Posted by: JerseyOrganic | March 9, 2014

Grow Room Lessons..and life lessons?

So today is the day. After about 10 days my tomato seeds have successfully germinated! Time to talk about grow rooms…. I am also planting lettuce indoors today as well as basil and and some spinach.


Now, before we get started there is something that needs to be discussed. There are certain things that come along with having a grow room, especially like the one I have. I am not referring to the higher electric bills, or daily chores.. what I’m talking about is the simple fact  that you have a “grow operation” in your house.  Consider this a disclaimer; the local and state police may or may not show up at your door with a Consent to Search. Obviously, there is a stigma associated with grow rooms. Remember, it its NOT illegal to go to a Hydroponic store, it is NOT illegal to have a ballast, lamp, or ventilation in your home, and it is most certainly NOT illegal to want to grow your own flowers or plants for consumption or medicinal purposes. It IS illegal however to grow any sort of herb, plant, or flower that could be used or sold as a drug. (Any particular weed come to mind?) My advice is to just be honest if the police do knock at your door. A consent to search is not a warrant- the police aren’t going to ransack your house and accuse you of being a drug dealer. Let them in, show them your grow room, and who knows.. maybe they’ll even compliment you for having a cool setup. Now, the cops aren’t going to show up for no reason of course. Remember, you may need to hire contractors to work on your home. Perhaps the water guy needs to move a line (which just happens to be in your grow room.. ahem ahem) or maybe a neighbor noticed a glowing light from your house all night long.. its not uncommon for concerned citizens to tip off the police. Can you really blame them though? Just food for thought.

ANYWAY, on a lighter note..you may have noticed my plants are a little leggy in the above picture. They grew fast and tall but that’s okay, as they grow we can add soil and they will turn out just fine.
The peppers will take a little longer than tomatoes but in any case the grow room is ready for seedlings. I spent last Saturday cleaning it out as I use it for storage when not in use. Vacuumed a bit, cleaned the light and table, now we are good to go. There was an addition this year- we added a fan. My hubby was kind enough to pick up a 16″ oscillating wall mount fan which will help harden the plants before setting outside. There is also a vent with a fan to outside to help with humidity. This was installed through the basement window.

IMG_2147IMG_2146

You can also see the reflective lining on the wall as well as an automated light rail system. For a few hundred dollars you can have a professional grow operation.

So as far as my setup goes, I have a 400 watt MH lamp and a light rail system that allows my ballast to reach my plants from seedling up to transplant size.
Before I get ahead of myself lets talk about lighting. For growing plants in the vegetative state (not flowering) I use Metal Halide lamps. If you are trying to flower and fruit in your grow room, you should switch to HPS (High Pressure Sodium). I just move everything outside instead…

Lamp in Track System

Metal-halide lighting is  is an electric light that produces light by an electric arc through a gaseous mixture of vaporized mercury and metal halides (compounds of metals with bromine or iodine). It is a type of high-intensity discharge (HID) gas discharge lamp. These have a whiter and more natural light generated, perfect for green growth.

When using your MH light, you want to make sure the light is the appropriate distance from the plants. I keep my light approx. 12-18 inches above the plant. As they grow, I will move the plants to the floor and subsequently lower my ballast and light. Its best to keep your light on a timer- the plants need to get used to having long periods of light and dark; the grow room should mimic nature. My timer is set up to go on at 6PM and turn off at 9AM. (I know this is technically opposite of nature, but we thought it would be more safe to have the light on at night versus while we are at work.)

Tomatoes under Light

As for the keys to a successful grow operation…
Humidity and Temperature:
The lower the humidity, the more water is lost from a leaf. At the same temperature of 70ºF, a leaf placed in 10% relative humidity loses more water compared with the leaf placed in 50% relative humidity.
The higher the temperature, the more water vapor the air can hold, and the more water will be lost from the plant. At the same humidity of 50%, a leaf placed in 90ºF air loses more water compared with the leaf placed in 70ºF air.
Understand? Basically you want your temperate between 70-75 degrees and the humidity around 50%.

It’s most important that when you put your seedlings under your light that the soil is moist. The close proximity to the light will remove moisture from your growing medium more quickly. Be sure to check the seedlings often and spritz the soil as needed.

Now that I have one heat mat open I think ill plant some more tomatoes for friends and family and the lettuce and basil. Lettuce is a succession plant, meaning that there will be one indoor planting and then a new round of outdoor planting every 2-3 weeks thereafter. This will result in a continuos harvest of salad and spinach. Although its not time to plant yet, herbs, carrots, peas, string beans, beets, and radishes are all great succession plants too.  

When you plant lettuce you do not need to put them on the heat mat, as lettuce needs light to germinate. As you can see, I lightly sowed seeds in the soil and then barely sprinkled more soil on top. This tray will not sit at the end of the table under the light. Lettuce loves water, so be sure the soil doesn’t dry out. Lettuce, under light, should grow quick and truly tastes amazing. If I could leave my light on all year, I would most definitely succession plant salad indoors. ….For the record, I’d also have a dwarf lemon tree, lime tree, the all important Black Mission fig tree, and maybe a vine tomato, and cucumber plant. Oh, and of course as many herbs as I could fit… lol see why I don’t grow indoors in winter?

Then the basil, beets, and radishes get planted similar to the peppers from two weeks ago. Get them in your soil and on the heat to germinate. 🙂
As the seeds sprout you can continue to put them under the light and soon enough in the ground!

3/9 plants
seedlings

IMG_2154

Just for fun after all this seriousness… my lovely neighbor shared this garlic with me today. If we broke it up and planted each in the dirt with the green shoot sticking out, a new head of garlic would form. A lot of garlic from just one head.. Cool, huh?

The next time we meet will be to discuss Peas! The first seeds to go in the ground, the actual dirt! Typically, this can be done around St. Patty’s day but I think it may snow so peas may be on hold for another week.
Until next time…

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