Minigarden Blog

My Vegetable Garden at home

My Vegetable Garden at home

Family daily life

I’m extremely happy with my vegetable garden. I wouldn’t change anything about it — just its scale. Without any doubt, I’ll increase its size in the near future.

When I decided to grow vegetables at home, the decisive element that outweighed all others was my family. I wanted to teach my daughters how to grow vegetables, and for them to understand the benefits of this natural lifestyle (not to mention they got to eat authentically flavoured salads and meals).

saladaMy daughters understand now how much pleasure and passion goes into growing something as beautiful as strawberries — my first production. Because they were still little and loved the red-tinted sweet fruits, the choice came easy. It still makes me overwhelmingly happy to watch them pick the ripe fruits and quickly eat them. Over the years, they’ve learned that any fruit, when it’s freshly and timely picked, tastes better than a supermarket-bought fruit.

These experiences have contributed to their personal growth and have changed the way they interact with family, friends, and overall community. My vegetable patch grows, my daughters grow taller, and the domestic routine grows closer to the true routine of a community that shares fresh produce and gets together to prepare meals.

As a new and important element of the family, the vegetable garden plays an important role in our everyday life: ‘Mum, do you want a lemonade with fresh peppermint?’ ‘Dad, please teach me how to pick celery because mum wants to use it to season the rice.’

How my vegetable garden grew

As I began to understand Minigarden’s true potential, I became increasingly adventurous with the choice of plants and shapes of the potting system. At first the containers were assembled in a simple display to fence in our house’s garden from the common garden, but my wife soon asked me to change it to fit our supplying needs. The strawberries and ornamental plants gave way to vegetables (lettuce, spinach, cabadge, onions) and aromatic plants (parsley, coriander, and spring onions), all grown in the same initial 18 pots to which I added Minigarden Corner and the Drip Irrigation Kit in 2012.

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Today, I have a 70-plant urban vegetable garden (in less than 0,5m2 of paving). I always use the herbs in my cooking, especially in dinner parties with friends — many of whom have already given in to the pleasures of Minigarden and urban planting. As an absolute fan of the Mediterranean diet, I chose plants that fit my eating preferences but are also adapted to the local conditions. After 3 weeks, I started collecting the first aromatic plants, and by the fourth week the first lettuce leafs.

Tips to a greener vegetable garden

  • minigardenI have to start by mentioning one of the main advantages of Minigarden: simple maintanance when compared to the maintanance of the usual vegetable patch. Minigarden is the perfect tool for a healthy vegetable garden because it suppresses the need for pulling weeds.
  • The second great benefit of Minigarden is the amount of space it occupies — or lack thereof. As a vertical growing system, it allows the growth of more than 50 plants in just 0,5m2.
  • I also have to mention how easy it is to substitute plants within Minigarden, namely seasonal plants (lettuce, parsley, coriander), as well as the possibility of keeping everything tidy and organised. In my Minigarden system each horizontal line represents a different kind of plant.
  • At the moment, I’m growing seasonal plants (lettuce, coriander, parsley, and basil) which will be used and substitute at the end of their life cycle. However, there are a couple of techniques to extend their cycle like trimming off flowers.
  • The high standard of the watering and nutrition is essential to keep a healthy vegetable garden. I adjust the watering programme to match the weather conditions, and air humidity (i.e. on dry summer days with temperatures above 30º water your garden 2 – 3 times every day for 2 minutes; during spring when temperatures reach 15ºC – 24ºC do the watering 3 times per week for no more than 2 minutes).
  • I use Minigarden Grow Up Green after doing the planting to ensure vegetative growth, and after I apply Minigarden Grow Up Brown – Biological supplement, as a more common nutrition.
  • After a tiring day at work, I always check up on my vegetable garden. First, I place a finger in one of the pots, dig it in the substrate and check if it’s humid, dry or soaked. Then, I adjust the watering accordingly.
  • I also check for bugs (a good sign of future pests), dry leafs or spotted leafs, and remove them.
  • Finally, it is important to control the vertical growth of dwarf shrubs (basil, for example) through regular pruning.

Minigarden and indoor plants for a lovely home

Minigarden and indoor plants for a lovely home

A house decorated with plants is without a doubt more comforting and beautiful. After a long day outside, opening the front door and seeing a living being — even a non-thinking one — is heart-warming. Its gleaming flowers and leaves will surely bring joy to a grinding, grey day.

As I read somewhere, flowers at home inspire the possibility of growth and prosperity — an encouraging thought. Adding one plant to an ensemble of home fixtures is already a step to domestic blissfulness however solitary. So allow yourself to be more creative, and provide some company to the aloof plant sitting in the corner.

Because the range of decorative options is quite wide, the most important thing is to choose one source of inspiration: a colour, a theme, one picture. Anything goes. Then, after choosing the plants that best suit the room, and with the help of Minigarden, play around with the disposition.

Flowers and colour: the easiest recipe

Let’s start with an easily appealing idea: colourful flowers. Plants can be an indoors source of light and colour. If you enjoy colour coordinating your life, create a single-toned patch by choosing different species with similar-hued flowers.

For a dramatic effect, make sure the plants bloom at about the same time. For example, African Violets have tiny purple flowers that match beautifully with Gloxinias, Oxalis, and Brazilian Fireworks. These ornamental plantas bear flowers all year long, except for the Brazilian Fireworks that only blossom from August to November. If you prefer fiery tones, go for Geraniums and Begonias.

Decoration using leaves

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Flowers are not the only show-stopping feature of plants. Many leaves are as interesting, if not more, as flowers, with their varied colours and shapes that turn a room into a green oasis. Ferns are essential for this collection: the Bird’s Nest Fern and Boston Fern are the most well-known of the group, and widely used as indoor plants. The Spider Plant has variegated green and white leaves, perfect for a more dynamic feel, and the Polka-Dot Plant is a great example of a non-green leave.

Succulents and cactuses: a sculptural space

Because of their interesting shapes, succulents and cactuses are essential elements to the construction of an elegant space. Not many people go for these two botanical groups. However, besides being an original option, these plants also ensure you’ll get a surprisingly beautiful final look.

Succulents and cactuses look almost like sculptures, and most of them are neutral-coloured, which is great if you want to be bolder in other decorative areas. The Mistletoe Cactus is an amazing plant with slender, narrow stems that grow into long, thin branchescorner-column — during spring, its green colour is accompanied by white flowers.

Another great addition to your succulent wall is Jade, a plant with oval leaves intricately arranged as if it was purposely sculptured by nature; during winter and spring it also gives birth to white flowers. Aloe hardly needs an introduction. It’s highly popular, but not always seen as a garden plant. However, Aloe’s greyish leaves bring a dynamic tone to this mainly green group of plants. Finally, add Echeveria — the queen of this selection — to your urban garden. Echeveria is the fairest of them all.

Decorating with Minigarden is a joy due to its modules flexibility. There are many brilliant examples of what to do with Minigarden Vertical, and Minigarden Corner to turn any room into a unique space: place a simple column in each of the corners of a living room using Minigarden Corner, or build a partition wall to create intimate living areas with the help of Minigarden Vertical.

Erase the border between outside and inside, and give in to the trend of ambiguous rooms. Have fun with Minigarden’s newly found creative freedom.

Manuel Rodrigues – the creator of Minigarden

Manuel Rodrigues – the creator of Minigarden

Manuel Rodrigues, born in Guilheiro — county of Trancoso, Portugal — is the creative mind responsible for bringing about Minigarden. Besides being a successful entrepreneur in many areas — industry, commerce, services, and agriculture — Manuel Rodrigues is a nature lover, a liking he assures to have existed since his birth. For him, being close to plants is as natural as having a curious spirit and a sharp mind. Luckily, he has been blessed with keen instincts, which have been useful from when he ploughed his family’s grounds as a kid until now.

Although he is the creator of Minigarden, Manuel doesn’t think of himself as an inventor, but a gadgeteer who travelled to Lisbon at the age of twelve to work and to study business. His professional life is marked by an almost obsessive appreciation for organisation, a characteristic that has set him apart from the competition, consequently, Manuel has been commended for his solutions to the efficiency in the workplace, and in industrial processes. His innate curiosity and nearly genetic love for nature were the boosters of a new project that started at the time of his retirement: Minigarden.

In a room at the official residence of Minigarden, surrounded by vertically potted plants, Manuel Rodrigues talked to me about his life, and futuristic ideas for the Urban Green Revolution that he’s began implementing around the world.

Ana Rosado: Can you tell us the story of Minigarden’s start?

Manuel Rodrigues: When I built the house I live in now, I planned a retaining wall about seven metres tall. Every time I looked up at the wall, I wasn’t keen on the empty space that framed the house, as a result, I decided to think about a solution to change the bare facade. First, I wondered how I would decorate the wall, then, how I would take advantage of the design.
I thought about producing strawberries, because in the summer every grandfather likes to offer his grandchildren sweet strawberries. In the first year, I built a multi-story pyramid from the ground and up the wall, and I placed the strawberries on the vertical structure. The following year, I placed slanted boards — filled with soil and planted strawberries — on the towering wall. That year the strawberry production was a raging success, and I felt inspired to create a more practical setting of the same kind. Thus, Minigarden was born.

AR: When did you realise vertical farming could be more than a way of keeping an active lifestyle during retirement?

manuel-rodrigues-minigarden-3MR: I thought about doing vertical farming because I love plants, and I have always loved them. It’s funny, but I was probably conceived in a field, during a nap time. My parents were farmers and the grain threshing season is in August. Nine months after August comes May — the month I was born in. Almost all the people from my town are born around May.

AR: It’s an interesting theory.

MR: I was born, and almost immediately after I went to work on the fields, a pleasure I inherited from my parents. Because every one in my family loves plants, I too was influenced to appreciate them. One particular uncle of mine, a true inventor, was really important in the construction of my personality. He never threw away a crock with a broken handle, instead he would fill it with plants.

AR: However, when you built your first vertical farm — influenced by the creative spirit of your uncle — did you think right away it would have a great potential?

MR: Of course. Right at that moment I thought it would be essential to farming, and urban living because there was nothing of the same kind, or I didn’t know of anything else similar to Minigarden, which was proved to be inexistent when I applied for a patent.
My biggest wish was to provide a service, and to equip people with the best tools for this activity, thus contributing to its improvement. When I started Minigarden, I thought much about gardening conditions and how to inspire people to grow and to look after more plants.

AR: So far, what have been the best moments of this adventure?

MR: I have been blessed with many great moments. The first one was when we used Minigarden in a greenhouse because it looked like a laboratory experiment. I don’t know any greenhouses as clean and hygienic as ours. Another beautiful moment was when I picked a fruit that wasn’t touching anything — just hanging — from a Minigarden plantation. In regards to looks and growing conditions, this production resembles an apple tree. This was an exciting moment because fruits in close contact with the ground can become diseased.

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AR: You mentioned your parents, your family, and life in the country: how has your love for nature influenced your life?

MR: My family, neighbours, friends, as well as living in the countryside have been important to my life and personal growth. My dad always had flowers in his garden, which is not common in a rural area, and he grew many kinds of plants, some of which I didn’t like: in the beans season, I ate beans every day. Now I love beans.

AR: What was the most important lesson you’ve learned from your father?

MR: It doesn’t relate to plants but it’s a lesson that’s stuck to my mind. My dad always fed the animals first before he sat down to eat.

AR: Do you think of yourself as an inventor?

MR: No, I think I’m only a gadgeteer. When I went to work on the fields as a kid, if a part of the plough broke, I’d put together a makeshift alternative. I never returned home because of a broken tool. While I worked in the industry, I also developed industrial procedures to pack faster, with fewer labour, and in the 80s I already had a computerised factory that enabled me to know, by the end of the day, the amount of products in stock.

AR: Do you enjoy working with efficiency?

MR: I mainly like organisation. When I worked in commerce, I created my own code, which fifty years later I still use, to know at any moment who’s the seller of a product, or how much it costs. I had everything labelled and encoded. I still use cryptic labels at home on bottles of wine, and I know how much the bottles cost, and where they were bought.

AR: In what way has nature been present in your professional life since your first entrepreneurial venture?

manuel-rodrigues-minigarden-2MR: I’ve always managed to conjugate both areas — nature and career. For example, when I built the industrial parks, I was careful enough to garden them. To be honest, I think I was one of the first entreperneurials, more than twenty years ago, to grow gardens in industrial parks.

AR: How do you envision Minigarden’s future?

MR: Minigarden is growing every day, and there are many planned ideas, which will be executed as soon as there’s a chance. We hope to launch a Minigarden with its own irrigation system, and in different shapes.

AR: Do you believe Minigarden contributes to the sustainability of the planet?

MR: Of course I do. Each Minigarden can take up to three plants. In China alone, if we sell one to each person, it’s definitely advantageous to the wellbeing of the planet — Minigarden multiplies plantation.

AR: What is the ultimate Urban Green Revolution?

MR: I believe it’s growing plants without soil or water, which I feel confident will happen in the future: plants floating on air. It is also important to grow plants in garages and big subterranean spaces, which the Israelis are already doing.
On the other hand, as gas prices soar, I think proximity will become an important factor — the closer to home, the better. In this case, Minigarden is excellent because it enables the production of vegetables in your home.
I just can’t understand how some people don’t like plants, the oldest factories in the world.

How to have lettuce at the tip of your fingers

How to have lettuce at the tip of your fingers

My fridge would be barren without lettuce. Except for a few times, my weekly grocery shopping always includes some form of this pleasantly green vegetable: Romaine, Looseleaf, or Butterhead. As the main ingredient of a great salad, lettuce cannot be missing from the dinner table, especially during summer, when the suffocating heat imposes itself on our meal choices.

Luckily, growing lettuce at home isn’t the least bit difficult — no more than going out to buy some and certainly safer. If you have any kids around, get them to help you, as they will love being a part of the process, which may also be an incentive to eat more vegetables: lettuce is fun, so it can only be tasty.

Green: the colour of sustainability and health

There’s no way around it: the more colour on a plate, the healthier the meal, and green is a mandatory presence. Having lots of lettuce leaves in your fridge is a sure way to keep your health on track. Despite being a low calorie food, lettuce is high in nutrients and iron, and helps fighting insomnia. Hair and skin beauty also goes hand in hand with eating well, and it is thought that drinking lettuce juice, on a regular basis, stimulates hair growth.

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Also, keep in mind that the darker leaves of lettuce are more nutritious but they are all equally delicious. Albeit its scrumptiousness, if the roots of the lettuce are unknown, you’ll be in the dark about the kind of chemicals used in its production. In this case, not even lettuce with all its nutrients can be of any benefit. Knowledge is the key to ensure the safety of the foods you eat every day.

On the other hand, although it is possible to grow lettuce all year round, this vegetable still travels many miles to reach your home. By producing your own lettuce, you are contributing to a sustainable living on our limited planet. Besides, you are avoiding the enormous amount of waste that starts on the initial stages of mass production. Before reaching stores shelves, many vegetables have already been disposed of, and afterwards, their destiny isn’t any different. Grow lettuce because it’s better fresh, and stop buying vegetables bound to end up in the trash.

Get to work

Lettuce is one of the easiest vegetables to induce kids to eat — barely noticeable and absolutely delicious — and is a visually interesting plant that can be part of any decorative layout. More than just a fun, useful, easy project, growing lettuce is also easy. A great tip is to buy them as baby plants, as they are cheap and you get an immediate visual result.

alfaces There are many kinds of lettuce that mainly differ on the texture and shape of the leaves, not on the planting time. Lettuce can be planted at any time of the year but avoid frost and excessive heat because it brings bitter leaves. Spring is the best time to star a lettuce plantation.
If you like many kinds of lettuce, plant different varieties at the same time. For example, you should choose Iceberg lettuce for its brittle leaf and crispiness, and use it in sandwiches and with hamburgers. Wrap up your plantation with Romaine and Bibb lettuce.

The size of your plantation is dependant on the daily needs of your household and space available. One Minigarden Vertical can house up to nine plants — one in each container — but it’s possible to increase the number of receptacles by making different combinations with the help of Minigarden Corner, for example. A simpler option would be to plant two lettuces in a Minigarden Basic. Then, just sit back and watch the plants grow.

To ensure the quality of your production, choose a sunny spot to grow the plants but partial shade can also be of benefit during the hottest hours of the day.

Tips for a successful and fruitful lettuce production

minigarden-alface In the case of Romaine, and other species of lettuce of this kind, leaves can be picked as you need them, which is great for daily consumption and upholding of a cared, beautiful garden. Make sure you keep the soil damp because lettuce is a moist-loving plant.

The plants should be watered frequently — every day, or day in, day out — before the highest temperatures of the day, and the soil should never get too wet, or dry.

As the most present food during summer, it’s easy to come up with different culinary uses for lettuce. The only difficulty is to get out of the salad and sandwich rut. Once in a while, lettuce should be cooked. For example, lettuce soup is one of my favourite alternatives to the regular cold dishes. Just boil water with lettuce, potatoes and pepper, and puree the soup in a blender.

There’s nothing better than freshly picked lettuce leaves always at the tip of your fingers.

How to grow your own strawberries

How to grow your own strawberries

It isn’t summer until we get our hands on some delicious strawberries, the perfect reminder of the hot season’s flavour. People simmer with the expectation, looking forward to taking a bite out of this fervent red fruit, anticipating its freshness. There’s nothing better than clamping your teeth on the freckled skin of a sweet strawberry. Strawberry plants are known for their fruits, however, their yellow centred flowers with white petals shouldn’t be treated as stepdaughters.

This year, there’s no excuse for not growing strawberries at home — maintaining them is simple and you’ll get great fruits to make amazing dishes on those hot summer nights. Besides, there’s a big difference between shop bought and homegrown strawberries. Just try not to be scared about their little size: intense flavour comes in smaller packages.

Health, flavour and fun

A list of the health benefits and delicious moments offered by strawberries could be deemed purposeless because we’re all familiar with their greatness. Still, it’s important to point out that strawberries are not just delicious, they are also a good source of vitamin C, fibre, and potassium. Moreover, strawberries help prevent cancer, improve eye health and keep a beautiful looking skin.

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There are also three recipes I like preparing with homegrown strawberries. The first one is strawberry lemonade, which is a mandatory, easy to make combination for anyone looking to keep body temperature cool. During summer’s blazing heat, there’s nothing better than light meals, so I always make a delicious salad of strawberries, avocado, cheese and spinach, served with a honey, lemon juice and mustard dressing.

Finally, use the last strawberries of summer to make jam, which is probably an easier task than you think: wash and slice 500 grams of strawberries, add 400 grams of sugar and the juice of one lemon. Simmer the mix until it’s ready.

If these aren’t good enough reasons to pull up your sleeves and start growing strawberries, think about how the kids will enjoy doing it, while learning about plants. In the end, give them the fruits of their labour covered in cream. I promise they’ll be radiant.

The first steps

It’s important to choose the right kind of strawberries to plant. In spring, the most appropriate varieties are the remontants — they produce fruits between June and October — like Selva, Diamante, Aroma, Albion and Seascape. Non-remontant varieties, like Camarosa, Chandler, Kwesta, Carisma, Agoura, Ventana and Candonga should be planted near the end of summer and they only produce fruits once a year, between April and June. If you buy the strawberry plants in bunches, you’ll immediately get the visual result.

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Maintaining the plants is also quite easy, however, first, choose the right place. If you take your time on the initial stage of the process, you’ll enjoy sweeter strawberries. Strawberry plants need light and little or no wind — they enjoy the sun, which is a decisive element on the sweetness of their fruits. The soil should be light, airy, have good water retention ability and drainage.

The only thing missing is the perfect container. Minigarden Vertical is the most appropriate pot for growing flavoursome fruits. If you want to get a bit more creative, combine Minigarden Vertical with Minigarden Corner to get the most out of your space, both visually and productively. With just one Minigarden Vertical, you can grow up to nine strawberry plants whereas the Kitchen Garden kit has space for twenty four plants. Just imagine how many milkshakes you’ll be enjoying this summer.

When planting, remove any dry leaves and ripe fruits, so they won’t rotten. Finally, during the first week, water the plants daily, at the end of the day: a great way to relax and ensure the success of your production. An alternative to the watering can is the Minigarden Irrigation system, which can be automatic or manual.

Maintenance tips

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After setting up the strawberry plants’ permanent home, it’s easy to keep them healthy. Before summer, water the plants once a week and during heat waves, make sure they don’t get too thirsty. Bear in mind, the more you water the plants, the bigger the fruits get, however, the flavour will be less intense. Finding a watering balance is essential in getting the most tasty strawberries.

Just like people, plants need a rich and suitable nutrition. To make sure your strawberry plants don’t miss anything, use Minigarden nutritional supplements. In this case, we recommend Minigarden Grow Up Orange, which is perfect to improve the quality of fruits.

From time to time, check if there are any ripe strawberries because they should never be left to rotten on the plant. There are two sure ways of improving the flavour of strawberries: avoid watering the plants two days before picking the fruits and collect them during the hottest time of the day.

Strawberry plants will brighten your days and offer sweet fruits for five to six years, however, productivity will decrease after the first two years. For this reason, to make sure your strawberries keep tasting great, buy new plants.

Strawberries are undoubtedly the heroes of summertime – easy to plant, easy to maintain and simply tasteful.

The origins of Minigarden

The origins of Minigarden

It’s not easy to write about Minigarden’s story in just one post because its development didn’t happen overnight and took the help of many people, however, I’ll tell it how I experienced it. I believe you’ll find it interesting to learn how we finally achieved this brilliant, new way of planting that is set to revolutionise the way we look at urban gardening. At a first glance, Minigarden may look like just another flower pot, still a beautiful one, however, it hides a great deal of wisdom. It’s simplicity is deceiving: thought not in an obvious way, Minigarden comprises an innovative system thought to ensure the successful growth and maintaining of plants.

The seed that started vertical planting

It all started with my father, Manuel Maria Rodrigues, an innate entrepreneurial with experience in almost all industry groups (agriculture, industry, commerce and services). A few years agor, he began testing and designing a new planting system: a small seed of what Minigarden would become in 2007. Its genesis sprouted from a simple need — my father’s will of keeping an active life during retirement. He carefully thought, day in day out, about how he wanted to spend this stage of his life. Finally, he decided to share with his grandchildren the joy of planting strawberries. He built many vertical flower pots, which ended up being the push for a project that would soar to great heights. The strawberries came in abundance, as well as the mockups, which were regularly changed to ensure a successful picking spree.

minigardentestTo be more precise, Minigarden started because of the agricultural background of our company Quizcamp, which was founded in 2005 with a 110 hectare property in Alentejo, one of the most underprivileged areas of Europe. Our original idea was to produce and sell pre-cooked meals, which suited the healthy mediterranean diet, and other high quality food products. For its success, it would be essential to pick the vegetables, leguminous, aromatic plants, and fruits at the right time to preserve the flavour and scent that we all love. In other words, the proximity of the plantation was absolutely important.

On top of that, the products’ quality was intimately connected to the agricultural production — transgenic farming and pesticides has horrible consequences from which we want to stay away. We believe technology can be of great use to both mankind and the environment, which is why we chose integrated farming as our main approach. Integrated farming is based on natural resources and regulation mechanisms that don’t harm the environment. In just two words, sustainable farming. Lastly, it was important to keep the costs down, mainly in manpower. This was the only way to offer competitive prices.

For these reasons, we decided to focus on developing a new planting system with increased productivity and better quality results. This was how my father’s simple vertical flower pot, created to plant strawberries with his grandchildren, developed into a great product: Minigarden Vertical. Through several tests our enthusiasm with vertical farming was validated.

But this was only the beginning of a marvellous adventure.

Vertical growing: From farming to urban gardening

In the beginning, Minigarden’s goals were a bit different, until we realised how genius the product really is. At that point, we felt obliged to tell the world about it and the idea grew into an international project.

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After identifying the need for a new planting system, we invested in mockups, created the different parts, and started the first fieldworks with plantations of peas, beans, aromatic plants, strawberries, and vegetables.

During this exciting time, we had the help of independent professionals from agricultural engineering, like Marlene Coelho, who interned with us and after a year joined the company. She was relentless and a great help during the studies of this vertical planting system. The tests exceeded our expectations and confirmed its incredible potential. We also got to know Minigarden Vertical a lot better and the learning stage led to great improvements.

The familiarity generated made us rethink our strategy. The goal soon became more revolutionary: to introduce this technological, environmental and aesthetic innovation to a greater number of people. Minigarden was to become an educational tool of the world. Thus, from a need came an opportunity to focus on urban gardening.

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My parents have always taught me respect for other living beings and I believe that our planet is like heaven. Unfortunately, we have not lived up to these standards but we can still leave a better world to our children. Even though we are at the edge of the cliff, there is still time to start doing things differently. That’s exactly what Minigarden offers: an opportunity for change.

The urban green revolution

We realised this plant growing system would fit perfectly in urban gardening. This way, we could pass on to people around the world what my parents had taught me about being in synch with nature.

Now our focus is different: to develop our product into a city friendly cultivation system. We redesigned it, keeping all the new features from the previous model. The resulting Minigarden is easier to use and allows more shapes with fewer parts. By the end of 2006, we had achieved the Minigarden Vertical as you know it today.

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Minigarden offers an innovative way of growing plants in cities. The advantages and possibilities are so many that it’s almost impossible to compile them in one list. However, they are based on the simplicity and modularity of the system. Minigarden’s potential is only limited by each one’s creativity.

Minigarden was indeed our aha moment and its journey has been brilliant, in spite of the less pleasant situations that are bound to happen in any project of this kind. The obstacles we have faced are maybe a synonym of Minigarden’s success, so I’d like to highlight one particular story and its happy ending.

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They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, however, forgery is not the kind of praise we’re looking for. After investing all our creativity and resources into the creation of Minigarden, we wish for the customers to take full advantage of this great product but we also want to protect it. For this reason, we have registered our invention and got a patent.

Even so, counterfeiting still rears its ugly head: after paying the Chinese government for the registration, we found a fake Minigarden on sale on the website Alibaba.com. After a huge endeavour, we were able to identify and warn the Chinese company responsible for producing and selling the forgery. We asked them to stop their illegal activities, not once but twice, and on the second time through our lawyers. We never got any reply and the dialogue soon became a monologue. The fake product started being sold in Europe and Australia but it was quickly withdrawn from the shelves as soon as we’d let them know it was a forgery. Nevertheless, the only way to actually stop this unpleasant situation was by taking legal action. We won the battle and justice was restored.

We believe, without a doubt, in the excellence and geniality of the product we’ve created, however, sometimes we need to recall amazing stories to build up some strength. There are many positive moments in the history of Minigarden but there is one in particular that always puts a smile on my face. It was the biggest compliment I have ever got for Minigarden and I go back to it in the most difficult times.

In 2008, we were in Tokyo, at GARDEX, which is the biggest gardening fair in Japan. The fair went on for three days and the number of visits to our stand was, as usual, quite high — a sign of the public’s interest in the product. On the first day, during the afternoon, a landscape architect, who could hardly speak any English, showed up at our stand.

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With the help of a translator, I told her about Minigarden and we started a really long and interesting conversation about it, which was fuelled by her relevant questions. She showed a profound understanding about Minigarden’s unique features and ended our talk with a highly complimentary speech about our product. The harmony during our conversation was palpable. The next day, she came back with her husband who understood English and was very curious to find out more about the brilliant product his wife had told him about. After introducing Minigarden to him, he handed me a letter written by his wife about our plant growing system. Written in perfect English, the letter was incredible because it highlighted all que great qualities of Minigarden in a touching way.

What moved me the most was the way she described and imagined Minigarden’s journey, since its creation up until that moment — just as I did now in a more realistic and methodic way.