Answers To Questions

pPods have a unique design that is ideal for micro-farming and gardening in many situations. And with a new enclosure concept comes new questions:

What if I don't have a green thumb? Will I finally be able to keep plants alive in pPods?

That's the idea. pPods are designed to provide the best protected environment for plants, so all that is left is making sure that your plants are appropriate for your location and that they get the right amount of food and water.

Here are some hints for maximizing the probability that you will be able to grow high-quality produce in your pPod.

  • In hotter climates, you will have better success with plants that are not sensitive to extreme heat. All plants have a temperature range where they are happiest and grow the fastest. More temperature sensitive plants will get stressed in prolonged heat above 90 degrees, even in the shade. Check with a local garden center for recommendations on plants for your area.
  • In cooler climates, make sure your pPod gets at least a few hours of direct sun all year. The more hours of each day that your plants are exposed to sunlight, the faster your plants will grow and the less likely they will succumb to disease, mold, etc. In the winter, sunlight is important for helping to keep the inside of the pPod as warm as possible. If adequate sunlight is not available, supplementary LED grow lights are available for the pPod.
  • Container gardening can be a little different than growing plants in the ground, especially with plants that normally like to put down deep roots. pPods are tall enough for growing carrots, but you need to have them growing in a deep-enough container inside the pPod. Unless you intend to do hydroponic or semi-hydroponic gardening, give your roots as much room as possible.
  • Making sure you have the right kind of planting mix is a little trickier. Some commercial potting mixes contain plenty of nutrients and start out draining well, but usually need to be replaced or supplemented after one season. More information on this will be available soon at the Ponix MicroAg web site.

A detailed set of instructions for the pPod and successful gardening hints will be sent with each pPod.

To help future gardeners get a good start, once the pPod line is in full production, we plan to offer full growing kits that will include a pPod, plant containers, custom soil, seeds, and complete instructions. Because of the broad range of plants that can be grown in pPods, the kits will be customized for specific plants and locations.

Why do pPods use less water?

Plants breathe, or transpire, through pores, or stoma, in the surface of their leaves. They also "sweat" through the stoma as water flows to the leaf surface and evaporates in a process called evapotranspiration (one of the 5 ways in which plants keep themselves cool). Air flowing across the leaves causes the water to evaporate faster, so the more wind, the more evapotranspiration, and the more water needed to keep the plants healthy.
If plants are protected from excessive direct sun and only get enough air flowing across the leaves to allow them to breathe, they will use a minimal amount of water and still be very healthy. Many plants that can grow very quickly, such as tomatoes, can require up to 4 times more water in exposed windy locations than in a green house...or a pPod.

How else does wind affect plants?

Plants need some air movement in order to breathe, just like humans, which is why pPods are designed with the ability to leave an air gap at the bottom and top of the front panels. But too much wind will dry out foliage very quickly, as well as damage leaves and stems as they rub against each other or against railings, supports, etc. In severe winds, such as during storms, stems can be broken and entire plants can be lost. The more exposed the plants, like on balconies and rooftops, the more likely wind will be a problem.

Are pPods useful in warm climates?

Sure. There is more to providing plants with a great environment than just keeping them from freezing. All plants have an ideal growing temperature and even if you live in a warm climate like say, Atlanta, temperatures commonly drop below freezing for a few nights during winter. Besides the right temperature, there are more reasons to provide a good enclosure for plants, like wind, heavy rain, and pests.

Are pPods useful in rural areas?

Yes. Even if you have a big garden that does well each year, you may still want to maintain some herbs year-round on your patio or have a really good portable enclosure for starting plants earlier in the year, long before the last frost of the winter.

What kind of plants can I grow?

With a little creativity and the right climate, almost anything can be grown in a pPod, but obviously some plants are better suited than others.
For Basic pPods, smaller plants such as oregano, thyme, radishes, lettuce, or onions are best, and there is room for larger plants as well like basil, celery, chard, and broccoli.
For expanded pPods, plants can spread out, so the extra room can provide a better environment for bush beans, cabbage, cucumbers, and peas.

How many plants can I fit into a pPod?

That depends on the plants and the type of containers, as well as what stage the plants are in. Dozens of seedlings can be started in a pPod and then moved out as they get big, just as we have done with a number of our plants, including tomatoes and peppers. Otherwise, a Basic pPod can be filled with 8 6-inch square pots.

How big of an enclosure can I create with an expanded pPod?

How big is your terrace, rooftop, parking lot, etc? There is no limit to the length of an expanded pPod enclosure. The width is limited to the depth of 2 pPods.

Does the heated irrigation come with a watering timer or sensor?

Not yet - full instrumentation and remote monitoring and control are being designed. Fortunately, simply protecting plants in pPods makes missing watering schedules more forgiving.

How much water does the tray hold?

The total capacity of the tray is 3.5 gallons. However, a minimum level of water is needed for the pump to operate, so the maximum amount of water available for irrigation is approximately 3 gallons.

How warm will the heater keep a P-Pod  in winter?

According to temperature measurements taken the past 4 winters in each of the prototypes of the pPod in New York, the 100 watt capacity heater kept the air inside the pPod above freezing when the outside temperature dropped to 5 degrees F at night. Typically, it kept the inside air temperature 50 - 70 deg F when outside temperatures were 20 - 50 deg F at night. The tray water temperature did not drop below 75 deg F until the outside temperature was below 20 deg F.
Also note that using building heat whenever possible is a good strategy. Two of the pPod prototypes were located next to the exterior wall of the building for short durations and were able to maintain higher temperatures than when away from the wall.
Even better, if an expanded pPod is located on a roof, a building exhaust fan can be utilized to provide constant 70 degree air for winter warming and summer cooling.

If I get heated irrigation with an Expanded pPod, is there a separate pump and heater for each tray?

Yes, however, for larger enclosures, a separate system can be customized to utilize a separate large reservoir and single pump and heater to pump water through each of the pods in the enclosure.

Why use a plastic frame instead of an aluminum frame?

Aluminum conducts heat 500 times more than most high-density plastics. This is a problem when trying to keep plants warm on a cold night. Even though the frame is a small fraction of the total surface area of a pPod, as much heat would be lost through just the aluminum frame as through all the plastic panels combined. This could easily mean the difference between plants freezing or staying warm.
Also, from an environmental standpoint, aluminum requires 2-3 times as much energy for the fabrication of the frame pieces than high-density plastic, using raw or recycled material. The higher energy requirement also affects cost and the number of fabricators that are able to produce the parts for us. In fact, most extruded aluminum products sold throughout the world come from China while dozens of custom plastics fabricators are located in the United States. Our plan is to use only parts and products originating in the U.S. once our supply chains are established.