Gardening or urban farming brings elements of sustainability, community, and nature education to the city and into our lives. It creates an environment for people from all walks of life to share the knowledge, skill and joy of growing their own organic produce.

At Wildroots Organic, we’ve had great results growing on rooftop farms throughout the city, and teaching urban farming courses at universities such as HKU and PolyU. There have been however a couple of aspects that have been less than satisfactory. First, almost all rooftop farms in Hong Kong are set up using newly manufactured plastic planters that will eventually end up in the landfill and polluting our environment. Second, these black plastics planters are somewhat of an eyesore, especially when compared to many urban farms and gardens we find abroad that are constructed of more natural material.

A city is place of consumption, with goods transported in but none transported out. That leaves an incredible amount of material such as pallets, crates and containers that need to be sent to the landfill. For example, over 600 pallets are sent to landfill each day. When we were selected by PolyU to build a new urban farm on campus, we set out to create a showcase for sustainability by using 100% upcycled and re-used materials.

We started by first by creating a platform made of plastic pallets to raise our planters off the cement floor in order to the reduce the heat absorbed and to create a more comfortable height for working.

Instead of buying new plastic planters, high quality crates were upcycled into planters. They were filled with soil from a local organic farm amended with locally produced compost. Most urban farms use unsustainable peat-based growing mediums or “soil”. Often marketed as “organic soil” or “black soil”, they are extracted from fragile ecosystems in Europe.

Over several weeks, wooden pallets were collected from garbage dumps and disassembled. The wood was then used to build a wood cladding to create a natural feeling surrounding, and help to reduce heat absorbed by planters and soil (high soil temperatures can negatively affect plant growth). Even the screws used to assemble the wood were collected and sorted from construction site waste. Finally, we coated the wood with a natural wood preservative that comes in re-used beer bottles.

The last step was the most satisfying, teaching both students and staff to grow their own seasonal organic herbs such as mint, parsley, basil, shiso and vegetables such as eggplant, chili and amaranth.

To learn more about Urban Farming:

Urban Farming in Hong Kong on CNN

Urban Rooftop Organic Farming: All-Win Solution for Hong Kong

Rooftop Farming