year round Self perpetuating Garden

soos621June 30, 2012

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.

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zzackey(8b GA)

I would work on making your own soil. You can probably Google it. Keep on composting. We have red wigglers. What kind of worms do you have? Our friend feeds them chicken food only and he has tons of worms. Can you get old veggies from the grocery store that they are going to throw out for your worm food or have friends, family and neighbors save theirs for you? The worms do need what is called browns too. Dry leaves, paper, cardboard. Crushed up eggs shells are good for them too. Good luck! It sounds like quite a challange, but a worthwhile one!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 4:37PM
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I know that i can get food from various places, my plan on this is basically that i wont need to go anywhere for any soil, or food for the worms. currently i do not have any worms. i am doing research at this moment. moneys a little tight haha. but basically i was asking ablout the soil-less plants because it would take no compost but i could harvest it completely for food for the worms. everywhere i look on the net says i CAN use shredded newspaper, cardboard, etc. but all these are depedent on an outside system. im trying to feed myself organically perpetually. The maintenance of the whole system is what im looking forward too. i need to occupy my time with things other than media stimuli.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 7:48PM
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kathyp(z9 CA)

Can we assume that you are not looking into hydroponics? Sounds like you are planning for a hypothetical apocalypse? How many people are you feeding? There should be some part of the fruits/veggies that you don't consume. If you have a continuous garden, plants will be growing, and some will be past production, and can be used as worm fodder. This is an intriguing idea - looking forward to the replies! My sister is trying something vaguely like this - only she is trying to heat her hen-house with the heat from compost piles.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 11:08PM
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i am actually avoiding hydroponics, it seems to be a high energy cost. I am doing the perpetual garden not necessarily for an apocalypse haha but its not a bad safety measure :). Actually im doing this on principle, i feel that in america mostly, (i havnt been anywhere else in the world, so i dont speak for other cultures) people have become too dependent on what they think they need, but in reality we don't need most of the things we have, but still want more. I believe that the garden is something that engages me in something real, most of the stimuli that we're introduced to is false or ungrounded. People want money, well what is money really, people want media, well how far will media go to appease that? people want energy, well what happens when there's none left? Im not saying that these are all bad things its the dependence on them. As i stated before, solar panels and windmills, these are power sources which no one wants to actually put up themselves, they want the power company to build, transport, and maintain these things (obviously for a price). Its more efficient if everyone were to have their own solar/wind then to have massive 200 ft wingspan windmills. Im not trying to scare anyone or anything its just an idea that our planet has provided before and still does. Anyway sorry, i know there will be plant material left over from harvest but will that be enough vermicompost to set up the next batch if in every batch theres a slight loss of nutrients. i feel this is a degrading system needing added organic material, what i was considering is finding a plant which has a high concentration of nutrients and good vegetative growth which is can harvest directly for the vermicompost adding in organic material where there is loss. Also i am trying something that really i haven't been able to find any information on but i think it may work (involves a vertical light, flourescent ) i want to suspend lights in between a circular wire fence in which plants will be trained to (specifically viney plants) i feel that this would optimize my light output of the flourescent as opposed to reflectors because lumens decrease at a rate of like 50 percent per foot after the initial foot of radiance. so reflected light is inferior if total distance is over 18 inches. again no proof that this will work but i will be posting pictures once i get all the materials in. i also have been thinking about the option of compost heating. i would assume that a radiant heat of 90-100 degrees would be enough to heat a room slowly. or keep a room warm. i am actually partial to vermicompost in which i am building a worm bag. Definitely get back to me about the heating because i live in Vermont and its an interesting idea. as of now its only me and my wife and were stil switching to organic foods unfortunately its pretty pricey to do all of this haha i'm hoping for a perpetual payoff of food. 50-100 bucks a week adds up fast. the other part of the garden is also herbal medicines, which will be a part of the vermicompost as well. this will add to the greens for the compost. thanks for all the input!

ps: i am not afraid of maintenance of the garden its what i want to take up most of my time. so i know that training a few dozen plants will not take me only 20 minutes a day lol.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 12:06AM
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Is your goal with this idea to produce food?

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 6:55PM
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Hey, sry i didn't respond to your last post. Yes i am planning on growing food herbs and veggies year round and i am using as much sunlight as i can but living in Vermont and having an east west facing house means i gotta have artificial lighting. as of now i have a few cfls and t5s in which i'm ordering more and 2 100 watt hps lights. and as for the year round food im planning on planting my first batch then in a few weeks or so plant a second batch and repeat this process until ive harvested the first plant and grow another in the same container/. basically anything that needs to be harvested with be put into this cycle any of the herbs and veggies that do not require blooming i will keep in vegetative state as long as possible. like lettuce, stevia, or mint. hope to hear back soon! :)

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 12:09AM
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Do you have no outdoor space that gets 6-8 hours of sun at this time of year? Or is there no secure place somewhere else to use? People survived for centuries in Vermont using the sun to produce storage crops. Producing any significant amount of food entirely without sun is wildly expensive and the epitome of non-sustainable.

I respectfully suggest that you thoughtfully reconsider your strange plan.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 6:46AM
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Haven't posted on this Forum in awhile. Busy days and interesting projects keeping me out of mischief. However, this question caught my attention. After a few days thought and several readings of the OP's intent it is my inclination to allow our friend to explore this project solo. I will only offer encouragement as my years of experience can see numerous red flags ahead in this undertaking. But, creative minds very often can problem solve unencumbered by others opinions. I, too, question why growing crops during the season is not a part of the sustainable plan. Also, heating with a wood stove quickly dries the air in a room. Plants grown in the situation described will need lots of humidity. A large boiler of steaming water on stove top may be needed. Lots of wrinkles to work out. Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 1:47PM
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ok i understand what your saying and yes i could plow some land up grow anything i want within the spring summer and early autumn but a major factor in this is to avoid almost any storage of fruits and veggies; so things can be kept almost indefinitely easily. the only reason people lived in Vermont without starving is because of cold storage in the winter and the invention of refrigeration (iceboxes first which depended on trains to deliver) but in the last few years our winter here has gotten strange a few years ago we had a warm spell of one week with weather above 70 degrees last autumn we had over 100 degree weather and the whole winter it only dropped below 30 for one or two weeks the whole winter which is not normal, but it happened. refrigerators use immense amount of energy to build and run and contain lots of harmful toxins. I believe that a rotation garden with multiple crops all year round will cut back on storage necessity. eventually most of the appliances that we have will be useless or too inefficient to use. This is my theory I'm not saying that everyone needs to go out and get rid of their refrigerator and replace it with something else i just see the possibility of getting rid of the energy consumption. Most of the main appliances in a house can be replaced with more efficient systems (hot water heat = solar water heater in which can be built out of glass and wood my father heats our entire barn with one, solar panels = electricity for anything necessary, rain water retention system or springs and a gravity fed osmosis filter will provide with ENOUGH water, but that's the key word there is enough). the more physical labor you put into something the more efficient your system is because as humans we put out more energy than anything else spare the sun. We have technology to make our lives easier but is that always a good thing? I do want to grow food outside unfortunately i did miss this years plant because i was buying my house in April lol. but that isn't part of an indoor sustainable system. I want fresh fruits all year round. instead of tearing up my entire third of an acre i use my house which I'm not going to use for anything productive anyway. This is just my view it stems from deep hatred of human laziness and acceptance. most people just accept that we have refrigeration and stores to buy food (even organic which really doesn't make any sense to me) in which has been pushed along by a social construct of gaining wealth or status. The "protestant work ethic" has basically been used against americans to make them believe that the system will always be protected but this isn't true, there are towns that are failing economically and depend on the financial aid of the tax payers and government credit (which is a whole different story). Most of the people in these towns don't even bother growing their own food even though they are in upper NY and have the land to grow crops. It seems that most people are focused on gaining money to buy the things the need and want instead of realizing the things they want are useless and mind numbing ( mainly media) and the things they need are only available through a store. as i said before i understand this is not a system for everyone i happen to have a job in which i only work 3 hours a day 7 days a week, so i have the time to maintain a large indoor setup. and as to your last comment you say its strange but why is that? what is so strange about creating a small setup which replicates what nature does already, i see it as getting back to a circle as opposed to a line.
PS. there are also a lot of problems with outdoor gardens such as blight pests animals and failed storage. which in turn led to the starvation and many families when people had no refrigeration. so if you depend on one system and it fails there's no going back you cant replant your crops in Vermont you just die if you can't feed yourself. of course most people believe that there will always be stores, but if you look at the complex and STRANGE system in which we grow and deliver food i think that's a more brittle system.

Im really enjoying your posts pnbrown i would really like to hear more from you. thanks a bunch

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 2:20PM
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this is to nandina: hello and thanks for the criticism first of all, this is actually why i posted this forum is because i was unsure how i would go about this project. I am really trying to get people to ask questions and bring up situations in which problems could arise. if you do foresee anything that can be wrong i would like you to ask about it. The whole point is that it may be a failed system, i don't know but as far as i can research there aren't many people who have tried this. yes its complex because of the staged growth but the efficiency of the setup lies within the vertical and barrel style grow system basically pots of plants will be placed either vertically or horizontally to grow in a 360 around the lights, which maximizes the output of the light instead of focusing it on one spot for intensity you have plant which are trained to grow either towards the light(in the barrel style or horizontal grow basically plants being positioned right side up and upside down around the light) or trained to grow up the lattice to consume more light. i will try to post some drawings on what i intend to build but please forgive me im no engineer haha. as i stated above, i posted this not to prove that it could be done but to have other people ask the questions that i may have missed so any "red flags" please alert me about, if it ends with termination of the project than it was not meant to be but as of now i feel that i have a fairly stable plan. again i will post more accurate descriptions and pictures for understanding upon request. thanks for everything guys! have a great one
Apologies for the pic my printer wont connect to the laptop so i took it with my phone, i hope this helps a bit in understanding how I'm maximizing space and light output (there will also be normal top lighting setups as well but they have a loss of 50% lumens per foot after radiance so even with reflectors your losing 25% of your lumens because of the distance it travels. and the light that escapes if its not enclosed in Mylar.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 3:18PM
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sorry i messed up the post which was to contain the pic, this is my first time posting on forums, again apologies.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 3:19PM
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art_1(10 CA)

You touched on some good points and this is a nice idea, but I agree with others that it would be more practical and economical to build some high tunnel or greenhouse structures outside. What you are talking about would be very expensive and complicated.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 4:58PM
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Soos, I am comparing your very unworkable concept with the proven method of holistic management of a wide range of marvelous food crops appropriate to one's climate, grown outdoors in a deep live soil.

Your posts make me think that you have little or no experience with food production. I have a lot to learn still, undoubtedly, and with luck I will live longer and learn it, but I have been applied vigorously for the past 15 years or so to food production. Based on what I can see about what plants need to produce crops, this will not be achieved inside of a typical residence, in VT or anywhere else. In a structure made ENTIRELY of glass, still, during the dark and cold months, little food is produced. The structure would need to be very large to be able to produce enough fresh food for several people during that time. It would in fact be a much better investment than buying lights and paying for electricity or buying pv panels to use just to attempt to grow fresh food in winter.

Your estimation of the utility of storage crops is inaccurate. Warmer winters are nowhere close yet to negating the ability to store the many marvelous storage crops.

Again I urge you to re-think your plan, which I am quite sure is based on zero experience, and take some advice from others. Put your efforts into something that will give results, if you don't want to waste time and money. If, like in your scenarios, you were actually to depend on it, you would be starved while others were dining on their cabbage, potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, celeriac, dry beans and peas, dent and flint corn cakes, canned tomatoes, and more.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 6:13PM
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actually each setup shouldnt cost more than 40 dollars include lights, wiring, ballasts, wood for the frame, pots (obviously cheaper if you buy in bulk) and soil i guess seeds are a slight expense as well. Now the vertical setup is fairly easy but high maintenance, where as the horizontal setup takes less maintenance but more complex to build. With 1x3s or 2x4s its should be easy its all about the angles and distributing the weight, if someone were to pay someone to build the setup for them it would be expensive but that's only for labor. i agree that i will be spending more than what most people pay out on their garden even indoor setups, but i will buy less lights per square feet of coverage technically saving me money; its investment. as i said before i want to use the sun as much as possible for my setup and a greenhouse would be nice but ventilation and heating are very expensive (which eventually i probably will setup a greenhouse but as of now its not in the cards). There are also other ways of making the setup more efficient one particular idea i had was to setup the vertical lights with one or two in each main room to create lighting for the room. also heat would happen as well but that's almost nill.

Say that i have 20 - 30 vertical grow setups as i designed before, if each one can take 4 plants that's anywhere from 80-120 plants, now if i have say 8 bloom every half month with multiple fruit i can stagger them to be a full circle, also the way i categorize the plants would be very complex comparatively i would have to organize them in the following: bloom period, height and width (plants will be trained but it still makes a difference) root size, and how much i consume withing each half month period. this is where the fun begins. :) All plants that do not require bloom will most likely go into the horizontal chambers, and those that do no fit will be placed in their own veg site. As i said i will probably end up using some overhead lighting for seedling and clones, but this will be brought to a minimum. If anyone can see any problems with this (other than human error) please criticize. Have a great one!

(Also here a list of what it costs for a greenhouse setup vs my system:

Greenhouse - $130 15x7x7 ebay
fans - 2 8 inch (intake/exaust) $90 ebay
heat - build a rocket mass heater for around $300 - 400 self built
plus say 1 - 2 cords of wood for fuel = $300 local

total is anywhere from $800-$900

Lighting (because in the winter there is not nearly enough sun so supply the plants)
this would be the same lighting resource that i described above
vertical grow
$15 4x8' plywood/$7.50 each (makes 2 platforms per 4x8' sheet for vert grow) home depot
$7 24-48 inch fluorescent light 6500k or 3000k depending around 2500-5000 lumens ebay
$60 for 200 square feet/$5 for each. Each vert grow take around 10 square feet home depot
$6 for suspended flourescent holders w/ ballast. ebay
$1 per pot (4 each) so $4 htgsupply

this is a total of $30

horizontal setup holds from 8-16 plants depending
$3 per 2x4x8' plank (each setup takes anywhere from 10 - 15 boards depending on size and whichever way i decide to build it) so anywhere from $30-$45 home depot
lights 24 inch around $5-$7 ebay
pots at $1 each (8-16 per setup) htgsupply
$7 for light holder
total comes out to be $52-$75 per setup (assuming i cannot cut back on wood use for the frame which is not set in stone)

basically its always going cost me more to get a greenhouse and to build a separate unit for heat (and run electricity but that's not included) because I'm already heating my house and have a fully windowed room for maximum sun exposure (from its location) i already use the sun effectively (one better would be skylights but i don't want to tear up my standing seam roof) but the greenhouse would save a bit on lighting but not in the winter because if the sun only comes above the tree for 4 hours this is going to either prebloom my plants or cost me just as much to have it inside near a window. Even without solar panels its much more cost effective. especially if i can incorporate it for lighting which will cut back on my upfront home costs. Its just an idea remember I'm not saying that any of this is foolproof, please do not feel like i am trying to undermine you or anything I'm just saying what i believe to be true for this system.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 7:30PM
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Well, it's too bad that you aren't going to spend the money on lime and organic sources of fertilizer and minerals and a couple of sturdy gardening tools, so that you could actually grow some food next year.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 7:43PM
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hey pnbrown no offense but first of all you didn't even concern yourself with the obvious problems of growing outdoors (pest blight etc.) also climate change IS happening where weather patterns are become more infrequent. so that is also a concern with growing outdoors vermont got a hurricane last year you think thats normal? half the farmers in my area were put under water for the entire summer and food prices locally went through the roof. if it hadnt been for grocery stores everyone WOULD have died. almost 50 percent of crops were lost due to a hurricane hitting in august and the 50 percent that was left needed to be sold so that people could rebuild their homes. only about 500 miles north of where this normally happens. anyway i would also like to point out that proven methods are fine but if people didn't "waste their time and money" as you stated before you think we'd even have greenhouses or electricity for that matter? On that note i feel that i should worry about my financial situation, i agree that someone who wants to do this exactly should start with normal methods of growing indoors and outdoors but im not everyone else this is pure experiment, i would like this forum to make a trend off of how much its financial damages are and focus more on problems within the actual system. not that money isnt important to the readers or even to me but its more about the production. Now i would like you to give me how much square footage it would take to grow an outdoor garden with enough produce of different types an nutrients also the amount of fertilizer needed to produce these crops and how much space needed to rotate them if nutrient level are low. I would like to also say that true cold winter months do not produce fruit but indoor warm temp well lit areas will (as long as you provide constant spectrum and lumen output). Now you say my system is "unworkable" but i would like you to provide proof that my system is unworkable i have stated that this may not work i have accepted that it may not work you should accept that it may work unless you have hard evidence that it will not. you shouldn't discourage people because of money if I'm not smart enough to keep myself alive and pay my bills while i am building this then i probably should starve anyway. You say money wasted i say time well spent. Experimentation is the key to success. I feel that your discouragement is not necessary though i do appreciate the concern and your information.

Indoor fruit and vegetable gardens HAVE been done before so basically your making a statement that my system does not work without it ever having been in place and you say space is the issue which i feel can be dealt with by vertical, hanging, and potentially sideways growth. Also i have zero experience with plants i will admit that. But i feel that experience doesn't mean anything when you can only look in one direction. again im not saying im an expert but i feel that i have science on my side on this one.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 8:10PM
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As to your latest post pnbrown, id wish you to be a little bit more polite just because you cant afford to do this and have a bit of fun with it doesn't mean anyone else can't. Also because you wanted to be high n mighty; i already have lime and organic fertilizer for next years crop so when you want to get off your high horse and treat this with respect instead of skepticism and intolerance please post back. id advise you to come up with ANY scientific proof that this WILL NOT WORK and not just your opinion, you are the type of person that perpetuates a society that will not go anywhere or grow, failed attempts are the reason we have success today.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 8:22PM
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art_1(10 CA)

Find out how much light shines on the ground outside in full sun. Then calculate how much artificial light you would need to achieve similar light inside, and how much the electricity would cost, efficiency of solar panels, storage, etc.

It reminds me of people living in a space station. You could just have a garden in your backyard.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 8:44PM
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Soos, suggest that you find my post today on the New England Forum titled " memory needs help" and follow the answers as they appear. One answer already this evening which you may find interesting and perhaps helpful.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 8:54PM
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kathyp(z9 CA)

Random question - what are you planning on growing with this system? What would you use for pollinators? Personally, given the lack of bees in previous years, I have gotten into the habit of going out in the morning and, using a small paint brush, pollinate my squash plants. (My family thinks this is hysterical!) Not sure how this method would work for other plants. Curious to know what fruits/veggies you will be growing.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 8:55PM
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hey art_1 well the sun shines at around 5000 lumens per square foot in full sunlight. which is what i will be replicating, each light bulb according to size and wattage will have a different lumen radiance and spectrum which is all available in info on the bulb type. i will also have a garden in my yard i am not opposed to growing outside (even though i know that they have sprayed petroleum based pesticides and that Vermont Yankee (nuclear power plant) is literally polluting the land mass around Vermont so badly that toxicologists have been paid to study the effects of people drinking the water and the mass deaths of animals near sources of high concentration of pollutants.) i wanted to experiment with alternative indoor grow methods because of the mass pollution that is happening basically everywhere, even if pesticides were not sprayed directly near your land those particles are lifted by strong winds and carried across large areas where it is deposited through precipitation. This is why i consider outdoor growing inorganic because of the insane amounts of crap that has been layed into the land. People don't seem to realize that a lot of the pollution and toxicity we've "buried" or has been "washed away" is still there in low concentration sure most of the bigger deposits have been reduced but these inorganic fertilizers and pollutants will not dissipate naturally man-made chemicals are harder and more dense than naturally made chemicals (chemicals mean any type of linked molecule is basically a chemical compound) these harder chemicals cannot be absorbed or broken down easily, so they stay in the soil. Again i am not a toxicologist, but i have met and talked with toxicologists that have studied these effects and mass pollution.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 9:01PM
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well here's a preliminary list of what types of veggies and fruits i WANT to grow, lol. tomatoes, lettuce, melons (maybe), celery, carrots, potatoes, asparagus, bamboo possibly, string beans or garden beans, grapes, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, onion, garlic, and cucumbers, this is just what i have in mind for now again i am going to attempt to grow as much as possible but we'll see how much happens. This doesn't include a list of herbs for supplementation, medicine, and spices.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 9:07PM
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kathyp, i just have to say thanks, this is an amazing article, though ive know that solar power and heating can be used to provide a house with living capability, its still remarkable about the chickens, actually chickens is definitely one of the main points to sustainable growth though they are the last piece of my puzzle, but chickens for warmth! awesome. id advise everyone to read the article because chickens are a source of heat, organic compost, eggs, and meat(if you willing to kill, gut, and pluck them) obviously there a lot of people who are squeamish about preparing meat but again that's due to our society where killing animals has been directly related to animal abuse, which is not the case. What i like to say to people who say that eating animals is cruel is "have you ever been hunted down and eaten alive?" because factory farms are so brutal (they should not exist) many people have attributed all forms a slaughter to be inhumane or abusive. The abuse stems from the disrespect of the animals sacrifice (as well as plants) also the egotistical and individualistic nature of American society. where most people believe that animals are somehow worse or inferior to humans (mainly i blame the interpretation of the christian book of genesis where people feel that because "god" gave humans the animals and plants of the earth that we are somewhat better or have authority) Abuse is any harmful nature that is inflicted upon someone or something whereas killing/hunting something for the sole survival of yourself is not abuse (spare anyone who hunts for sport or who has no empathy or respect for what they are killing) i feel that people need to realize this difference and that ALL harmful influences we have on ANY animal population without the intent to feed for survival is abuse (yes this includes spraying pesticides and toxins released by power plants and factories) I am not saying that not buying meat from the store will stop people from mindlessly slaughtering animals but i think we as a culture are in for a huge shock. and hopefully retribution for those who hurt our furry, scaly, and wet friends. Sorry for the rant, this is something in which i believe needs to be taught to everyone.

link for forum where article is posted

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 9:48PM
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again i have to apologize for a screw-up on my part, the original post about the sustainable house with chickens was from nandina. Now, kathyp the paint brush is a good idea for pollination i have been more partial to using a small container or bag to wrap the anthers and shake the pollen and then directly put the bag onto the female flower. i again have no experience with this but it seems to be a good way to contain the pollen. this is just my hunch i believe there are many ways of pollinating plants manually and don't let your family hysterics get to you but i do find the image of someone "painting" their plants to be quite funny from an outside look obviously your doing what needs to be done :). f there are any more question you'd like to ask please feel free i apologize for the nature of the posts between me and pnbrown but i would like people to try and find holes in my system, i need an outside look at this because i know that sometimes i tend to focus on whats working and miss something crucial though i have found no evidence that my plan will not work; its definitely not a system which has been put into place as of yet, i have much more to learn and i should be building my first vertical setup within a few weeks, in which i will post pictures, same with the horizontal.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 10:08PM
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Soos, I don't think I am being impolite, it's rather that you don't want any nay-sayers to your plan which is not physically possible, or if it is it is Rube Goldbergian in the extreme. That is the hole in your system. I keep coming back to this thread because it is kind of fascinating that you have worked out so many details but you don't identify the main feature.

Might I ask, for everyone's benefit, BTW, that you use paragraphs? I don't read the majority of your responses because it is painful to do so - the function of paragraphs is to reduce eye fatigue in the reader.

Anyway, you talk a lot about lumens. I found in some searching that it is easy to find estimates of the solar incidence in terms of watts, which is of course how pv panels are rated and electricity in the grid is metered. At 40 degrees latitude in mid-summer, for example, solar incidence per sq meter is about 600 watts for 8 hours per day. So let's say roughly during the main growing season in the higher temperate latitudes crop plants are receiving at least 4800 watts per 24 hours per square meter. As an example of space required, a storage cabbage requires about a sq meter of full sun. So it would presumably need the 4800 watts per day for it's full growing season, and at the end of the 4-6 months you would have a storage cabbage plus a good amount of OM for the compost, and some exhausted soil medium.

An average size pv panel is about 100 watts, or even less, so you would need about 48 (a huge array) of them to grow the one cabbage, plus the charge-controller and inverter unless you can find full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs in 12 or 24v. You could dispense with the very expensive battery bank if you ran the grow lights in sync with the sun. Does your plan begin to make sense now? Replicating sunlight inside a structure that blocks the suns rays by using very expensive pv arrays that inefficiently convert sunlight to electricity which you will then convert back to light using bulbs. Or you can make it even more expensive by getting batteries full of chemical gel and run the lights 24-7 at lower wattage.

So yes, you have made the obvious point that calamities can befall crops outdoors. If you go through with your plan, you will learn that stressed plants indoors are highly vulnerable to diseases and the kinds of small insects that adore indoor growing areas, like aphids. You will have to have more pv-panels to run circulating fans, but that won't begin to solve the problem. Crops plants are not like houseplants that are chosen for high tolerance to indoor conditions, they will constantly be sick and bug-ridden and not produce any food to speak of.

The reason your kind of system has not been put into place is not because nobody has thought of it - quite clearly the pot-growers thought of it a long time ago and have been doing it, at huge expense, to produce a very small harvest of dried leaves. Certainly they would be the ones to get advice from about this. My guess is they would tell you that for sure if pot-growing was legal they would grow it outdoors or in a greenhouse where they can use the sun for free. Now that it is legal in CA under a certain quantity you will note that everyone is growing it outside despite the weather risks.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 7:31AM
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First of all yes you are being rude, the sarcasm was not appreciated, second of all this is the first post in which you actually said anything with any type of mathematics behind you. Because yes light being transferred into electricity then back into light creates loss, but if you had really thought your posts through you would have seen that i do want to run my indoor garden in conjunction with the sun out of my sun room, and i did say that yes a greenhouse would be better for an indoor garden but that was beside the point. Also if you find my posts to be too "painful" to read than do not post back until you have read all of the posts no matter the format this is an informal forum not English class. If you want to make a point don't make yourself look stupid by not reading all the information.

Ok so now to the solar point. Each linked panel of solar cell (using the same 100 watt pv that you did) will provide about 75-100 watts of power per hour so say you have 30 panels (total of 300 square ft average) at 75 watts an hour and 5 hours of sunlight per day, total (assuming that there will be a 2-3 hours of peak sunlight and more hours of partial sunlight each day of course this isn't taking into account cloudy days, or days with more hours of optimal sunlight. like summer solstice) but lets just say every day 5 hours of sunlight is transformed into electricity, which each solar panel generating 75 (up to 100 but 75 for now) watts per hour. Now if you have 30 100 watt panels your generating around 2200 watts per hour and say take off 200 watts for running the equipment (this is charge controller to dc load to ac inverter) so at 2000 watts per hour you get a total of 10000 watts stored each day.

Now lights, a full spectrum, 6500k, 54 watt 48 inch fluorescent will put out 5000 lumens per square foot and can cover an area of about 2x4 square ft of grow space in a normal top lighted setup. (there are also grow fluorescent which put off different spectrum at 3000, 4100, and 5100k for different light variables not to mention LED lighting but that's something else entirely) now if you need a grow area of lets say 500 square feet giving each plant 2 square feet of root space. (depth is of no concern because it only takes up vertical space and requires no energy to upkeep spare vermicompost)

Each 54 watt 48 inch covers around 8 square feet of coverage so about 4 plants in the normal top lighted setup so to ave 250 plants you need around 70 fluorescent bulbs at 54 watt per hour is around 3 kw per hour. Which is a loss of energy. However (this is not even including using sunlight with the lights) i believe that using my setup will maximize the output of these lights by using no reflectors and keeping all vegetative growth within 18 inches of the light, creating the 5000 lumens per square foot. now your fluorescent tube is now twice as efficient as a fluorescent with a reflector because the output is 360 degrees instead of around 90 - 120 degrees depending on your focus point.

So if now you need half the lights needed to generate the lumens and spectrum your down to around 35 48 inch 54 watt fluorescent bulbs. Now your using less than 2 kw (1800 watts) of power per hour. This is again in complete darkness with no outside sunlight. If you run your setup 6 hours a day you are about breaking even. Obviously only giving your plants 6 hours of light will stress them out. The system that i used for this post above generates around 2000 watts per hour. therefore generating 200 watts of stored energy per hour. for a total of 1 kw per day. (assuming you do not run the lights when the sun isnt shining) Which is not a lot seeing as my house uses around 300 kw per month. But if you "X" out your refrigerator, your tv, your furnace (in place of a wood stove), your computer (in which i run 4), and your water heater that tends to add up quite a bit seeing as the fridge and the water heater tank use up immense energy (80 - 90 kw per month).

Now this is assuming many constants that just don't exist first being that the sun will not necessarily be out every day which is why you STORE your energy (the whole point of the system). second being that my plants would be in complete darkness without the lights this is incorrect, light from outside will be used appropriately. (basically whenever the sun comes into the room) thirdly this is only for the vertical grow and having 250 plants. The barrel style system that i showed earlier in the forum uses a lower watt fluorescent because of length (around 30 inches instead of 48) if you can place 2 plants at each side of a six sided box, that's 12 plants per 2 30 inch 18 watt bulb (you need 2 because the 18 watt bulb only puts out around 2000-2300 lumens at 6500k) so only 36 watts of energy is used for 12 plants so say that my garden contain 30% non-blooming short vegetative plants. 36 watt at 6 hours is around 216 watts used for increased efficiency. So say that there are a total of 20 vertical grows (still assuming no natural sunlight) and 10 barrel style, 20 vertical grows use around 1080 watts per hour and 10 horizontal use 360 watts per hour,which is 1440 watt per hour now you are generating half a kw of power per hour to store for extra use. Though this is still not enough to sustain a garden but this is still assuming complete darkness. And fourth is the assumption that the panels are only producing 75 watts per hour (regardless of optimal sun) instead of 100 watts

I believe you need to rethink your mathematics because you don't seem to understand how plants grow even with your "15 years experience" because if you take a plant and spread it out in a 2 dimensional fashion you take up more square footage but if you let the plants leaves process light at a higher rate because of the spread, more light passing through more leaves equals high photosynthesis (assuming all other aspects are in balance water, soil, ph etc.) So basically when you grow outside the bottom leaves of any plant are not producing any type of photosynthesis if they are shaded because not enough light is passing through. This type of setup take up more square footage of vegetative growth but being a vertical setup does not take up extra horizontal space, the soil (still taking up around 500 sq ft) is stacked in the horizontal grow so your getting 2 times the amount of soil for the same horizontal sq footage of space minimizing the amount horizontal soil area taken up. that's if you don't then stack them on top of one another. Space is not the issue vertical wall stacks have been used for quite some time now to maximize soil area taken up. even though what you said makes some sense, you are confusing the output of the solar panel with the output of the ac inverter, the solar panel is generating 75 - 100 watt per panel per hour, while the charge controller puts out a rate of 12 watts for charging (17 watts if directly using) the ac inverter puts out the power at around 120 volts. This is still a decreasing system it will always be better to use sun directly but if sun cannot be attained directly this is the next best thing.

As long as you can create the environment that replicates the plants normal environment the plant will not be stressed. Also as stated before the sun will be used appropriately but again in the winter months there isn't enough sun coming into the actual sun room to provide the plants with enough light but the solar panels on the OUTSIDE of the house are getting all of the sunlight provided. this is also not including windmills (unfortunately windmills are almost useless in my area so i'm just SOL on that) One the note of maximizing sunlight i was also considering building angled mylar mirrors to reflect the sunlight into the room (the high angle of the sun in the summer does not work well with the sunroom) so and angled reflector (at 6' x 5') outside the windows (6' x 4') should reflect around 30 sq ft worth of sun into the room (again loss happens so say there are only about 3000 lumen before the sunlight gets to the plants so your working at around 60 - 70% of suns full light) But this should create nice focus points for the grow setups which can be placed into the windows specifically for gathering light and photosynthesis.

The other mistake you made was that your assuming that the solar panels will be directly linked to the lights of the garden, which is not true, you fill your batteries up to capacity then you start to drain directly off the power control, this allows you to use you lights during the darker periods of the day which in turn minimizes the amount of time you need to have the lights on (this type of system can easily be setup with a solar switch and a timer the solar switch turns your lights off when the sun is hitting the position (wherever you put the switch) and the timer turns off you lights when your grow time has reached a full day.

Again you are not thinking outside the box your constricted in your views about growing indoors and the efficiency of fluorescent lighting. If you would like to post back read ALL of my posts and maybe you'll actually learn something as you stated in your original post. You are obviously a follower who cannot do anything unless complete pre-written and pre-tested information is given on the subject, if you were creative in any way at all you would not be focusing on power output issues that can always be overcome, you should in turn be trying to find a way to make the system work, but as you say that's "wasting time", you're not really interested in if my system will work or as a matter of fact any alternative system, you just want to discourage people so that you can pretend you have a key to knowledge. I never said that this system WILL work but i am confident that power and light is not the issue. YOU have WASTED my time by making me explain something that you could have looked up yourself. all you had to do was look up how much a solar panel system generates per hour and divide by the amount of power used per bulb per hour. Also as i stated in other posts i want to replace the energy that I'm using on media (tv, video games etc.) to pump into the garden (i wont be watching tv while tending to the plants) also almost everything in anyone's house can be eliminated spare the water pump and sub pump (if you have a basement). One last thing the 54 watt 48 inch fluorescent can be replaced with smaller wattage bulb (at a price) reducing the amount of energy used.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 12:42PM
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Seems to me that now you are the rude one. However, thanks for the paragraphs. Still, the mountains of detail are not of interest.

Before I mistakenly said 4800 watts of panels to grow a cabbage during the brighter months of the year. It might be more like 600. Whatever, it doesn't matter because the idea is impractical by orders of magnitude.

Nobody's time is wasted, since if we didn't have the time we wouldn't be here, now would we? During these days of excess electro-magnetic radiation outdoors it's nice to be indoors.

I guess you will report back in mid-winter on your progress.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 1:08PM
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Here is a pic of tomatoes in bloom indoors without sunlight and in soil, i couldn't find a better pic of the set-up and the bloomed tomatoes. These are not my plants but i will eventually get pics posted one i get even one set-up going.

this specific setup is inefficient though i just wanted to post a pic of bloomed fruits inside without sunlight. The "vertical" lights are not being maximized by training the plants to fencing so that the vegetation can gather as much light as possible if you look at how its done there are 5 cfls which put out around 1800 lumens each, in the picture shown they are more than likely above the 1 foot mark, which means that for every foot of space (after the original foot) there is a loss of around 50%. so he has 5 cfls works at half capacity instead of three which could be closer, the vertical suspended fluorescent lights (4) are each suspended on the outside of the plants, which is almost necessary for this set-up but since the light isn't being directed most of the light (about 180 degrees) is being lost due to bouncing off the walls (assuming mylar is used to reflect all the wall light inward) which the light has to travel further to reach the plant. this is why there are 2 48 inch bulbs, 2 24 inch bulbs, and 5 cfls for 4 plants. With mine all foliage and blooms will be pointing inward toward the light so outside light does not make a difference because light has to pass through the top of the leaf. (using focus points and reflectors/mylar i can direct natural sunlight directly into the center of the vertical or horizontal setup. The Egyptians used this method in basic room lighting and for indoor plants by placing mirrors at specific angles to direct sunlight inward and create a high intensity (not too high) focus point. The mirrors they used were extremely more efficient than mirrors today because they were actually lined with pure silver (or another polished metal) to create the mirror effect; silver paint does not reflect, that is why mylar is important

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 1:21PM
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i will be reporting all the progress of my set-up once the plants get trained to the fencing ill and then probably once every two weeks or so but yes the information will be proved or disproved in the winter which is what I'm concerned with, as I've agreed before nothing we have compares to the sun, but we don't all live in California. And I'm trying to maximize the space that i already indebted myself with instead of buying a greenhouse separate. i also wish pnbrown that you would concern yourself with the details because that's what it all comes down to. Crunching the number is part of any indoor setup.

sorry i forgot to double space last post.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 1:29PM
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Man, a lot to read.

Going back to the first post - Why would adding inputs in number 3 (the soil section) be any different than inputs for number 2 (heat from wood), number 1 (solar power), and number 4 (water)?

I heat with wood (an input), part of my own land (not the bank's - another possible input although investment would be as well) is a woodlot ( it would be considered small at about 4 acres), people often give me wood "free" for the taking (free is quite often not as easy as it sounds - although still better than cutting my own trees.) I have an efficient stove, a relatively small area to heat, live in a fairly mild climate. - despite all of my input, I would be a very sad tomato plant! I actually like living in different seasons, so it is not a big deal for me - vegetables would be suffering. If I really, really tried I could probably keep the temperature in an acceptable range - it would take a second stove or an outdoor wood furnace to make it practical in the least (maybe within three months I had to go to work or something.) I do have electric heat also $$$ lots of input- don't use it much.

I like the idea of solar panels! The idea that you could be independent while helping the environment, and promoting innovation sounds great! I do think that the first part of that has happened - you can be energy independent for a period of time with a working system - it degrades over time and will need more inputs.
For helping the environment, if one believes that conventional methods for producing electricity (coal, hydro, even nuclear) are not environmentally friendly I am not sure how solar panels could be justified. How are they produced? Is there Aluminum, Copper, plastic, glass ? In the system is there Nickel, Lead, or Mercury? Just look into Aluminum and go further if you need to. Promoting innovation for sustainable power is also a worthy goal (even ignoring the above.) - Is that what is actually happening? - The best ideas are being selected by people largely not using their own money (grants, subsidies, tax breaks?) - really!!!?

The water is the simplest part of your whole equation IMO. I think that plant diseases could be greatly reduced (eliminated possibly?) by simple filtering and a batch settling and storage system. If you are worried about pesticides, chemicals, or anything else that should not be in a water supply the process will be much harder or even impossible to do on a very small scale. It is still a rather huge input to your system.

I really do wish you luck. Maybe do some preliminary tests before going all-out. Also do a nutrition estimate on the crops that you are hoping to produce - a lot of nutrition information is based on a premise that the people looking at it wish to lose weight! It would not be that hard to starve eating vegetables, while they may be high in various nutrients many are lacking in calories - if you do not have enough calories they quickly become the most important part of your diet. I have been trying to grow more of my own diet for a while now and pnbrown has been helpful (mostly indirectly by reading his posts as a longtime contributor) - Perhaps read the posts in the thread again with a different perspective, people are here to help.

Best of Luck!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2012 at 4:39AM
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Hey cheapheap, I'm going to answer each question one at a time. Thnks for the patience.

Adding inputs into number 3 is different from the others (adding input to 3 does increase the use of water and light/electricity used) because the "adding of inputs" is growing more plants. When we eat most of the fruit grown from the garden/container we are eating a huge amount of that plants nutrients. if most of the nutrients are being eaten then the plants being put back into the vermicompost are losing energy in a sense (or compounds that are broken down into nutrients for the next growth) Outside in nature animals excrete their waste back onto the ground which is broken down creating a full cycle. But if most of the nutrients that we excrete goes to sewage and not compost then there is loss; but if a plant is specifically harvested to be put into the vermicompost directly, would it be possible to offset nutrient deficiency in the vermicompost. I want to try to not buy any extra nutrients for my plants hence why i want a natural nutrient system which i can create and sustain without chemicals n such. If this isn't clear please say so. i know that i have trouble describing it.

Now for the solar panels, i don't know how much oil/nuclear power goes into making each panel. or what metals and chems go into it. But the reason it is justified is because they will eventually produce more energy (via sunlight) than it took to make the actual product. Also they are rated for 25 years which is a good investment
If you don't take out a loan for it and you install it yourself you can build a small structure with roof 300 sq ft area (to increase hieght because i have trees nearish to my house) in which you can fit up to 300 sq ft of solar panels. average 230 watt solar panel (new, 25 year rating) is around 5x3 (slightly more) you can get 5 of them for $1250 with shipping off eBay, 15 230 watt panels gives you a 3 kw per hour system. so $3750 for panels, just to make it easy say you have another $1000 for the control and the ac inverter, and say anywhere from $500 - $800 for dc deep cycle batteries. $1500 for the building (roofing, 4x4 posts, 2x6 rafters/headers, cement for base of post, and 1/2" or 3/4" plywood sheathing. maybe a moisture barrier but i think that's not necessary) also $1000 for whatever else you need during the project cause believe me you'll want it. for around $8000 you have a full 25 year rated system and free electricity.

As of now i use around 300 kw of power per month and pay $130 which at that rate (paying $130 to return my own investment) would pay itself off in 5 years. The solar panel loan company wanted me to take out a 15 year loan at 150 dollar payments for them to build the set-up (NOT including the structure to put it on) this is after figuring in grants from Vermont which they are fairly gracious. So only ten years of free electricity comparably to 20 (also if you do this yourself you may still be eligable for the same tax write-offs so if you complete it in the fall before taxes you may get a chunk back within six months)

If you want electricity for life it'll cost 8000 more bucks but you can get 30 more panels all rated at 25 years so expected lifespan of 75 years of electricity for $16,000 as opposed to paying for electricity at $130 is $117,000 for 75 years of electricity. I don't know how this information hasn't gotten to everyone and people aren't doing back-flips through their strobe light lit, backyard dance party.

The problem with solar panels and windmills in general are that you need to draw the power from its source, creating huge and vast machines at one point then transferring that electricity is way less efficient than just every household having panels or windmills, its because people think that doing this takes an electrician and a rocket scientist to make this available but its fairly simple wiring and construction. I mean people have wells drilled for houses everyday cause its a big hole in the ground that fills with water and you drink it, its a simple concept. They know the construction and parts of it so its easy to understand.

Sorry for the length of the post I'm very fed up with my generation (im 22) its like the information that we have access to is pretty much infinite to human standards, yet most people (my age) choose to feed their brains with useless info. I learn more from the internet than i did in college. Also the idea of sustainability is mostly thought of as the rise of technology but its what we used to have. Not that technology is bad we just use it wrong.

ok so now with big businesses funding "green" technology is basically a big scam. Recently in castleton vermont, a company wanted to build three or four insanely large windmills the people protested and all but one of the town council said no, the reason? the windmills generating multiple megawatts per hour would have %15 of its energy given to the actual town of castleton, this would result in the citizens to pay for CVPS (Central Vermont Power Supply aka vermont yankee) AND the windmill upkeep. thus resulting in a higher rate for electricity. That's why i wouldn't trust any big business to do anything moral.

For the water i think there's only 3 options that i would choose myself first would be if at all possible a gravity fed rock filter i don't know if this even is possible to build though, second is solar still, and third would be a gravity fed reverse osmosis filter because it uses no electricity and well its makes pure water, though expensive as all heck. i think if you wanted to really invest in this the best way to go would be see if you could get a hold of a stainless steel one and then buy a mass load of filters if you have a 5 stage filter you'll need 150 of each filter (total 750) to supply you with 75 years of fresh water. So unless you got, i think like, 20 grand laying around its not a bad solution.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2012 at 6:33AM
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There is no doubt it would be delightful to have, say, tomatoes fruiting indoors in january under grow lights.

However, to achieve that with grid electricity or dedicated pv-panels and all the other paraphernalia is to me nearly as indulgent as flying them in from Chile, because one can easily grow baskets or bushels of tomatoes outdoors in the summer with nothing more than a shovel, some cages and some humanure or other cost-free fertilizer, and then can the tomatoes for january. Or sun-dry them to save the energy and the jars. The same concept goes for all the other food-stuffs.

It's pretty clear you are going to embark on your indoor project, but I hope you are also going to have sustainable outdoor gardens.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2012 at 6:58AM
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I understand where you're coming from because the best thing you can do is grow outdoors. Canning, of course, is a pretty tedious process in itself for supplying food for up to 6 months (our last frost usually comes in late April to May but i'm southern vt) If you want it to be sustainable you have to supply the wood yourself as well to can with a wood-stove. ( i had a neighbor who had a cast iron canning wood-stove specifically designed for it; it was really ingenious) I mean jelly preserves are ok and such, but i feel that cooking with fresh fruit is way more satisfying, like pastries with freshly dried fruit is sooo good.

I never sought out to bash outdoor growing at all, (other then what people that we can't control do to it) but i think that humans in general have a natural drive for technology and incorporating lifestyles of healthy fruit and environmentally friendly cooperation that creates empathy and stimuli is more of a step forward, i mean if i could actually get this to work someone who has zero grow area might be able to do something instead of buying insanely high priced organic foods from the store.

Well anyway i have some bad news. unfortunately the fluorescent holders w/ ballasts are being shipped from Hong Kong and won't be here until the end of the month or even early august! So that's kind-of a damper but im still going to try to rig up at least 1 set-up and training fence with some of the seedlings that i have now, but we'll see how much extra cash i have haha, those little parts were pretty crucial because its a lot harder to wire the ballasts and the light fixtures altogether to get a frame-less vertical hang. So ill be in touch and feel free to keep asking questions, the notifications go straight to my phone so ill always be prompt (hopefully :P )

have a good one.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 6:05AM
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I think that I understand what you are saying about losing nutrients in your soil. If human consumption / waste is taken out of the system, can it be replaced by what the plants take from the atmosphere ? - I could be wrong here.

I think that there could be a bit of a problem in that when organic material decays some of the molecules that were in a solid form are released in a gaseous form. - Pretty much the reverse of what happened when they were formed. If there is any temporary net gain I do not see how it could cover the output.

Don't forget about the nutrition part! This is an example of something I tried to figure out last winter:

Hard Red Spring Wheat -- (winter wheat should perform better here, but I missed the planting window)

20 to 80 bushels per acre in ND -- (from online data - I am estimating that I could get 50 bushels per acre here on a very small scale - probably ambitious.)

Bushel of wheat weighs 60 lbs (this is not technically exact)

100g = 329 calories = 1490 cal/lb. (online nutrition data)

50 bushels/acre = .5 bushels / 100th acre (my test plot size)
0.5x60 =30 lbs. x 1490 = 44700 calories / 2000 = 22.35 days at 2000 calories per day (the calories from my test plot if my goal is met.)

1 acre yielding 50 bushels 4,470,000 calories = 2235 2000 calorie days = 6.12 years
= .163 acres per person per year (about 1/6 acre) = 85' x 85' (random math that helps me to think about scale)

1 acre = 43560 sq. feet - 1/100 th acre test plot is 10x45

One can not live on wheat alone but it is an example of a staple crop that could form the major part of a human diet.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 6:06AM
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Hi Cheapheap,

If you are z7a (same as me) not likely that wheat is your best staple. Probably dent corn is much more reliable and less labor. If I was anticipating a famine I would concentrate on maize, potatoes and winter squash. Sweet potatoes offer the best nutrition but so far I have not found that I can effectively maintain the seed stock, though you may be able to if you are a more southern 7a (most likely).

Soos, you mentioned earlier you have a hatred of "human laziness". So while you are waiting for those bulbs why not get in your yard and put in some crops that can still make this year, like carrots, kale, and etc?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 7:09AM
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cheap heap and pnbrown, i heard along time ago though i don't have any physical proof of it, that asparagus is plant for the "apocalypse" because is apparently grows dense, and think vegetation, also providing people with the basic sustenance to live. Again like wheat cannot be lived on alone but it was a fun fact that i had heard of. If there any evidence that you guys know of any info would be great.

To the second part of pn browns post:
I didn't think planting anything now would provide me any type of harvest in the fall. i mean I'm 3 months past the first plant season. Ive never done an outdoor crop before (mostly because i just finally got my own land) but i have done indoor set-ups before which i why I'm more comfortable with that at the moment. And yes i referred to human laziness before but maybe that was a little general of an idea, its mostly that people won't do anything to try to help themselves they think some white knight is gunna come through and solve all their problems. its not directly linked to sitting around physically doing nothing. (again this is a generalization i happen to live in a high welfare state where people come to Vermont to live off our welfare money and good low income housing.)

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 2:03PM
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Mid July is not too late for the crops I mentioned, and others.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 7:12PM
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Hey i guess i was wrong about that shipping (it did say august 8th) they came within a very reasonable time and last night i built the prototype for my vertical grow lights, instead of posting a bunch of pics on here i felt it was easier to make a quick website! so anyone who's interested in those vertical grow lights that i've been blathering about please check this out

its pretty basic now but once i get some plants growing round these lights ill update asap.

link to website:

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 7:38AM
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This is my second year growing dent corn on a small scale- my problem in scaling up my planting has been water - it is very dry here from June through mid September. There is ample water the for rest of the year. I am looking into digging a pond so I can put off having another well drilled (it should work better anyway, using a gravity fed system - the property has plenty of elevation).
The potatoes do great without that much irrigation. If I plant wheat at the right time (fall or early winter) I am hoping that it will need even less additional water. I have been looking into Painted Mountain corn thinking that I could plant early (which is hard because it is usually too wet) and it might mature before it gets too dry.
I will have to look into sweet potatoes. Thanks!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 3:56AM
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cheap heap,

have you thought of a gravity fed rain water system? you can make them easily and run the water where and when you need it. depends on how costly the pond will be to dig out and maintain. I'm assuming you do not have access to a spring.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 4:53AM
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Cheap, are you in the PNW?

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 6:54AM
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Hey Soos,
Sounds like an interesting idea! I am currently pursuing an idea to build an outdoor mini greenhouse and planting cold weather crops in them like kale, lettuce, carrots, and beets. I'm using some of the techniques in the winter harvest handbook. I also remember reading in one of my books about some people that built a greenhouse that was in the ground and they used stones (maybe brick) to take the heat in and make the room warm. They also had tanks of water with fish they could harvest and the tanks also absorbed the water and radiated heat as well. I remember being surprised by how little energy was used, but I can't remember which book this is in. If I find it I'll send you the info. Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 10:30AM
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I would like to hear more about what sounds like a geothermal greenhouse, geothermal can be harness just by digging far enough into the earth for warmth/cooling (around 50 - 55 degrees) there's a book i saw a few years back "how to build a house for $50" basically its a book about using underground methods. Also i have been having trouble with finding some books there are so many positive and negative reviews are there any suggestions specifically for container/indoor growing? Thanks a bunch

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 2:12PM
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My greenhouse is dug partially into the side of a south-facing slope, and it works very well for the winter solstice months.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 8:13PM
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Do a search for 'pit greenhouses'. Should be helpful.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 8:22PM
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Yeah unfortunately my house is on a flat piece of land definitely want to find a property for geothermal housing cause it's great for gravity fed systems in the winter

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 8:27PM
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I do have a bit of a rainwater system for my main vegetable garden that is run from the roof of my barn (24x24) into holding tanks and from there at a pretty low pressure to the garden (lots of volume at low pressure) All of the buildings right now are at the low side of the property so storing runoff seems to be the most doable right now.
The pond (or a few ponds) would be from 10 to 20 thousand gallons - 100 cubic yards of water at most. It will be immense for me but very small for what a lot of people would call a pond. The prices for storage tanks are pretty high , I think that I can make the ponds with a liner (I don't think that I will find much clay) for about a third of the price and they should add to the landscape for most of the year(there will definitely be more maintenance costs and evaporation.) The top of the property is from 150 to 200 feet above the bottom and the ponds could be filled quickly from runoff from a still higher property (a woodland) once the soil is saturated in the fall through late spring.
I was definitely looking for a place on a hillside, the place seems much larger than it would if it were flat. Be sure to pay attention to the sun exposure if you ever look for a place on a hill. When I get to build a nicer house (I live in the cheap heap) I plan to incorporate some passive solar features - not getting too crazy with sandbags or domes but definitely simple things like larger eaves, few East facing window etc..

I will look forward to your updates.


Yes, I live in South Western Oregon between the Coast Range and the Cascades, not that close to the ocean.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 3:36AM
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Had to say - I should have said few WEST facing windows - to avoid the hotter afternoon sunlight.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 3:41AM
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For big storage of rainwater ponds are cheaper, but of course in some climates evaporation losses are a problem. The really great thing about a pond is depending on soil type if properly situated some of the filling can happen directly from run-off. It is arguable that the easiest thing would be to put a pond at the lowest possible point on a property and use a 12v pump and solar panel to get the water out, instead of putting it at a high point where it is difficult to get the rainwater in.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 7:31AM
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