In today’s lesson, we are going to look at the topic of gardens, which relates to the IELTS topic of plants and flowers. I would like to show you a TED talk by Britta Riley, who developed a system for growing plants in a confined space.

This lesson is going to focus on listening practice. There is a lot of difficult vocabulary in this TED talk but you do not need to understand all of it to get these questions right. You should focus on finding the answers rather than understanding everything.


First of all, we will look at some useful words and phrases from the video.

open-source (adjective) software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified
hydroponics(noun) the process of growing plants in sand, gravel, or liquid, with added nutrients but without soil
climate control(noun) another term for air conditioning – or, more generally, for controlling the climate of a room
periodically(adverb) from time to time; occasionally
microclimatethe climate of a very small or restricted area, especially when this differs from the climate of the surrounding area
intellectual propertyintangible property that is the result of creativity, such as patents, copyrights, etc.
carbon footprintthe amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organization, or community

Listening Practice

First of all, here is our video for today:

General Comprehension

First of all, watch or listen to the video and answer the following questions to check your understanding:

  1. How many people around the world currently live in cities?
  2. Where does the speaker live?
  3. Where in her apartment was the “farm” located?
  4. How many people use her website?
  5. In what country do they use LED grow lights?
  6. What kind of project is this?

(You can find the answers at the bottom of the page.)

True/False Questions

Let’s listen again and try some true or false questions. These will come from the first two minutes of the recording.

  1. Britta Riley feels very independent.
  2. Michael Pollen is a journalist.
  3. Michael Pollen thinks people should just wait for scientists to solve their problems.
  4. The speaker got her inspiration from NASA

Fill in the Blanks

Now you should listen from 04:28 and try to fill in the blank spaces with NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS.

So, for example, Jackson came along and suggested that we use air pumps instead of ____1____. It took building a whole bunch of systems to get it right, but once we did, we were able to cut our ____2_____ nearly in half. Tony in Chicago has been taking on growing experiments, like lots of other _____3_____, and he’s been able to get his strawberries to fruit for nine months of the year in low-light conditions by simply changing out the organic nutrients. And window farmers in Finland have been customizing their window farms for the _____4_____ of the Finnish winters by outfitting them with LED grow lights that they’re now making ____5____ and part of the project.

So window farms have been evolving through a rapid versioning process similar to _____6_____. And with every open source project, ______7______ is the interplay between the specific concerns of people customizing their systems for their own particular concerns, and the universal concerns. So my core team and I are able to concentrate on _____8_____ that really benefit everyone. And we’re able to look out for the needs of newcomers.


General Comprehension

  1. 2/two billion
  2. New York City
  3. at/near the window
  4. 18,000
  5. Finland
  6. Open source


  1. false – she relies too much on others
  2. true
  3. false – he thinks people can work together to overcome problems
  4. true

Fill in the Blanks

  1. water pumps
  2. carbon footprint
  3. window farmers
  4. dark days
  5. open source
  6. software
  7. the real benefit
  8. the improvements