Several years ago, Dennis McClung and his family started Garden Pool, a blog to document the conversion of their old backyard swimming pool into a food-producing greenhouse. Garden Pool has since evolved into a non-profit organization that teaches others how to create similar self-sufficient ecosystems in small spaces. It is there that Dennis shares instructions for many of his DIY projects, including this really cool aquaponic setup.
While looking at an unused corner of his growing space one day, Dennis had a fantastic idea – to grow food vertically using a 10 gallon aquarium and a utility shelf. This system is super simple to set up, inexpensive, and perfect for areas without much horizontal space. The finished system has 6 square feet of growing space, 10 gallons of water for fish, and only a 2 square foot footprint. A lot of food can be grown in a system this size.
To build this system, you need a 4-shelf utility/bookshelf similar to this one, made by Plano. These shelves can be turned upside down and snapped into place to make ideal grow beds. Dennis contacted Plano to ensure that the shelves are made with plastic safe for food growing, which they are. The shelves are filled with Hydroton, a hydroponic grow medium, then planted.
The folks at Garden Pool have experimented with growing a large variety of herbs and vegetables in this system, with amazing results. It has proven to be a great option for anyone wanting to grow healthy, organic, fresh foods just about anywhere with readily available, inexpensive materials.
The idea is easily scalable, as you can see in this version that uses double the growing space with one aquarium.
Want to try to build this yourself? Be sure to check out the full Shelfponics tutorial at Garden Pool, where you’ll also find a materials list and great step-by-step instructions and images.