Starting Off

This is hopefully the first of many posts about random things I want to build. I wanted a way to share, keep track of and organize both my thought process and the results of such.

The first project:

Greenhouse

Winter Gardening, Inside

I live were it is cold and darker for many months of the year. at first I tried planter boxes because, why not and square foot gardening is all the rage. This did not work out but i still wanted somewhere to grow my veggies all year and the dying seedlings was getting expensive.

I wanted a year round way to get veggies and in the summer make strong seedlings I could cheaply experiment with.

 

Cost

The first thing I worried about was cost; Will the power cost ever make sense? Does the start up cost make sense? So I envisioned the easiest set-up and began to take a count and compare the cost. Initially I wanted a hydroponic set-up with baskets, rock wool and so on, but quickly figured dirt was cheaper.

So, some basic things: How much per day for the entire system, how much per production unit (per bucket) and the cost per day versus expected grow time. Power was based off rated draw and the rest are estimates.

At the end of all this the result told me that, with 27 tubs in this set up I need to make about 5 or 6 cents of veggies per day, per tub. I found some polypropylene wash basins which, though not guaranteed safe, seemed safe enough. (no actual clue maybe I’ll get some of the plant material spectrum analysed, some day, to figure out if I’ve been killing myself). With a harvest time of 50-70 days for spinach as a baseline and the cost of supermarket salad greens at 2 or 3 dollars for a few large handfuls, I was reasonably confident I could ‘break even’ within a few years of use.

The Build

So, I wanted 3 resin shelves, some lights and some polypropylene buckets. The first step was to foil the wall both, to slightly insulate the exterior wall and reflect some light. I used foil instead of Mylar because I had a lot of foil lying around and the 12% light reflection wasn’t worth it. To measure how much light was being output I used Lux Meter, not the most accurate but a ballpark was all I wanted.

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After that I tried the first sets of lights, some strips I got from Amazon. This is where I ran into the only real hiccup.

So first, a caveat, I am no physicist. Plants use two light measurements lux and par . There are no free easy to use apps that readily measure PAR which is far more useful as the strip lights are designed to only output PAR. But I figured an order of magnitude was enough difference for it to not matter. Sunlight is around 12000 Lux and the purple diodes only measured 300 lux, so I went to Halifax Seed , my local plant experts. They recommended T5 lights for the start-up cost and relative efficiency, so I went with those and I was not disappointed:

notes:
I didn’t use the mounting screws, I used the given brackets with zip ties as the resin shelves have holes in the ribs.
It can be hard to tell if its actually brighter by the picture but i had to squint to look at the T5s and the purple lights were hardly brighter than the room’s ambient light unless you stared at them.

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All that was left was to put in the boxes, dirt, seeds and water.

I only put two shelves as i figured the tomato, eggplant and peppers should sprout and mature a bit before I replant and distribute around the bottom. One other issue occurred where my basement’s humidity soared and my dehumidifier went into overdrive. To solve this I cut up some painter’s Tarp and placed them over top.

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Things I’d like to Add/Improve:

  • Automatic Watering
  • Automatic Light Timing

Updates Forthcoming:

  • Update on growth
  • After action analysis of harvest with cost/benefit analysis

18 Jan 18 : Sprouts

About 5 days later sprouts have started and it looks like there will be fresh veggies soon. This is also surprising as most of the packets said they’d germinate in, at the earliest, 7 days.

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