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year round Self perpetuating Garden

 
Aaron Garrison
Posts: 7
Location: vermont
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Hello, I have been researching indoor gardening for about a year now. I am attempting to make a self-perpetuating indoor garden in my house (i own it so if reconstruction is needed... so be it) Basically i want to post post how i'd like to set up my garden, i encourage you all to comment and criticize because i am not experienced at this. So basically this is how i want to set up the garden. (also i live in vermont so theres no chance of outdoor year round plants)
1. solar power and lighting; 5 230 watt solar panels should give about 4 kilowatts per day or 120 kw per month (assuming there's only 4 hours of optimal light per day) this should be enough to power 6-8 t5 4ft florescent lights and 2 100 watt hps lights
2. Heat; the room i have setup right now is a sun room this is attached to the house and is heated via the furnace/wood stove.
3. Soil; here is where i am having the most trouble. Basically using the law of conservation of energy, i am trying to propose a self perpetuate vermicompost system. Staging separate vermicompost boxes should allow me to have soil year round, but we eat most of the fruit and veggies that are grown, hence why i am having a problem. I am planning on growing sphagnum moss and grass as bedding for the worms, but i am still assuming that this wont be enough to perpetuate a cycle because we eat most of the produce and excrete it outside the vermicompost. so there is a loss of energy, would it possible to grow soil-less plants or just another plant in general to compensate for the loss of us eating the produce. I am really in the dark right now and if someone out there could give me a clue to this itd be much apppreciated. I am really trying to make a soil system that does not need to be replaced, assumming at some point there will be no garden store to buy soil at. (of course i can get soil outside but i know that in the recent years they have aerially sprayed areas close-by with pesticides)
4. Water; rain water catching system can be built easily, also another solution is to set up a solar still using plastic pvc pipe and a few other materials. This is not supposed to be the most effective water situation obviously tap water is available and i do not have access to a spring at this moment. so please be considerate with the critique because i am trying to make a system in which the least amount of electricity and oil is needed.
5. Growth; with the artificial lighting and the vermicompost soil (maybe mixed with peat moss) should be enough to keep the plants healthy and enzyme plentiful. rain water or distilled water should not have to many bacteria or viral infections to hurt the plants but again please critique.
6. Back to the compost; using the origanic material grown in the garden to supplement the vermicompost on a continual basis.

Id really love to have some feedback, thanks a bunch.
 
Devon Olsen
Posts: 1066
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
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IF money isnt much of an issue, the way i would LOVE to build an indoor garden is through the use of fiber optics running to the roof of the house so that you run off of solar power instead of light bulbs it would give you all the spectrums of natural lighting as far as i know and would be a one time cost(albiet expensive o0ne time cost) and then you wouldnt spend any more money on it(at least as far as i know)

i would have an entire room devoted to it, one you can walk into and has a few foot paths throughout, preferably in the basement WITHOUT any kind of floor, i would have stones lining the paths and a few large boulders in the middle of the room, i would have a good mix of small shrubs, herbaceous, rhizomous, vining and ground cover plants so that you couldnt really see the soil, i would have a few fallen logs here and there that had mushrooms growing out of it and a few small water features to increase humidity and water the surrounding soil

or i would do an aquaponics system so that having a floor wasnt much of an issue and all that, this is an organic system with the only input being feeding the fish, which could be doen with a mix of vermicomposting and lights that are sunken into the water to attract insects that are flying about

i would have some fans running(dyson style fans if possible to reduce noise and so that placement wasnt an issue as plants could grow straight through it) to circulate the air and prevent issues with disease and pests

i would probably have concrete walls painted in many coats of non-toxic flat white to reflect more light back into the plants
i would have the doors leaving the room as close to sealed as possible without being too uptight about it, and then would simply have DE sprinkled in front of the door to prevent any insects from leaving the area and infesting the house, as well as plants such as basil to repel some of the flying insects planted near any entrances


but for your set up i would probably do an aquaponics system, or if short on cash, then maybe a few sqft garden designed beds(with polycultures instead of sq ft planting) and for soil, just a good mix of sand, clay and organic matter/compost should help you grow things well, just dont forget to mulch
 
Aaron Garrison
Posts: 7
Location: vermont
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thanks for the input! unfortunately i live in Vermont in a stone 1880s house haha so freezing is definitely an issue we had a full week of -20f once, froze our well. so putting my garden down there would cost me more resources, and as you posted "if money isn't an issue" but that's always a problem lol. LED and fiber-optics would be awesome due to the life expectancy and low wattage and heat. but fluorescent bulbs are cheaper and i will probably be going with a vertical grow setup. Basically there's three 8x4 windows in my sun-room (which does not get enough sun (sun is too high in mid-summer to reach into room) hence why I'm using lighting but mostly this is for winter months) which i want to use a roll-up blind, for each, where i will lay Mylar onto the back so that natural daylight can be let in when its efficient and the windows become a reflective surface for the vertical setup. truthfully I'm really concern about the compost the point of this project of mine is to sustain without the use of outside products like fertilizers, bought soil, food for worms, etc. Basically the only reason I'm using lights is for the year round bit, cuts down on preservation for like 4 - 6 months. But as i posted before I don't think the garden can break down and recreate enough soil for the next crop because i would be eating harvest, so i was considering soil-less plants like bulbs that grow in rocks and water, its just a thought cause i want to be able to get a perfect cycle down. I want this to run without an outside source other than the initial set-up (lights, solar panels, and plastic containers for compost and planting (potentially wood grow boxes but i don't have too much access to tools atm so its plastic for now) of course my location definitely puts a hit on growth periods. thanks again for the info.
 
Joe Braxton
Posts: 320
Location: NC (northern piedmont)
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For light, I'd use light tubes. Same or less initial cost as solar panels, little upkeep, low loss due to changing light to electricity and turning back to light.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_tube
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Your sun room is a good choice for growing for several reasons:

* It probably already gets as much sunlight as any other part of the house
* Any household heat lost through that interior wall will partially be salvaged before it is lost
* On a cold, grey winter day, it's a lovely place to enjoy [insert beverage of choice here], amongst living green plants

The first two of those reasons will save you in energy costs. The third delays the onset of cabin fever.

You can further reduce energy costs by installing insulated shutters on the glass - open/shut as temperature/light conditions warrant. Even just applying bubble wrap on the insides of the glass can increase inside temperatures by several degrees, while minimally reducing transmitted sunlight.

Go for it...a little green goes a long way in the winter time.

 
Aaron Garrison
Posts: 7
Location: vermont
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The bubble wrap and shutters is a good idea but loss of heat is something im not worried about its that the sun room is actually on the west side of the house instead of south so sun light is minimal throught the house. Also im not really worried about the consumption of energy i can calculate the wattage of the artificial lights so that i know how many solar panels to get but im looking to basicly create 1 or 2 rooms which will not require any outside sources other than plastic containers and lights this is why im asking about the loss of energy or nitrients that will happen due to me and my wife eating the food? What my concern on this is, is there going to be enough organic material (after whatever we eat) to sustain and perpetuate the Vermicompost or will i have to grow plants specificly to be harvested for the Vermicompost to compensate for said loss. I want this to be cyclical. Thanks for everyones posts and info!!
 
Rion Mather
Posts: 644
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Indoor gardening is an obsession since I owned a house with a sunroom. This winter I am going to try to grow tomatoes and other plants indoors. Here is a recent blog I came across: http://www.digthedirt.com/contributions/6701-Growing-Tomatoes-Indoors-
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