There are millions of people living in cities who don't live behind white picket fences and have space for a kitchen garden.
This is a real world alternative. It isn't legal to do it but this "salad bar" sub-irrigated planter would fit on most fire escapes. You can grow a bunch of salad greens or herbs in a no-drip SIP like this. Read on and see how to make it. See the sources below.
The location is up on the roof at Slippery Slope SIP Micro-Farm in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Frieda Lim put the SIP together in no time, while I photographed what she was doing. It was late in the day after a reception for some media people and there wasn't much light.
This SIP is as simple as salad to make. The planter is a mortar box. The air and water reservoir is made from three one half round sections of 4" diameter perforated HDPE corrugated drain pipe. Note that the one with the fill pipe needed a quick-fix piece of duct tape to cover an errant cut. There is an overflow drain hole in the side of the box located at the top of the middle pipe.
The fill pipe is one recycled PET water bottle with the bottom trimmed off. It fits into a hole cut in one of the drain pipes.
Add the soil mix to the box. Tamp it down between the pipe sections to ensure good capillary wicking action. Add the veggie starter plants (or grow from seeds) and you'll soon be eating delicious fresh salads.
Mortar box - 26"x20"x6" - Lowe's $5 and change
Perforated, corrugated (HDPE) drain pipe - 10' length - Lowe's $5 and change
Fill pipe - recycled (PET) water bottle - free
Media - Fafard Container Mix (or equivalent), no top soil -30 dry qt bag - $7
Vegetable starter plants - Silver Height's Farm, Union Square Farmer's Market, NYC