This is a community garden plot unlike any you will likely see anywhere else in the world. It is the creation of Dr. Duncan Bell, soon to retire from his job as head of Biomedical Engineering at Pfizer/Wyeth.
Rube Goldberg would be proud of his garden and I say that as a compliment. This is how it works. That is a homemade water screwpump on the right. It is attributed to Archimedes in the time of the ancients. Rather than a human powered handle or electric motor to turn his DIY screw pump, Dr. Bell powers it with a solar panel.
The water screw lifts water from the tote box reservoirs up on to a watertight capillary mat bench. He used cotton towels in place of commercial capillary matting to move the water up into the planters. In any case, it is a simple sub-irrigation system modeled after many like it used in commercial greenhouse growing.
As is typical with sub-irrigation, the plants look very healthy. Dr. Bell’s “autogarden” would be a buzz-creating addition to a consumer demonstration garden. Perhaps we can make that happen.
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