The Story Behind Urban Refuge Gardening:
From junior high through high school, I spent the weekends and summers helping my dad with his produce business, Healthy Harvest Farms, selling fresh fruits and vegetables in Southern California. Our main location was an empty 2.5 acre lot on a busy street a couple miles from Newport Beach. The large, open-air windows of our small 10ft by 15ft building displayed the array of fruits and vegetables to the cars passing by. The pleasing aroma of fresh fruits and vegetables would fill the air and make our customers eager to only bring home the best produce money could buy. We never had to convince them to remain our customers, one taste and they were hooked for life. Munching on the best tasting fruits and veggies all summer was one of my favorite things to do. While at home my dad would often make massive batches of fresh salsa from perfectly ripe tomatoes, fresh onions, cilantro and jalapeños. You can imagine how much better it taste than store bought. All of us kids would hover over the salsa bowls like hungry pirañas!
After graduating college, my wife and I lived in an apartment complex and I began to miss the easy access to such high quality produce, especially that salsa! The only space available to grow vegetables was our apartment balcony, so I was determined to figure out how to grow my own produce with the little space I had.
My desire was to grow big plants like tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, bell peppers, and jalapeños. From all my research, I was unable to find a growing system that could support such large plants. My only option was to come up with my own design. At the time I didn't want a business, just fresh home-grown produce. It wasn't until 4 years later when I moved from Kansas City to Evansville, Indiana, that I met the owner of an heirloom seed company who liked my design and encouraged me to launch a business. This birthed Urban Refuge Gardening.
The Refuge Garden Solution:
From 5 gallon buckets to hay bails, there are tons of gardening methods. Many of these focus on solving only one of the difficult aspects of gardening. Gardening above ground for instance, makes weeding easier, yet still requires daily watering and takes up lots of space. From an apartment balcony to a greenhouse, the Refuge Garden is the perfect solution for a simple, scalable system that takes care of all the hardest aspects of gardening. There is no digging, no weeds, less frequent watering, and a strong support system for all size plants.
The Refuge Garden is an above-ground system which naturally prevents the proliferation of weeds. This system uses potting soil which eliminates the hassle of shovels, hoes, and tractors needed to break up and prepare the soil each planting season. Unlike other raised bed garden designs, the Refuge Garden can be as close as your patio and can easily be moved if you relocate. The garden planters my wife and I used in Kansas City moved with us to Evansville, and we are still using them today.
The Refuge Garden solves the need to water daily by having a 7 gallon water reservoir in the base of each container. That is enough water to supply 2 large plants for 3-4 days before more water needs to be added. I have been able to leave town for multiple days at a time in the middle of the summer without needing to worry about my plants not having enough water.
The Refuge Garden also solves the issue of supporting tall plants by having 7 foot stakes connected to the base of the container. Each stake detaches into three sections for winter storage. This staking system can easily support heirloom tomato plants or any other vertically grown plant.
A standard Refuge Garden can fit 2 full size plants. When more plants are desired, containers can easily be connected together for ease of watering with a daisy chain kit. The daisy chain kit uses a standard hose fitting to connect to a garden hose or rain barrel. As water fills up the first reservoir, it will pass through each container filling each reservoir. When all the reservoirs are full, water will spill out of the overflow hole in the last container. For the serious gardener, daisy chained units can fill an entire green house or hoop house. For the beginner, two or three Refuge Gardens can satisfy the longing for fresh produce, even in the smallest of spaces.