After months of planning, cleaning, building, and tweaking, the Just4Growers indoor garden is finally up and running!
Well my friends—it was with a sense of great anticipation (and even a little anxiety!) that I finally switched on my grow lights just over a month ago. To begin with, I switched on a T5 High Output Fluorescent fixture—just two 55 watt tubes—as that's all I really needed to get the party started. However I quickly upped the light intensity to a Gavita LEP300 Plasma fixture—well, it seemed rude not to!
So—what am I growing? Glad you asked! I appear to have gotten a little carried away and started a whole bunch of stuff. Various lettuce varieties, cucumbers (including the "exploding variety" - Cyclanthera explodens - wish me luck with that one!)
They look pretty harmless now but the seed packet (from The Real Seed Company in the United Kingdom) actually gives a pretty stern warning—WEAR EYE PROTECTION WHEN HARVESTING! Pretty insane. I'll try not to forget.
Starting seeds in rockwool
We show you how to prepare rockwool cubes and give your seeds the best possible start in life!
Here you can see my lettuce seedlings. I'm using Grodan A-OK rockwool plugs as my propagation media. I have to say that I am totally in love with rockwool—it's a love affair that has endured for many years! It's just so quick and easy—plus, my strike rate with seedlings and cuttings is always highest with rockwool. Sure you can see a little algae growing at the top but this doesn't concern me much beyond the aesthetics!
Here's a rather leggy looking tomato seedling called "Arctic Plenty" - a determinate (bush variety) that's super early. I chose determinate varieties of tomato for indoor cultivation under grow lights because their bush (rather than cordon) form should make them easier to illuminate efficiency. Remember, artificial lighting (fluorescent, plasma and HID grow lights) are my only light source. The sun does not shine in my basement—neither does it need to!
To counter the stretch (caused by my tomato seedlings being a little too far out of the 300 watt LEP Plasma's 1m square footprint, I decided to fire up one of my air-cooled hoods. However, instead of going for the 1000W Hortilux Blue Metal Halide Daylight lamp, I chose the 600W instead. I figured that 1000 watts of lighting power for a 2-inch tall tomato seedling might be a bit overkill, y'know?
For ultimate compatibility, I followed EYE Hortilux's recommendations and powered up one of their Gold 600W electronic ballasts to perfectly drive my 600W Hortilux metal halide grow lamp.
Yes, I've got the light pretty high - it's 3 ft away - but I want to take it really easy on my seedlings at first. Once they mature a little I will lower the lamp to around 2 ft above the canopy.
The growth under the Hortilux Blue 600W Metal Halide lamp was incredible.
The specimen above is called "Joe's Long" - seeds donated to me from my buddy Keith. It produces record breaking, Cayenne-style, long chiles.
Some Environmental Stats:
Lights are on for 18 hours a day.
Intensity is about 200 µM at plant level.
Temperature Range: Min 68F (20C). Max 80F (27C)
Relative Humidity: 60 - 70%
Nutrient Strength: 1.0 mS - I'm hand watering (dipping the cubes and blocks) right now. This needs to stop! It's taking too long. I will be setting up an irrigation system in the coming weeks.
I want to tell you about the issues my hard water has been causing but I'll save that for another post!