Posts Tagged ‘Indoor Gardening’

first indoor set up. I moved the container off the aquarium and floated herbs in water

first indoor set up. I moved the container off the aquarium and floated herbs in water

For some reason, when the growing bug bites, it doesn’t take note of the weather conditions. The itch it produces wants to be scratched and no amount of Benadryl will help. My advice is, go ahead a scratch it. Start your growing indoors. It’s easier than ever to have an indoor garden, and it doesn’t have to cost the moon.

For obvious reasons, my first choice is always to grow outdoors, but most of us don’t live in an environment that promotes all year gardening. We have that dark, cold season, lovingly called, Winter, with short, cold days, and long cold nights. Brrr….

A hoop or green house will lengthen the growing season, but won’t necessarily extend it indefinitely. So, if you absolutely must keep growing in winter, or, if you have no outside space to grow at any time, then consider moving your garden inside.

Once upon a time, the lighting alone for growing indoors would set off alarms at the power company as well as your local bank. Grow lights were outrageously priced to buy, and extremely expensive to run.

Fortunately, those days are gone. With LED and full spectrum CFL options available, cost is no longer an impediment to indoor gardening.  Space will generally be the limiting factor.

If you have a garage, basement, spare room, or even an unused closet, you’re in business. Even counter or wall space in a studio apartment can be utilized to grow some herbs, cherry tomatoes, peppers, and more.  All that’s needed is a little creative thinking.

I highly recommend starting small. I would use two or three self-watering containers, like Earthbox, and grow some herbs in one, some lettuce in one, and a small cherry tomato like, ‘Tumbler’ in the third.  I might even grow a Jalapeno with the tomato plant. I’ve done that before and It works well. 

Get a grow light for each box, or build a bank of them for the whole set up. You don’t have to break the bank.  You might even make a reflector from some aluminum foil. 

Set the lamps about 4 or 5 inches above the plants and raise them as the plants grow. Keep the light fairly close without burning the plants.  LED and CFL bulbs don’t give off a great deal of heat anyway.

EzGro Hydroponics Unit another indoor option

EzGro Hydroponics Unit another indoor option

Your plants are going to want at least 12 hours of daylight, so either remember to turn the lights on and off, or invest $10 or so in a timer. One of the cheap Christmas light ones will do nicely. You might even have one of those already.

A couple alternatives would be a small hydroponic set up or an aquaponics system.  My first indoor garden was a combination.  I had a tomato and pepper in a self-watering container filled with coconut coir rather than potting mix.  I also had a 20 gallon fish tank with some goldfish.  I floated some basil and lettuce on a piece of Styrofoam in the fish tank, and pumped water out of the fish tank with a small aquarium pump for the pepper and tomato.  It worked really well. 

If you try something like that, you’ll have to top up your fish tank regularly. Make sure you dechlorinate your water first. I kept a 5 gallon bucket of water beside the tank. I would refill it and let it stand at least 24 hours to dechlorinate naturally. There are some excellent fish safe dechlorinating products on the market.

As you become more skilled you can expand your garden. Many people have some good sized systems in their basements or garages. Others just grow a few kitchen herbs on the counter. It’s your garden. It’s your call.

If you have  questions or testimonies to share, please send them via the comments sections. Feel free to include photos of your indoor garden. We’d love to see it. Let us know what your grow, and what doesn’t work for you.



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This is the Goldfish Tower. At least is will be once I add the goldfish.  Right now I’m letting it cycle before I add fish.

The Goldfish Tower started life as an EZgro hydroponics unit.  I bought it a couple years ago as an experiment.  Frankly, I didn’t like the results.  I don’t believe, though, the poor results were because of the unit. It was user error.  I didn’t keep the nutrients in balance.  Heck, I think I let the tank go completely dry a couple of times.

I pretty much lost interest in hydroponics because of the lack of sustainability.  The nutrients could not be acquired or made locally and certainly don’t exist in nature.  Hydroponics just didn’t fit our model.

Shortly after abandoning the EZgro to the garage, I learned about aquaponics and suddenly what I considered an obvious flaw in the hydroponics concept was overcome.  Fish are sustainable.  The fish food can be grown in the garden and the fish create the plant nutrients, so the EZgro was back on the team.

The unit is quite simple.  At the base is a 5 gallon tank. In the bottom of the tank is a small water pump.  A section of pvc is connected to the pump and functions both as center pole to hold the grow beds and a conduit to carry the water.  Each of the grow beds has four growing chambers for plants.  The grow beds are filled with media.  The original system used a mixture of vermiculite and perlite.  I have chosen to use hydroton, which is expanded clay pebbles.  They are light weight and hold moisture and bacteria well.

Water is pumped up through the pvc conduit and into the top chamber.  The water (carrying nutrients of course) trickles down through each layer and back into the tank below.  The plants get the nutrients from the water and the hydroton acts as a bio filter cleaning the water then returning it to the fish.

I added an aquarium heater to maintain a comfort zone for the fish and an air stone to keep the water aerated.  The pump, air stone and heater all use electricity and as such, compromise the sustainability model.  Once I figure a way to use solar power to generate the electricity we remove most of the compromise.

The concept is sound, but the system as implemented has some weaknesses.  First, the tank is small.  I can only keep a few goldfish even with the addition of the air stone.  I’m going to try for 10, but believe that could upset the balance in the system.  Five would be better, but I’m not convinced that 5 one inch goldfish can generate enough nutrients for the number of growing chambers in the unit.

Secondly, I have questions about the water pump.  I think it’s too weak.  It is not a true flood and drain as it doesn’t actually flood anything.  It trickles. I could probably use a different pump and will consider that if results demand it.

The weakness of the pump leads to a third potential weakness, which is the hydroton.  I like the pebbles for flood and drain, but I’m thinking the slow, trickling water flow may require a growing media that has some wicking capability in order to hold moisture.  Perhaps a layer of coconut coir on top of the hydroton will fix the problem.

We won’t know anything until we try.  I’m quite prepared to make modifications as we go.  I am going to plant spinach and butter crunch lettuce as my first crop.  Stay tuned for updates.


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Ok, I’m a hypocrite.  After posting all over Twitter that I don’t blog on weekends because no one reads it, here I am.  I just wanted to write this before I forget it, since I’m using this space as my journal.

We are using feeder goldfish for this experiment.  Since we were having some nutrient deficiencies, we added some more fish last weekend.  A couple of the fish died the next day.  That will happen with thirteen cent goldfish.  The nutrients have improved.  I think I still need a few more fish for cauliflower.  I should have started with spinach or something.  Now it’s a quest.  The plants are showing new growth, but it’s slow.  The system is not really mature enough yet.

Everything in the water is in balance except the ph, which is still low.  I added some egg shells but they did not move the needle.  We use oyster shell grit at the farm for baby chicks, so if we have any, I’ll add a little and see what happens.  I’ll add slowly.  Just like salt in cooking, you can always add more, but it’s hard to take it out once it’s in.

EzGro Hydroponics Unit

I have my second experiment just about ready. I cleaned out my old EzGro hydroponics unit and am converting it to an aquaponics garden.  Since the tank is only 3 gallons, it will also be a goldfish garden.  I intend to use it for greens and for starting seeds.  I am using hydroton clay pebbles for the growing medium in this one. I think I’ll have it up and running by the end of the week.

While I was at it, I planted some sugar snap peas in an Earthbox out in the sunroom.  I’m also going to start some cherry tomatoes and see if I can grow them in a container in the sunroom through the winter.  Nothing to lose by trying.

In related news, I finished planting this season’s onions.  I still need to get some garlic in the ground, but I’m out of space.  Must dig out some large containers an put them in one of those.

Today was a gorgeous day for working outside.  I really enjoyed it.  Got a lot done and even had time for a nap.  Yeah, baby!  That’s what I’m talkin’ about.


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