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We are rural ... lots of acreage; fencing efforts are ongoing, but slow.

Our outdoor raised-bed garden, in the patio area where we will one day build a greenhouse, did very well. Lots of produce for this kind of effort. The local critters were also happy & thankful with this approach; I estimate we got 50% or so of the produce ...

Temporary greenhouses just don't hold up in our neck of the woods ... wind is too fierce at times; neighbors always calling to say "come get your greenhouse (parts) unwrapped from around my (tree, car, etc.)".

Winter is settling in, and not much can happen outside with the snow flying, so I think about critter annihilation techiques ... JAWZ traps for mice/rats/chipmunks seem easy to set and work with, and make for easy disposal as well; the fields/forests are full of these guys, and I don't believe they are on the protected critter list. I tested some JAWZ this year ... no more victor trap misfires or smashed fingers.Raccoons & such to tackle one day. Deer should be handled with completed fencing (in the future).

Then I got to thinking, is there a way to move some production inside? Has anyone had success with year-round production of at least some veggies inside, w/o a greenhouse? I'm thinking some form of aerogarden device (hydroponic), but they are expensive; this might have to be DIY in some form.

Other options? Rip out windows on south wall, put in window garden box frames?

Would love to get most of our salad production growing year-round, in advance of the greenhouse.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
BTW, I have room inside only for something in a "shelf system" design, in front of a window, or the afore-mentioned (diy) window box garden (if I can find plans).

If I extend out a foot (bay window approach), and in a foot (bookshelf depth), I could have a 2' footprint of some kind. That could be upwards of 2' x 4' x 6' or so, around 48 cu ft. A slanted solar panel for a bay roof? Windows for the box walls?
 

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The Aerogarden is useless. Tried twice.

I put a cannabis grow light over the bathtub and grew lettuce in flats. They are available on ebay for more reasonable prices.
Alice, what kind of light did you get? I just got a pair of small grow LEDs for seed starting, mounted them above my refrigerator. Very bright, happy feeling light.
 

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BESTVA DC Series 1500W LED Grow Light Full Spectrum Dual-Chip Growing Lamp for Hydroponic Indoor Plants Veg and Flower
 

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BESTVA DC Series 1500W LED Grow Light Full Spectrum Dual-Chip Growing Lamp for Hydroponic Indoor Plants Veg and Flower
Cool, I was wondering if you went with LED or the HID. LED grow lights have come a long way and they do have several advantages over the older HID systems. Fluorescents are still around but not as popular. I actually got the LEDs because my old fluorescent grow lamp (Hydrofarm brand, definitely a cannabis grower kind of light) blew bulbs out and it was cheaper to upgrade than to replace the bulbs. Just got my new lights installed today, full spectrum "bright sunlight". Nice white light, but the lamp has a few infared LED diodes in it too, very cool.
Can't wait to get some more seeds started and see how they perform. They light my kitchen VERY well.
92251
 

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Cheapest and best option, wire metal shelf unit at least 4 feet long (mine was purchased at Sam's Club) and a 4 foot long shop light fixture (6 tube fixtures are best but you can also use 4 or 2 tube lights. If you do 2 tube fixtures you should use 2 per shelf) for each shelf you plan to use. No need to buy expensive grow lights, daylight white florescent tubes do just fine. You will need a timer so you don't have to remember to turn the lights on and off. You might need a humidifier if your house is dry. I am adding a humidifier of some sort this year. Or you could use one of those relaxation tabletop fountains to put moisture in the air.

Lettuce, spinach (lights cannot be on more than 8 hours or your seedlings will bolt), day neutral strawberries, onions, radishes, short carrots and many herbs can be grown this way. I had a very productive ornamental pepper one year. You are only limited by your growing space.

I have used milk jugs, cloth pots, long window planters and various sizes of standard pots for growing things.

I also have turmeric and ginger in pots but they are in the basement which isn't as warm so they don't grow through the winter.
 

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A few years back I was able to get Four 3 foot long LED grow lights on closeout from Home Depot for $20 a piece. They have separate red, blue and white LEDs that you can adjust. I bought them for starting seeds but have grown salad greens with them in the dead of winter.

I have found that things like kale, swiss chard and arugula do well outside in winter if planted in the fall. We use a low hoop covered with 6mm greenhouse plastic. This is in a raised bed that is inside a high hoop. We are at the border of zone 5/zone 6.
 

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Growing lettuce in 9x13 aluminum cooking trays from The Dollar Store with ~ 3 in of soil in 'em, using a cheapo LED shop light (~$10) Smart Electrician® 3600 Lumens 46 x 3 Integrated LED Shop Light at Menards® Hang the lites ~6 in above trays. Raise as plants grow. Works just fine. Garage is heated to about 64*F.....I cut off a few leaves each day for my burger & salads.

Tomato plants doing just fine that way. Spring was late last year and indoor starts held back...They were 3 ft tall and blooming by the time I got 'em outside..It remains to be seen if I can get these new starts fertilized and productive over the winter inside.

I also brought 2 green pepper plants into the garage after this season was over. They're growing well and small peppers formed outside are getting bigger with just that same type of LED shop light..Remains to be seen if new flowers will form.
 

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You might want to look up the "Kratky method". Works for me in Southern Michigan. I use recycled coffee containers to grow leaf lettuce. For me, the fertilizer liquid in one coffee container produces one head of leaf lettuce.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Wow ... excellent advice!

- I do have a bathtub available ... that's brilliant! simple shelving system, water drainage in place, and even a shower curtain to cover up the first few failures!
  • Kratky method ... off to investigate. I drink a lot of coffee, so the folgers plastic cans are all over the place.
  • alum cooking trays, grow lights per shelf ... something is bound to grow ...

Not sure how to get a hugelkultur in there ... might look kind of creepy.

Best of all, no critters!

Thanks!
 

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Kratky Method.... I started lettuce seeds out in the cold frame 6 weeks ago...Then I transplanted a dozen to the afore mentioned trays inside and four to a Kratky type hydroponics arrangement. ..After two weeks, I'm harvesting 6 inch long leaves from the soil system and just threw out the hydroponic ones, still only 3 inches long and looking pretty anemic.

I'm sorry. I just don't get "hydroponics" with it's need for acute, continuous attention to detail and elaborate apparatus. If God wanted lettuce & tomatoes to grow suspended in swamps, they would have evolved that way.....But then, I don't think the Elephant Man looks anything at all like an elephant either. Maybe it's just me.
 

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You might have critters, 6 and 8 legged critters. Most common insect pests are; mealy bugs, aphids, spider mites, fungus gnats and sometimes sowbugs. Mice can be a problem if they get in your house.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Per the video, I can definitely get Kratky going w/ the folgers plastic coffee containers ... I was spending time looking at various plastic containers, but the folgers cans are rolling around everywhere. They get a new lease on life ...

More critters ... darn ... I spent much money on various critter capture/kill methods, and I can at least report that out of all of those, only the JAWZ traps worked at scale, and the mouse/rat problem is no more; there hasn't been a single mouse in the house in forever, because the pressure is off as they get trapped outside, in droves, then trickles, and finally, the traps are rodent free except for onesy and twosy's that try to come in from the fields & forests. I'm moving the traps a bit further out into the fields, to see if they extend the "fence" away from the house.

Bug critters ... I can't spray inside the house with bug spray, so now I'll have to learn about organic treatments and such ... it's also possible my teenage daughters' excessive phone usage in the bathroom will radiate the bugs out of existence ... or the conversations will drive the bugs mad ... or ...
 

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Sticky traps work well on aphids and fungus gnats. I use shower curtain hooks or aluminum fence clips to hang the traps from the wire shelves. Sow bugs are mostly a problem on formerly outdoor plants that have been brought indoors. I have had to repot plants to eliminate them. If they are on the top of the soil it's easy to just pick them out and toss them outside. Spider mites supposedly thrive when humidity is low, I am testing a portable humidifier to see if increasing the humidity helps prevent their infestation.
Mealy bugs can be a problem. I read that wiping them off plants with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol kills them. It does but it also kills some plants. Insecticidal soap does not kill mealy bugs. Pyrethrin or similar chemicals (pyrethrum and some other names which I can't recall now) work very well without killing the plants. There are a few companies which make an indoor insecticide which is organic and labeled safe for food plants.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Bathtub Kratky greenhouse underway! Most all of the supplies came in ... still awaiting the lettuce growth medium mix.

Dug the ceremonial first shovel! ... well, cleared out the tub and threw an old 4-shelf greenhouse (w/ wire racks) into the bathtub, and am routing power cords for the grow light. I hope to stagger the folgers cans on the shelves, so that the one grow light will hit all the shelves and cans.

Will start drilling holes in the Folgers plastic cans today, and as I'm planning on "butter lettuce" heads, will see if I can get perhaps two or three holes per lid ... not sure how big these little heads will grow, or how the net pots will fit, until I get a few tests underway.

Decision-point: should I start the lettuce seeds (tiny little devils) in soil, and then transfer them to the net pots? I don't see how the seeds will sit in the clay balls inside the net pot, as the clay balls are the size of little marbles? The Kratky folgers can method didn't have enough detail for this little detail, and I'm not sure I saw anything more explicit in the Kratky paper.

Another few months, and I can stop buying $1.59 heads of lettuce at the store, and start eating my $10 heads of home-grown lettuce ... woo-hoo! Yep, the costs are adding up ... not sure yet where that pesky break-even point is, or if I'll get on the downhill side of the curve. If I don't give the final numbers here, you'll know it went the wrong way ...

Drink more coffee ...
 

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I also use rock wool and net cups. I use a hole saw (I think it is 2 inch) to cut the holes in the coffee container lids to hold the net cups. I fill the coffee containers with the fertilizer liquid to about a quarter inch below the lid. To start seeds I put the seeds, usually three sets in each rock wool plug. I poke the hole for the seeds in the plugs with a sharpened pencil. Once seeds are in the plugs I pour the fertilizer liquid over the plugs until they are wet. I then place them in a plant tray with a clear plastic lid on it and put the whole thing on a heat mat until the seeds sprout. (I put enough fertilizer liquid in the plant tray to keep the plugs wet while I wait for the seeds to germinate. Once they sprout I put the plugs in the coffee container net cups and put them under grow lights. I initially place them very close to the grow lights. As the plants grow I drop them down from the grow lights to keep the leaves from touching the grow lights.

For my system I don't raise and lower the lights during the growing season. I raise and lower the coffee containers to adjust the plant distance from the lights. To do this I use a platform made of a 2x6 supported by a stack of 5 inch 2x4s on each end. When the plants get too close to the lights I remove a 2x4 from each end of the support. That drops the platform 1 1/2 inch. Each platform holds 3 coffee containers. Using this method I can have plants under the lights at various stages of development, and at different distances from the grow light. I can try to post a photo if that would help.
 
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