Bob Walsh’s Farm Tubs produce vegetation thanks to a reservoir in the bottom that allows water to wick up into the soil. Jonathan Castner / for BizWest

Farm Tubs grow food, future for Boulder pair

BOULDER — When Susan and Bob Walsh were bitten by the grow-your-own-food bug four years ago, they were living in Washington where the growing season spanned six months out of a year.

“We took a small-acreage farming course and contemplated looking for farm property,” Bob said. “And then we learned we were probably too old.” Both Bob and Susan are in their 50s.

“We heard twenty-something farmers say they worked all the time, and that it was back-breaking work,” he said. Realizing that they had back issues already, their plan took a backseat.

The couple moved back to Boulder soon after the architectural office Bob worked for closed. They decided to continue with the home-grown produce idea and took a direction that would better fit their lifestyle.

Bob gave a cattle trough a furniture look by wrapping it in oak and setting it in the front room of their house. They developed an irrigation method that blended the ideas of traditional growing and hydroponic growing and, voilà – Farm Tub was born.

The company officially launched in February at the Colorado Garden & Home Show. Since then about 55 Farm Tubs have sold.

The Walshes see their irrigation system as one of the primary benefits that separates their tubs from indoor planters or raised beds.

“They have a four-inch water reservoir in the bottom that utilizes capillary wicks,” Bob said. “The wicks pull water from below to the soil so you don’t have to water from above.”

The process reduces above-soil evaporation and the number of bugs that like to gather around damp soil, Susan added.

Additionally, the water acts as a soil temperature regulator since it takes the accumulated daytime heat into cooler nights, which then cools down the next day’s heat.

Depending on the size, each Farm Tub uses 25 to 75 gallons of water – filled through a hose-shaped tube on top and drained through a side spigot. A bobber indicates the water level.

“The water reservoir allows people to go weeks without watering so they don’t have to hire a neighborhood kid when they go on vacation,” Bob said. “You know your tomatoes will be alive when you return.”

Since Farm Tubs are metal and have bottoms, they stop burrowing animals from eating the crops before you do if kept outside.

The galvanized steel tubs are customized with wood wraps such as beetle-kill veneer, reclaimed barn wood, walnut and recycled flooring. They can be painted or plain and include grow lights so the farm can be in a basement.

Sizes include four- to eight-foot ovals and three-foot round tubs. Prices range from $250 to $1,250 each.

Three out of four Farm Tubs sold to date are being used outside on patios and decks.

After Colorado’s short outdoor growing season ends, Farm Tub farmers probably will be moving them indoors, into greenhouses and basements, according to Susan.

Rather than maintaining an inventory of Farm Tubs, the company stores materials to make them instead.

The Walshes self-funded their company with $30,000, which covered things such as a logo, materials and 15 tubs to show.

Susan and Bob maintain day jobs while the company grows. He continues to work as an architect and she works in public relations.

“Our first-year target is to sell 100,” Bob said. “We could easily sell those in one shot to a residential community.”

“We think this has unlimited potential,” Susan added. “and we haven’t even gotten into the medical-marijuana growing market, yet.”

BOULDER — When Susan and Bob Walsh were bitten by the grow-your-own-food bug four years ago, they were living in Washington where the growing season spanned six months out of a year.

“We took a small-acreage farming course and contemplated looking for farm property,” Bob said. “And then we learned we were probably too old.” Both Bob and Susan are in their 50s.

“We heard twenty-something farmers say they worked all the time, and that it was back-breaking work,” he said. Realizing that they had back issues already, their plan took a backseat.

The couple moved back to Boulder soon after the architectural office Bob worked for closed. They decided to continue with the home-grown produce idea and took a direction that would better fit their lifestyle.

Bob gave a cattle trough a furniture look by wrapping it in oak and setting it in the front room of their house. They developed an irrigation method that blended the ideas of traditional growing and hydroponic growing and, voilà – Farm Tub was born.

The company officially launched in February at the Colorado Garden & Home Show. Since then about 55 Farm Tubs have sold.

The Walshes see their irrigation system as one of the primary benefits that separates their tubs from indoor planters or raised beds.

“They have a four-inch water reservoir in the bottom that utilizes capillary wicks,” Bob said. “The wicks pull water from below to the soil so you don’t have to water from above.”

The process reduces above-soil evaporation and the number of bugs that…