The Repurposed Hydro Micro Farm

Empty Pool or Farm Foundation?Can you find the urban farm in this picture? If not, maybe you haven’t got your imagination turned up high enough yet. It’s there. At least it is now, and its one of those really crazy and super inspirational stories.

Here’s the scenario. You are now the proud owner of a fixer upper house bought at a great price due to repossession. What do you do with the broken down swimming pool in the backyard? Remodeling it is out of the budget, and filling it in is way too expensive too. Doug McClung turned it into not just an indoor garden, but a self-sustaining urban farm complete with animals. Maybe it was his decade of helping customers at Home Depot figure out how to make what they wanted with the available materials that led him down this path.

Inside Garden Pool GreenhouseA lot of brilliant thinking went into putting this together. The startup investment was super reasonable at only $1500. Within a year Doug’s brainstorm had cut their grocery bill by 75%. Today, not only does his method of taking care of that old pool provide more food than they can eat or preserve, it has founded a non-profit foundation and fueled a movement within a movement. He keeps improving methods and setups as he goes, adding more growing space and features to his Garden Pool, or GP as he calls it.

I’ve heard of turning an old pool into a natural swimming pond by adding a remedial bog garden, but this takes being green, living healthier, sustainability and repurposing to a whole new level. With a deep end of 9 feet, the basin provides the perfect aquaponics tank. Being a sunken greenhouse, the space will be cooler during the warm season and warmer in the cold season than if it were on top of the ground. The tilapia tank being even deeper in the ground adds to maintaining better temperatures in any season being insulated by the surrounding earth. They’re collecting solar power to generate the needed electricity for systems and other equipment to run. At this point you’re probably nodding, this is pretty cool… a unique approach to growing fresh veggies in the backyard sustainably year around. It’s much bigger than this.

This little urban farm that sits behind this house in Mesa, Arizona, produces eggs, chicken and milk on top of a really wide variety of fresh produce, not all of which is seasonal thanks to the sheltering insulation of being below ground. There aren’t many people growing food in the desert, and most people living around Phoenix where the McClungs live, think it is just about impossible to have a garden in the heat and arid climate. The thermal protection of a sunken greenhouse makes growing year around possible in a hot climate. In a colder climate, there would no doubt need to be more heat source for the winter months, but you’re much farther ahead in having passive heat covered already this way.

The pool turned micro farm is a closed system and is all organic. How it works is best explained by the image and video below.

GP Urban Backyard Farm



Dairy WalkNo, the goats are not part of the closed system, but they provide milk and you can walk them on a leash.

You can learn a lot more about becoming self-sustaining without leaving the city and everything that goes into building and maintaining a backyard urban farm from an old pool at www.GardenPool.org. With an appointment you can tour their operation. As a non-profit organization, the McClungs and some dedicated early adopters are holding classes and workshops on this unique ecosystem that can feed more than a family of 4 every day of the year.

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Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine

Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.