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Winter Grows in Canada  RSS feed

 
Posts: 38
Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia
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Hey All,

Things are starting to turn the corner in the garden here in Eastern Canada so I’ve started thinking about how I can produce high-quality, high-value veggies at home.

I’m picking-up a free 18 cu.ft. fridge this weekend that I’m hoping will make an ideal growing enclosure for day neutral plants. It’s important that the plants thrive and produce under continuous light as the 150w CFL bulb will be the sole heat source for the enclosure.

Realistically I have no idea how well the CFL will heat the enclosure - this is more for fun than anything - but I do need some help choosing a few pioneering plants for the initial adventure.

My initial thought was some variety of parthenocarpic cucumber. Non-organic English cukes can run $3.50 each in the middle of the winter and I’m not even sure if organic cukes would be available where I’m at. A plant producing 1 cuke per week would pay for itself and many varieties seem to produce more than that but can they take continuous light for their entire productive lifespan?
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pollinator
Posts: 823
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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I don’t have any related experience, but I suspect that cucumbers would be harder to grow this way than most other plants. They like lots of heat, light, and room to grow. I don’t know about the 24 hour light. Maybe timers and two lights with one black. Just a guess. I haven’t heard of any experiments with lighting.

Do you have a plan for ventilation?

I would be prepared with different wattages of bulbs to regulate heat. Maybe a timer would help with that too.
 
Ken W Wilson
pollinator
Posts: 823
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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Maybe try a few varieties of lettuce and kale? You could use shelves for layers with a light for each.  It’s a very interesting experiment. It’s going to be hard to pull off on the first try since you don’t know how much light and heat you need.  I think keeping the heat in without the humidity level getting too high might be the biggest obstacle.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2064
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Yeah, I agree. Growing fruit is going to be much more difficult than veg because of the whole flowering thing. Even if they self-pollinate, they will have different light requirements. You will need to switch from a mostly blue-spectrum bulb, which your CFL probably is, to something with more red, which your CFL probably doesn't do at all.

I think you would have more edible biomass exiting your grow environment if you didn't have to grow plants to flowering maturity, to then get them to fruit. Check out indoor microgreen setups.

But whatever you decide, keep us posted, maybe with pics, and good luck.

-CK

 
Posts: 1
Location: Ontario
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Couple notes to share based on past experiences with this type of stuff....

CFL lights will work if you get enough of them and they are close enough to the plants. Light intensity decreases when the distance between the light and the plant increases. Since CFLs dont run hot, you can put em real close to the plants which helps.

Wrap the inside walls of the fridge with Mylar (mirror like reflective sheets) to help amplify the light the CFLs produce.

Get a fan. Plants grown with no breeze or wind can have very weak stems and tissues so try to "stress" the plants a bit to help toughen them up. Also helps with airflow and humidity issues.

Be ready for aphids to move in at some point. Have a plan of attack to manage them (like soap and water in a spray bottle).



 
Jay Colli
Posts: 38
Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia
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Thanks for all the replies!

I've attached an image that will help explain how I intend to ventilate the interior by using the freezer compartment as an air mixing and dehumidifying space.

Fresh air will be drawn into the freezer by a computer fan via a pipe extending to the exterior. The volume of air being drawn in will be controlled with an exterior ball valve (shown as an "x" in the drawing) and mixed within the intake pipe using a pipe stub that draws air from the top of the freezer compartment. The mixed air will be blown onto a piece of rebar (dark L-shaped component in the drawing) that will extend through the top of the fridge to the exterior. My hope is that the rebar will stay cold enough that it will draw moisture out of the air through condensation and drip into a collection cup below. If this doesn't work well enough I'll have the space for a small dehumidifier within the freezer compartment but I would like to avoid the added cost.

Air would be drawn into the fridge compartment from the top of the freezer compartment using another computer fan. Air would be circulated within the fridge compartment by a wall-mounted fan and continuously heated by the 150w CFL. The pipe at the bottom, also fitted with an exterior ball valve, would act as the "pressure release" from the pressure-positive environment.

I'm not sure if a 150w CFL will be capable of heating the space well enough for any sort of fruit to be grown so kale, lettuce, spinach, ect. may be good alternatives if they can withstand continuous light. They'd also grow well under the relatively "cool" spectrum light and I could get them much closer to the bulb than I could with a large, vining plant like a cucumber. Adding a couple "hotter" spectrum bulbs might make it possible to grow some creatively-trained sweet peppers but I'll just have to give it a whirl and see what it can do!
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Posts: 77
Location: Southern New Hampshire (Zone 5)
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I don't mean to rain on your parade, but I'm dubious about the likelihood of success on this project.

What you're describing has been solved by the indoor hydroponics growers - they use grow tents which reflect light and manage ventilation/ humidity, etc.  Is there a reason you want to use a refrigerator, other than it being free?

Most indoor growers don't bother with cucumbers unless they're growing at greenhouse scale.  A single plant makes a TON of vines and foliage before it puts out any fruit.  

A CFL bulb is unlikely to produce enough lumens for any flowering and fruiting plants.  It's probably enough for leafy greens (I grow indoors all winter using 4x T5 compact fluorsecents)

Most people use HID or High Pressure Sodium lights in their grow tents

My advice is to look for a used grow tent on Craigslist or Facebook marketplace if you want to try peppers, tomatoes, etc.

Or setup a simple leafy greens setup under CFLs to try out the concept
 
Jay Colli
Posts: 38
Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia
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Davis Tyler wrote:I don't mean to rain on your parade, but I'm dubious about the likelihood of success on this project.

What you're describing has been solved by the indoor hydroponics growers - they use grow tents which reflect light and manage ventilation/ humidity, etc.  Is there a reason you want to use a refrigerator, other than it being free?

Most indoor growers don't bother with cucumbers unless they're growing at greenhouse scale.  A single plant makes a TON of vines and foliage before it puts out any fruit.  

A CFL bulb is unlikely to produce enough lumens for any flowering and fruiting plants.  It's probably enough for leafy greens (I grow indoors all winter using 4x T5 compact fluorsecents)

Most people use HID or High Pressure Sodium lights in their grow tents

My advice is to look for a used grow tent on Craigslist or Facebook marketplace if you want to try peppers, tomatoes, etc.

Or setup a simple leafy greens setup under CFLs to try out the concept



Hey Davis,

I chose to use a fridge because I'm limited to growing in an unheated shed so having an insulated enclosure seems like the only way to replicated good growing conditions come Jan/Feb when it gets down to -25*C outside some nights.

I think you're right that cukes are not an ideal plant for such a small space and that with the relatively weak light from a CFL I'd be better off growing greens, which are still a welcome addition mid-winter and generally far more tolerant of colder temps that will undoubtedly be a regular occurrence as I work this system out.

I'll keep an eye on temperature swings in the system this year with a mix/max thermometer. If I can maintain fair temps for cold hardy greens with a 150w CFL then it might be worth getting a small HID, HPS or CMH next year to try and up my temps and produce some fruit in there - peppers perhaps?
 
Davis Tyler
Posts: 77
Location: Southern New Hampshire (Zone 5)
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Oh, I missed the "unheated shed" part the first time I read through it.  That's going to be tough.  I keep my Tower Garden in my dining room all winter to grow kale and lettuce at room temperature.  
 
Ken W Wilson
pollinator
Posts: 823
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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I’m all for experimenting, but I am wondering if you’re already using any space and lighting available in your home?

Led lighting is getting fairly reasonable.
 
Jay Colli
Posts: 38
Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia
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Davis Tyler wrote:Oh, I missed the "unheated shed" part the first time I read through it.  That's going to be tough.  I keep my Tower Garden in my dining room all winter to grow kale and lettuce at room temperature.  



I'd love to do that but way out of the question with our cat haha.

Ken W Wilson wrote:I’m all for experimenting, but I am wondering if you’re already using any space and lighting available in your home?

Led lighting is getting fairly reasonable.



Our home is quite small so the limited space that we have for storage (read: not accessible to the cat) is stacked to the ceiling. Some cats might leave house plants alone but our's is not one of those sorts of cats haha.
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