A couple of weeks ago I finished (except for doors) building my indoor growing cabinet in our garage. Last year I built a smaller version that was basically comprised of a shelf, full spectrum fluorescent lights, a heat mat, plastic sheeting, and a tray. v2 is about the same width (48”) but taller and deeper (36” x 20”). I lined it with insulating foam board and plastic sheeting. I tried to overlap the sheeting so that lower layers extend above the bottom of sheets above. I thought this would help moisture rise and leave the space as opposed to get caught in the walls of the cabinet.
ASIDE: part of the delay in posting this was that I wanted to use a Python Tumblr module to automagically load the pics I wanted to share but haven’t had a chance to dig into it yet so I’m including a subset of pics which is probably ideal anyway. I did finally figure out how to post high-res pics though I’m still looking for an “easy way.”
I built the cabinet/box out of some OSB (think wood chips glued together into a plywood like sheet) and some scrap 2x4’s I had lying around. I used a nail gun and skilsaw (circular saw) to tie the parts together but nails/hammer or screws/automatic screwdriver will work—just more slowly. I didn’t work from drawings but “made it work,” not worrying too much about having all the dimensions perfectly optimized. I did make sure that two cans (the fixtures for the lighting) would fit within the confines of the box and that the top would be a good height to act as a counter/work surface.
I had just pulled some low voltage wire out of the crawl space so I re-purposed it to act as lines from which I could hang the lights. The bottom of the box is lined with plastic like the sides but between it at the heat mat I placed cardboard and some plywood for insulation and to ensure the mat isn’t directly on top of more combustible plastic.
I placed starts I purchased at the Seattle Tilth edible plant sale in a flat bin I had lying around. I set up a water jug with a spigot and attached some plastic tubing to the nozzle so that I can easily siphon water into the bin and onto each pot’s contents when needed (very handy… will have to post pics of this later).
Peppers, basil, eggplant, and tomatoes are prominent in this photo (front to back). After taking this photo I’ve subsequently put the tall plants in back and the short ones in front and have one set of lights raised higher than the other set. I’ve also had to spritz off aphids. Haven’t seen them be a big issue in the past but the numbers I’m seeing make me think that I’d have a problem if I wasn’t blasting them with water from a spray bottle.
Eventually I want to put doors on the “cabinet.” At this point in the project it was getting late and I needed to get things up and running so I cut a heavy duty black plastic bag into two pieces and stapled it to the wood frame to act as a heat curtain. It turned out to be the perfect solution because without a thermostat the heat from the lights and heat mat actually get hotter than I want so this serves as a crude thermostat (by not keeping the heat in too efficiently). I’ve started to play with two timers to turn the mat on and off at varying intervals to keep the temp right. I definitely should get a thermostat but that’s more $s and only really justified if I have doors (which is more work and will mean that I have to find a good way to run the wiring into the box and not just under the curtains). I did purchase a GFCI extension cord and placed a smoke detector above the box to ensure that if something electrical goes wrong it will be shutdown and detected before there’s a problem. I sure hope so anyway!
Here’s some of the tools I used to attach the plastic sheeting, insulate, and install the lights.
I’ve heard in the news recently that indoor pot growing (which I’m not doing) actually has a huge energy footprint. As far as I understand, that scale/flavor of operation is using lights that are way more powerful than the fluorescents that I’m using. That said, I’d like to figure out how much energy I’m using. I don’t want to carelessly let free/clean solar energy go to waste outside because it’s convenient for me to grow indoors. Next year I’ll get a little green house going and hopefully cut down on my energy footprint. Speaking of footprint, I’ve been reading about drip irrigation which will be great for making irrigating easier and for conserving water. Combining the indoor growing with a good outdoor cold frame/green house is definitely where I hope to be next spring.
Today I made it to one of my favorite events of the year, the Seattle Tilth Edible Plant Sale. I arrived during the last two hours and was fortunate to be there when they announced 2-for-1 basil. After acquiring some wonderful starts (young veggie plants) I decided to mosey down to some of the booths at the sale. There I had a nice conversation with an employee from Hendrikus Organics (here are some links to their organic products and design work websites). I mainly wanted to ask some questions about the man (Hendrikus) who has become a regular guest on my favorite (local) gardening show, “Gardening with Ciscoe.” I’ll have to dedicate some post(s) to both of these guys for all the inspiration they give me but for now I’ll just leave it with a recommendation to check out Hendrikus’ photo gallery (on the design website). The other booth I stopped at was that of a local nursery (within approximately an hour of Seattle) where I couldn’t resist purchasing a red twig dogwood (beautiful red twigs, duh) and eucalyptus tree (with gorgeous pale aqua-green elliptic leaves and red branches).
Wikipedia (where I got this photo) describes Eucalyptus leaves:
on a mature Eucalyptus plant are commonly lanceolate, petiolate, apparently alternate and waxy or glossy green. In contrast, the leaves of seedlings are often opposite, sessile and glaucous. But there are many exceptions to this pattern.
I can see that I have a lot to learn about leaf morphology beyond the chart I posted yesterday.
Given that it was the last moments of the sale I deployed my typical “last minute of sale” strategy and successfully bargained for a little deal on the two items.
Here’s what I came away with from the edible sale proper:
- Lemon Veberenia
and mostly early or cold tolerant varieties of:
- Tomatoes (early, cherry)
- Peppers (Hot-Jalapenos; Sweet ones)
- Basil (Italian Large Leaf; Italian Sweet; purple ones)
and some seed of:
- daikon radish, pole beans, and chard.
It’s been a historically cool spring here in Seattle, a la La Nina (the cool wet counter-personality of El Nino), so later in the evening after I had long since been home, I remembered that I better bring my treasures inside for the cool night. And because it’s cool still and will remain so for at least another month, I all of a sudden found new motivation to get my indoor veggie growing operation set back up. I actually totally moved it into a new space that will allow for me to raise the height of the lights as my babies grow. One of these days I’ll get supplies to build a simple row cover structure (a little green house).
We have some impending plumbing/electrical projects but a man has to have his priorities, right? We actually made some good planning/layout progress (between my diversions of taking care of my green thumb addiction). Speaking of “green thumb,” that’s actually the name of my personal tumblr (greenthumbmatt)… though most all of my green tendencies (and sharing about them) end up here on DIYnot.
Today I arrived in the big leagues of community gardening. For the last six years I’ve been gardening in a p-patch of 20 or so people. Today I started gardening among about 200.
Here’s the 20’x10’ plot after I spent a couple hours removing old raised beds, clearing weeds, and turning over the soil. My first order of business was to remove the raised beds because they were made with pressure treated wood (a no no). I rolled out of bed 2 hours late to the orientation so neither camera nor coffee were on my person or in my blood (to help remember the camera) therefore no “before” pic. The large pile of dirt and weeds (front right and back right) stem from the fact that, in my “patch,” I like to compost in place— it saves me having to get and load a wheel barrow and it gives me the peace of mind that I know what’s in my pile. My worms like it too. I’ll cover the piles with burlap sacks when I get a chance to keep the weeds from germinating before decomp.
The soil in the garden is amazing… supposedly the result of being on a peat bog. I made a central path that leads into the plot that has side spurs on the right side and leads to a U-shaped path in the back of the plot. I dig out my paths so that my veggies will have more soil (depth-wise) to grow in. IMHO, It’s important that the furthest part of any bed from a given path isn’t out of arms reach so that weeds can be weeded and the harvest brought in. It’s also good to envision the ergonomics of moving hoses through the space.
Tools of the trade: garden tool bag, water bottle, hand trowel & claw, old knife, pruning tools, seed boxes containing seed, twist ties, permanent marker & blank garden signs, zip lock bags, and small plastic container with lid are some essentials. I brought the big pruners today so that I could scavenge some bamboo and cut it (at the joints) into small sticks to act as grid nodes for laying out my plantings. Before using this tact, I’ve tried pen and paper with much thought and ultimately struggled to keep the paper clean and dry and available (not lost). I laid out the corners of the imaginary boxes where a particular veggie would be planted with the sticks and wrote the seed type on a blank sign. This turned out to be super efficient and will ensure that I know what was planted where.
Usually I dote over purchasing seed each February. This year I’ve been too busy to afford doting and have plenty of old seed inventory to clear from my coffers. Seeds can last from one to several (or more) years. If a particular seed is a year old or isn’t supposed to store for as long as I’ve had it, I sow it more densely and hope to make up for lower germination rates (i.e. “the number of seeds” times “the density of seeds sown” = “the number of successfully germinated seeds”). I planted peas, lettuce, carrots, cilantro, chard, radishes, dill, broccoli, and some crimson clover (cover crop for the back 1/3 of my patch).