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Old 01-11-08, 10:56 AM   #1
CliftonGK1
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Indoor gardening resources?

Anyone know much about indoor vegetable gardening, or know of any good books detailing things like soil composition, vitamin solutions, and contaminant control?
I'm going to have the space in my new apartment to set up some indoor garden racks, but I'd like to get things set up properly without having to do much hit-or-miss experimentation on the expensive components like lighting fixtures.
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Old 01-11-08, 11:02 AM   #2
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Old 01-11-08, 11:06 AM   #3
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Clifton, a few years back we had a set-up in the basement for starting vegetable seeds. I'd be happy to pass on what we did, if that's what you're intending to do. Most of what I did was based on what I picked up from reading Organic Gardening Magazine. Their web site has a bunch of information that might be useful.
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Old 01-11-08, 11:07 AM   #4
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vegetable gardening. Now if he wanted to grow herbs...
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Old 01-11-08, 11:24 AM   #5
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vegetable gardening. Now if he wanted to grow herbs...
Yes, vegetables. Some herbs... but not that herb. I have to check the light exposure on our new patio and see if I'll be able to move some things outside for the summer, so a seedling starter setup may be a good starting point for me. If the exposure outside isn't good, then I'll be looking at a full indoor growth setup.
I've been reading up mostly about lighting specifics so far: CRI and Kelvin bulb ratings and how those affect plant growth rates. So any additional information that you've got regarding your seedling starter setup would be very helpful. A lot of the concern with gardening here in the PNW is keeping proper aeration and humidity without encouraging mold propagation.
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Old 01-11-08, 11:31 AM   #6
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What do you plan on growing? What direction do the windows in your new space face? How large of an operation are you talking about? You may be able to get away with natural lighting.
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Old 01-11-08, 11:52 AM   #7
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What do you plan on growing?

Garden herbs like basil, mint, oregano and chive. Small fruiting plants like peppers. Maybe some green beans. Leafy plants like lettuce and spinach.

What direction do the windows in your new space face?
I've got a south and west exposure on the patio, and a south exposure on the room where I'm planning on setting up any plant racks. The patio is covered, and the light exposure is partially shaded by the rest of the landscaping (large trees).

How large of an operation are you talking about?
Just growing some food (salad fixin's and cooking herbs) for 2 people who're tired of paying premium dollar for certified organic produce when we're pretty sure we can grow most of it ourselves. The setup I'm looking at building is 2 x 48" shelves on a MetroRack.

You may be able to get away with natural lighting.
Maybe for some shade friendly plants on the patio in the summer, but I don't think most veggies would do well.
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Old 01-11-08, 12:05 PM   #8
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CGK1, sounds like most of the stuff you are going to grow should be availble as starter plants for a good majority of the year, sep. the herbs and peppers. Not so sure about the leafy greens.

Buying starter plants would take out much of the worry of propogation. On the scale you are growing, you really do not need much in the way of propogation materials I would think. A few trays, a heat mat, some good sterile seed starting mixture.

I have never done much propogation, always bought plugs and always grew in greenhouses. I think you should be okay with simple flourescent grow lights with wide spectrum bulbs.

Here is a link to an indoor gardeing supplier in your area, you might start there.

http://www.indoorgarden.com/store/ho...2fca66f0b72305
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Old 01-11-08, 12:08 PM   #9
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When you're germinating seeds indoors, you need to have lights that will also provide some heat to the soil. If you do not have enough sunlight when the plants are seedlings, they will become "leggy" and grow at odd angles trying to capture enough of the sun. You will also want to expose the seedlings and immature plants to a breeze (natural or artificial) to "harden them off". This is especially important if you intend to transplant them outdoors - where they will already be in some amount of shock due to being transplanted. If they aren't already robust, anything stronger than a light breeze could put them over the edge.

I don't know about your yard and light situation, but you might want to consider making portable containers that you could set outside after the danger of frost has passed where you live. There's a lot of information about this if you Google "square foot gardening".
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Old 01-11-08, 12:25 PM   #10
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Excellent info! I know so much about growing microbes and so little about growing plants... I've got a lot of reading to do before I set anything up! Good to know about the breeze thing to strengthen the plants, and I hadn't even considered an extra heat source.
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Old 01-11-08, 12:34 PM   #11
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Yes the fan is an excellent suggestion that I completely overlooked. Good air circulation is very important. It will harden off plants and can help reduce growth of mold, etc on the top of your growing medium. I think you should also think about a good water filter, as you are not going to have rain water to help leach the build up of salts, etc out of your growing media.
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Old 01-11-08, 12:45 PM   #12
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I think you should also think about a good water filter, as you are not going to have rain water to help leach the build up of salts, etc out of your growing media.
So what's your opinion on a gravity-drip watering system? Since I'm building this on a MetroRack, I can support a drip tank above both shelves where the plants will be and run drip tubing to both shelves. If I can properly supply an even feed of water (multi-split manifold and capillary tubing drip feed lines), is there a benefit to a constant water feed versus manually watering and misting the plants?
What about a runoff tray? I can configure a shelf just below the plant shelf to hold a spill tray for runoff/drainage water. Any benefit to this (aside from easier cleanup) versus having a planter that sits in a drip tray?
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Old 01-11-08, 12:53 PM   #13
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For leafy veggies and herbs, no need for a constant water supply. For tomatoes, and maybe peppers (i.e fruiting plants) constant water supply can keep the plant from dropping as much fruit. A catch tray on the upper shelf is probably a must, as you do not want to wash contaminents off the shelf into the plants below. We would always use a bleach solution to clean the tables and gravel in the greenhouses between crops.
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Old 01-14-08, 12:09 PM   #14
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As I was moving some stuff this weekend I got to see how much light this new apartment really gets. Holy center-of-the-sun, does this place light up. Apparently the whole complex is one of few "green design" apartment complexes in the area, so light exposure was a big consideration when building the place. The floor to ceiling windows in the 3 front-facing rooms are enough to light up almost the entire apartment. The patio gets ample light exposure, so I think the best bet will be seedling germination inside during the spring, and then moving plants out to the patio for the summer when things warm up.
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Old 01-14-08, 01:27 PM   #15
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If you really want to lose your mind - check out aquaponics. This is raising fish to feed your plants in a mix of aquaculture / hydroponics. I am in the process of setting up a small one - lets say a fish tank of up to 5,000 liters (no, that is not a typo)

Things tend to grow very fast, very high quality. A good site to lose yourself in is

http://backyardaquaponics.com/
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Old 01-14-08, 01:55 PM   #16
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Quote:
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So what's your opinion on a gravity-drip watering system? Since I'm building this on a MetroRack, I can support a drip tank above both shelves where the plants will be and run drip tubing to both shelves. If I can properly supply an even feed of water (multi-split manifold and capillary tubing drip feed lines), is there a benefit to a constant water feed versus manually watering and misting the plants?
What about a runoff tray? I can configure a shelf just below the plant shelf to hold a spill tray for runoff/drainage water. Any benefit to this (aside from easier cleanup) versus having a planter that sits in a drip tray?
If you plan it right, that would be a good thing. I'd want to rig one up with valves so the water supply wouldn't be constant to the plants that don't need it. Of course, this would necessitate planning out the locations of the plants, and lines running water to them well in advance.

Voice of experience here - unless you like canning, or giving a lot of produce away, 2-3 tomato plants, and 1-2 zucchini plants will easily provide plenty for you and your family.
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Old 01-14-08, 02:01 PM   #17
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If you are gardening in western WA, caution is needed with respect to irrigation of tomatoes and other solans (potatoes, eggplant) and capsicans (peppers) if they are planted in the ground. You probably have enough water in the soil once they get some leaves on them and start shading the soil. If you water too long into the season, they won't produce fruit until it's too late...you'll have tons of green tomatoes when the rains start. Also, especially if you plant solans, crop rotation is vital, not planting solans in the same place/pot for 3 years.

Make sure to irrigate the soil, not the leaves, and cover plants if it rains, especially in August. Helps control the tomato virus, which comes by several official names, most of which are not allowed on this forum. Once you get it, it's yours to keep. Healthy soils, preferably a non-petrochemical mixture is also vital for keeping plants healthy. I use Black Lake Organic vegetable mix for most both container and raised-bed production. It was formulated and is sold by (no surprises) Black Lake Organic in Olympia, WA, especially for PNW soils.

http://www.blacklakeorganic.com/

I also recommend reading the website and the past newsletters and/or get on the mailing list for future newsletters. They are a good read, planting times specific to PNW gardening, but most other information is general enough to be useful everywhere. They ship, but, if your budget is tight I could grab a bag to you to help save you shipping cost. Meet up on the BG? My SO and I work/live in Seattle M-Th, go to my home in Olympia on weekends. PM me if you're interested.
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Old 01-14-08, 05:04 PM   #18
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If you really want to lose your mind - check out aquaponics. This is raising fish to feed your plants in a mix of aquaculture / hydroponics. I am in the process of setting up a small one - lets say a fish tank of up to 5,000 liters (no, that is not a typo)

Things tend to grow very fast, very high quality. A good site to lose yourself in is

http://backyardaquaponics.com/
That is some awesome permaculture right there! Some day when I've got a house, with a yard where I can build a greenhouse, then I will certainly be into setting up something like that. Right now, the apartment I'm moving into wouldn't be too keen on my building a rig like that on the patio, and if I had it inside I don't trust my puppy not to try swimming in the fish tank or using the aeration syphon as a drinking fountain. (She's a water-lovin' fool.)
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Old 01-14-08, 05:11 PM   #19
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If you plan it right, that would be a good thing. I'd want to rig one up with valves so the water supply wouldn't be constant to the plants that don't need it. Of course, this would necessitate planning out the locations of the plants, and lines running water to them well in advance.

Voice of experience here - unless you like canning, or giving a lot of produce away, 2-3 tomato plants, and 1-2 zucchini plants will easily provide plenty for you and your family.
I was thinking that the drop lines would have clamps on them so I can manually control when the drip feed was on. I'd just need to look into which plants need it and which ones don't.
As for amounts of plants, I'm not looking at keeping a massive garden to feed an army. Yeah, one or two of a few different plants will produce plenty enough to eat and some to store. I used to keep a garden at my parents house, and for 4 people we had 3x 4'x4' raised boxes, 3x 8'x4' raised boxes, and a tilled 15'x15' patch of corn. We had enough food that we were constantly giving stuff to our friends. I'm scaling way back with my proposed setup, which will fit entirely on a single 18"x48", 2 shelf MetroRack storage unit.
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Old 01-14-08, 05:17 PM   #20
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I was thinking that the drop lines would have clamps on them so I can manually control when the drip feed was on. I'd just need to look into which plants need it and which ones don't.
As for amounts of plants, I'm not looking at keeping a massive garden to feed an army. Yeah, one or two of a few different plants will produce plenty enough to eat and some to store. I used to keep a garden at my parents house, and for 4 people we had 3x 4'x4' raised boxes, 3x 8'x4' raised boxes, and a tilled 15'x15' patch of corn. We had enough food that we were constantly giving stuff to our friends. I'm scaling way back with my proposed setup, which will fit entirely on a single 18"x48", 2 shelf MetroRack storage unit.
Sounds like a very workable plan with realistic goals.

One additional thing to bear in mind however, is that seeds start well in sterile soil, but mature plants generally do best while in soil with plenty of organic matter (non-sterile). I'm not sure if you can work something out to either layer the soil, so that the initial growth will occur in sterile soil that has compost-rich soil underneath, or whether you can start the plants in a sterile medium and transplant to the other environment without disturbing the root system in the process.
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