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Growing a Vegetable Garden Indoors
INDOOR VEGETABLE GARDENING:
Indoor gardening is gaining in popularity,
and the availability of indoor gardening equipment has really come a
long way in the last few years.
premise of indoor gardening is based on creating an outdoor atmosphere
(or as close as you can) in the space that you decide to use. The area
doesn't have to be anything special, but you should consider the
year-round temperature of the area, and the fact that by adding the
garden there will be water, and some low-level humidity in the space.
Depending on how much you like the hobby, and how elaborate you decide
to make your garden area, these factors can be easily controlled, and
will most likely improve the atmosphere of the surrounding areas.
Fluorescents: The first, and most important thing to be considered is the lighting. On
the low end, you can use fluorescent lamps. Standard T-12 tubes, mixing
'warm white', and 'cool white' achieve a full spectrum output. Usually,
48" tubes are used, and the more you use, the better.
There are several
drawbacks to using fluorescent tubes. One is that they don't have enough
intensity to reach the bottom of plants that achieve a height of 12" or
more. Another is that they have to be kept close in order for the plants
to use the light that they produce. That makes them perfect for smaller
plants such as herbs, lettuce, spinach, and other greens. They also work
well for most houseplants.
For larger plants, there are new fluorescent
bulbs available that are better at penetrating the canopy that your
plants are going to make. T-8's are commonly available, are more intense
than T-12's, and are available in cool or warm color spectrum also. The
best fluorescents currently available are T-5's, and TT-105's.
You can check out some of these here.
If you start your plants from seed using
fluorescent lighting, once the plants reach 6 to 8 inches in height you
can put them under and HID light (sooner if you want). You'll want to
get them used to it over a few days by putting the light 3 or 4 feet
away for the first day, then gradually over a few days, getting the
light a little closer. (If you do it all at once, you'll fry 'em.)
HID: When your garden
plants are big enough, HID
lights provide much more intensity, and offer enough light to produce
respectable quantities of vegetables indoors. HID lights (high intensity
discharge) come in two varieties that are commonly used for indoor
gardening; 'metal halide', and 'high pressure sodium'. Everyone is
familiar with them as they are used as street lights everywhere. The
white ones are the metal halides, and the orange ones are the high
pressure sodiums. In an indoor garden area, both can be used for
different special purposes.
Metal halide lights cause plants to grow
very compact. They simulate the brighter light of spring, and are great
for vegetative growth.
High pressure sodium lights are used
to produce their fruit and flowers. They replace the metal halides
bulbs which causes a change in plant chemistry to start the
This is what
happens in nature as the bright intense spring light kind of fades into
the more muted, filtered light of fall. HID lights are available in
three different versions: MH, and HPS, and 'switchable' fixtures that
are capable of both MH and HPS from one fixture by flipping a switch,
and changing from one bulb to the other. They also come in different
wattages, and can be custom fit to an area by wattage.
Here's a link to a tutorial on our
site that will explain more.
Beyond the lighting, in creating the
outdoor environment, you should have oscillating fans to 'agitate' the
plants. This will both provide them with necessary circulation so that
they can perform normal healthy transpiration, and it will strengthen
them with the air by moving their leaves and branches.
The garden itself can be either a good quality potting soil, or
hydroponics. The choice is entirely up to you. Hydroponics has it's
definite advantages, and if you'd like to learn some more about that,
here's a link.