seeds are bathed in warm, mineral rich water. Once the plants reach a certain size, the are transplanted into the Tower Gardens.

There are 26 total plant towers, which are suspended above a 20 gallon reservoir of nutrient solution that is internally pumped through a self-sustainable planting tower. Aeroponic systems grow plants in a water and mineral nutrient solution without soil, which is a fantastic way of growing a lot of food in a unique space such as an airport. In fact, the informational placards placed around the garden informed me that this is the worlds first vertical aeroponic garden inside an airport terminal!

Cilantro, Swiss Chard, and Oregano

 There is a lot of movement towards aeroponic systems for people who live in apartments, or other small spaces and do not have the ability to grow food in a traditional soil garden. I love seeing gardens of any kind in unique spaces, but I think this “live” display really is a great example of alternative methods that folks might not be as aware of.

Compared to traditional soil gardening, aeroponic systems like this one

  • Can produce a higher yield per square foot
  • Require no weed pulling
  • Provide year-round cultivation
  • Use about two-thirds less water

Unfortunately, one of the downsides is that the initial set up costs can be prohibitive to those with a much lower garden budget. However, once you able to invest in the system, you usually have lower costs from year to year to maintain it. While far from perfect, it is nice to know that there are options out there if you want something a little different. 

Two 50 gallon barrels for the entire system.

Habaneros were the biggest and most prominent vegetable growing the day I visited.

The O’Hare Urban Garden is a delightful respite from the hustle and bustle of the airport. If you ever find yourself with a few extra moments while traveling through, I would highly recommend making a detour to seek it out. The garden is located in Terminal 2, Concourse G, and provides a bight, comfortable spot to have a meal, read a book, or just enjoy watching the flowers grow.

Lettuce mix, Cherry tomatoes branching out, and bushy cilantro.

The market located immediately beneath the garden helps to advertise the garden and direct visitors to it above. It also delivers tasty, healthy food!

5 Comments on “Introductions and the O’Hare Urban Garden

  1. Great story, great pics. We passed a couple of small versions of hydroponic towers on a concourse in maybe Mobile, AL airport (can't remember wh airport it was), wh was so peaceful feeling, but it didn't have anything like the kind of program and impact that this O'Hare installation did. Thanks!


  2. Welcome Kristen- we are looking forward to your posts. Great photos and story on the tower gardens.It would be interesting to see the economics of the project.


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