GardenpoolLooking to reduce your water and grocery bills simultaneously? Follow these three steps to thinking outside the box–er, pool. Via Bruce Sterling and William Emory.

Step 1. Realizing that suburban swimming pools waste a lot of water, design a fanciful scheme for reclaiming them as gardens.

Pull the windows out of all the houses on the block. Build one amazingly insulated double-pane greenhouse, built over a swimming pool if possible.

Use the pool as a giant fish tank (and thermal mass for the greenhouse) or set up the tubs, sinks and plumbing as a freshwater marine habitat. Crushed concrete may be a substitute for a limestone filter. Useless suburban basements often need pumping to stay dry, use a found pump for water flow. Grow vegetables in aquaponic beds drilled into PVC drainage pipe.

Step 2. Discover that someone is already doing this.

“We created GardenPool.org to document our journey of converting an old backyard swimming pool in to a way to feed our family and live more self-sufficiently. When we purchased our first home in Mesa, AZ on October of 2009, it came with a large, empty, and run-down pool. Rather than spending thousands of dollars in fixing the pool or having it filled with fill dirt we decided to design an inexpensive & self-sufficient urban greenhouse. Initially, we had anticipated self-sufficiency by 2012 but we achieved our goal by mid-2010. Our family gets about 8 fresh eggs a day, unlimited tilapia fish, organic fruit, veggies, and herbs 365 days a year…”

Step 3. To reduce your water consumption even more, break out your Arduino.

The GardenBot’s brain is the Arduino board. The rest of the system has a garden station, which is a junction box for all the sensors and a place to secure the wiring.

The key modules for the system are soil moisture sensor, soil temperature sensor, light level and water value. Each of these modules can be built separately and integrated into GardenBot.

Once GardenBot is live, it can send data to a computer so that the information is plotted on a chart and updated every 15 minutes….GardenBot has made his gardening experience better and easier, says Frueh. “We ended up using much less water this year, which was nice.”

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