Since I can remember, I have always loved to get my hands dirty in the garden. I can nevertheless remember growing my first pea plant and anxiously watching everyday for that little sprout to get going. It always fascinated me how such a delicate sprout could, with the proper care, become a strong, vibrant plant that will produce delicious fruits.
The garden has always been of great Importance to me. It can be a point of pride or – if its in poor repair – a source of embarrassment. For these reasons, and because a garden is such an Important investment, it only makes sense to provide all the tender loving care that you can give.
Sometimes this is easier said than done, because gardening is so complicate, right?
Anyone who has the desire to grow plants can do it. Whether it be fruits and veggies for eating or beautiful flowers to decorate your home. Growing a garden is a simple thing when you educate yourself first. You should do research on any species of plant that you want to grow so that you will be ready and able to address any issues that may come at you along the way. I’m going to touch on the basics of growing your own garden. It will be thoroughly up to you to do the research on any other particular species other than what is mentioned in this article.
Being a gardener, the winters have always been the toughest times for me. I’m not sure if its cabin fever or just a need to make things grow. In some parts of the United States, it isn’t an issue, but, in Kentucky, the winters can be very harsh, making it impossible to grow outdoors.
With the evolution of CFL technology ( compact fluorescent lamp ), it has become very affordable to move my garden indoors. The CFL’s remind me of aquarium lighting and uses about as much energy. I use New Wave T5 High Output Fluorescent Lights in my garden with grand results.
These new high output fluorescent lamps have an extremely high lumen per watt rating compared to standard fluorescent bulbs, making them extremely appropriate for indoor cultivation purposes.
High-output fluorescent lamps have a very low heat factor which allows the fixture to be mounted extremely close to the plant canopy, consequently increasing usable light levels. The New Wave T5 features a wide throw reflector lined with Imported german 95% reflective aluminum to excursion every obtainable lumen of light to your plants. Light output is 300% higher in this high-tech reflector compared to cheap fluorescent fixtures.
I keep my lights very close to the tops of the plants and my young sprouts are in no danger of being burned or dried out by the heat. And it gives you peace of mind knowing that there isn’t as much of a chance for fire like there is with heavier, hotter, high output metal halide lamps.
When your vegetative area starts getting a little larger, or when you are growing plants larger than 24 inches tall, you may find it time to buy a metal halide for your indoor garden.
Metal Halide plant lamp systems produce a strong output of the blue spectrum, which will promote strong vegetative growth. This blue spectrum is most needed by plants for rapid growth. It’s the best kind of light to be used as a dominant light source (if little or no natural sunlight is obtainable). If you are growing leafy plants such as lettuce or herbs then a Metal Halide bulb is sufficient. Metal halide plant growth lamp systems can be used as the dominant light source to grow plants from start to finish.
The T5 substitute lamps sell for about $17 each (TL5 HO/54W/865) or $68 for four, while the HID bulb can go for about $85 for MH (MS 1000 hor) or $120 (LU100S/HTL/EN hortlux) or $100 (LU1000 standard). The amount of light you can put on the plants will depend to a much greater extent on the distance that the leaves are from the plant than the fixture. The kind of light you want depends on the kind of plants you have.
The Metal Halide will give you more vegetation, the High Pressure Sodium will generate bloom but draw the plants out longer. Depending on the natural heat and light conditions where you are growing, the heat output from the HID lights can help keep the growing space warmer. This can be a consideration especially when you are spending good money on heat. Depending on how far North you are, it can be very difficult to get plants to bloom in a greenhouse in the dead of winter. You can, however, mature fruit which has already set.
So, the answer is that every decision is a trade off. Make up your own mind.
HID Lighting Helpful Tips
Hanging height: Due to the heat that is emitted from these types of fixtures, you should hang them according to size. Smaller wattage systems (100 and 250) should be hung about 2 to 3 feet from the top of the plants. Medium wattage systems (400 and 600) should be hung around 4 feet from the top of the plants. High wattage systems (1000 and up) should be placed at the minimum 4 to 6 feet from the plant tops.
How long should lights run? This depends on the kind of plant. Most plants and vegetables need about 10 to 12 hours of light to promote growth. Plants that produce fruits or flowers will show improvement with up to 16 hours a day of supplemental light.
Light Emmiting Diode (L.E.D.) – I’m interested to see if these lights will be the lights of the future.The basic idea is that a growing plant uses only a thin band of the lighting spectrum for chlorophyll production. Up to now the only choice has been CFL, Sodium or Halide lights which both produce a very wide band of lighting and less than 10% of a Sodium or Halide lamps output is truly used by the plant.
With the arrival of LED lighting, they can custom tailor the output of the lamp to match exactly the band of light required for Chlorophyll production! This method that almost 100% of the strength input for LED GROW LIGHTs is used for plant production.
Another great assistance of the LED GROW LIGHT is the very small amount of heat produced. The l.e.d. grow lights function completely cool to the touch and plants can truly grow right up to the fixture, try that with any Sodium or Metal Halide lamp.
1) No fans required for cooling
2) No heat damage to plants
3) No high temperature lights to worry about
Also, the LED GROW LIGHT does not require a ballast and simply plugs into any standard household outlet. These lights have a rated life of over 100,000 hours! (there are 8,760 hours in a year).
BLUE LIGHT is important for the formation of chlorophyll, chloroplast development (chloroplast are the little organs inside cells where photosynthesis takes place, more of them = more photosynthesis = more plant growth), also, photosynthesis circadian rhythm (knowing when lights are on and off – related to flowering too) and the production of some enzymes in plants is controlled by blue light. In land plants, a decline in blue light also might signal to a leaf that it is a shade leaf… meaning it thinks it is not in good light, so it won’t make chloroplasts, which method no matter how many photons of light hit that leaf it will not produce the maximum amount of energy that it could.
RED LIGHT stimulates phytochrome responses such as stem elongation, flowering, and other plant morphology changes.
HPS lights have more yellow/red which is why they rule to elongated stems, and great flowering. Red light can increase starch accumulation in some plants (that is like animals gaining fat, additional energy).
It Can be used by itself to grow plants or to supplement HPS (High Pressure Sodium), MH (Metal Halide) or Fluorescent Grow Lights.
Light Emitting Diode (L.E.D.) technology is the absolute newest technology in plant growth. These lights represent the cutting edge of horticultural lighting. LED lights are currently being used by NASA for growing plants in outer space!
Planning and Strategy
Planning and strategy are clearly important for a healthy garden. Make sure to have sufficient lighting, proper soil with good drainage, good nutrients, fresh air, room to grow, and a quality water supply.This will ensure a healthy garden that will pay you back for all your hard work and patience.You should plan for plenty of grow room. Before long, your garden will be lush, and may become difficult to care for if there isn’t enough space for you to water.
Make a list, depending on how big you want your garden and what you want to grow. Be sure to ask questions at your local garden center. The people who work at garden centers generally are very knowledgeable about all aspects of growing.
So, make a list, Check it twice, And lets get growing!
The Organic gardener
Organic grow mediums – I always start my seeds in Bio-dome. Bio-dome make germination a breeze with a climate controlled ecosystem. Everything you need to get your seeds going can be bought in a inexpensive kit at your local garden center or you can pick one up at wal-mart for around four bucks.
Tip: Get a spray bottle and mist your seedlings often. As your plants grow, they will assistance from an occasional misting.
Once your seeds have sprouted, you can move them from the bio-dome and plant them into individual containers.
*This is very important:
Be sure to place in containers that drain well. If your soil or containers do not drain well, it will be difficult for their roots to grow big and strong which in turn will deprive your plant of important nutrients and oxygen, resulting in lanky plants with small fruits and, given enough time, will cause disease and unwanted pest.
I always fill my containers with Foxfarm soil. The ultimate potting soil – everything your plants need, in one bag. With their powerhouse blend of earthworm castings, bat guano, and sea going fish and crab meal. Composted forest humus, sandy loam, and sphagnum peat moss give Foxfarm its light, aerated texture. Start with Foxfarm and watch your plants come to life!
I like to add a little perlite to my mix for already better drainage.
Watering properly – This is one of the most shared problems with gardeners. I know that it was frustrating for me until i learned the trick to keeping my plants watered well without overdoing it. If you only take one thing from this article with you to your garden…take this tip!
Stick your finger in the soil, about two knuckles thorough.
Check for moisture.
If its moist, you will feel it.
Give it another day.
If its too dry, it will be difficult to break the soil very thorough.
Do not have a watering schedule without knowing if your plants need watering or not. Water just enough for your plant to consume within 30 minutes or so. This will help prevent root decay and allow your roots to absorb oxygen. The end consequence will be a huge root mass that will supply your plants with all the nutrients they need to produce the goodies that we all love so much.
*Tip: The quality of water is of great importance. If you only have a tap water source, be sure to set your water out in containers for at the minimum 24 hrs. before watering. This will give the chlorine and other unhealthy elements time to dissipate. Using chlorinated tap water will destroy vital microbes that help satisfy your plants.
Nutrients – You cant just rely on good soil for your nutrients. The truth is that most of your nutrients that come in your soil will be used up within a few weeks. You will need to supplement your soil depending on your plant variety. If you do a simple information search for homemade fertilizers, you will find many home remedies for making your own organic compost. I’m not going to touch on that because its not the route that I take to organicville.
You can start a compost pile somewhere in your backyard but it brings in to many pest for my garden so I buy my nutrients all ready broke down and packaged for easy storage. For a small price I get all I need bottled up and ready for easy application. I use, but not limited to Foxfarm hydroponic plant food. Now i’m an old dirt warrior but I love the easiness of the bottled nutrients. Just because it says hydroponic plant food doesn’t average we can use it on our soil. It works so well for me that i’m sure that I will never try anything else. All the directions are on the bottles and easy to follow.
Get your garden going with Grow Big, Foxfarm’s fast-acting, water-soluble fertilizer for lush, vegetative, compact growth. Use Grow Big early in the season when young plants need an additional raise. They add earthworm castings and Norwegian kelp into this special brew to encourage sturdier, healthier stems and leaves, but they also provide enough nutrients and trace minerals to create the kind of healthy branching that you’ll need later in the season for more abundant buds and blooms.
Garden Tip: Allow new plantings a few days to settle in, then begin using at the rate of two teaspoons per gallon of water every other time you water. You can also use Grow Big as a foliar feeding, applying to both sides of leaves, preferably early in the morning. At the first sign of flowering, switch to Tiger Bloom Liquid Plant Food.
Ready to bloom? Tiger Bloom makes it happen. This is an ultra-potent, fast-acting, high-phosphorus fertilizer with just enough nitrogen to sustain healthy, vigorous green growth during flowering. The low pH keeps it stable and ensures that the micronutrient’s will be obtainable when plants need them. In addition to containing basic trace minerals,Foxfarm brews their liquid fertilizer with earthworm castings and kelp meal for a biologically active formula.
Garden tip: Use Tiger Bloom at the first sign of flowering at the rate of 2-3 teaspoons per gallon of water. It can also be used as a foliar fertilizer; just apply it to both sides of leaves early in the morning. To extend flowering or fruiting, add their Big Bloom liquid fertilizer late in the season.
I also use an all purpose deodorized fish emulsion. This will give you a measured measure of nitrogen to get you by for a few weeks.
Alaska Fish Fertilizer contains over 19 trace elements and 11 different vitamins, including vitamins B-1 and B-12. Deodorized for use on all indoor and outdoor plants. Often combined with Maxicrop to enhance performance. It will not burn the plants.
This is probably the most important part of your plants development. Without a large, healthy root system, your plant will be starved of vital nutrients and will produce a small harvest that will hardly be worth your time. The bigger and healthier the root, the bigger and healthier the plant. These two things go hand in hand.
So, I like to focus from seedling, on taking care of the root system and giving it delicate nutrients to raise its growth. This will ensure that my garden will produce large tomatoes and other vegetables. I use Maxicrop liquid seaweed for additional minerals and to bulk up my roots.
Maxicrop Liquid Seaweed (Kelp Extract)
Derived from fresh Norwegian kelp (Ascophyllum nodosum), Maxicrop Kelp contains over 70 minerals, micronutrients, amino acids and vitamins. Also contains growth regulators which stimulate vigorous root development and plant growth. Encourages tolerance to plant stresses such as frost, pests, disease and drought.
Last, but not least I use Earth Juice, a catalyst I give my plants and it increases how much the plants can take in. If you can get more of your nutrients in, your plants are sure to be complete.
Earth Juice Catalyst
The crucial link, is a versatile and vital product for the home, farm and anyone who wants to optimize their plants and trees nutrient uptake for increased growth and yields. Catalyst provides whats missing – enzymes, hormones, vitamins, amino acids, nutrients, and surfactants that aid in stimulating overall plant growth and production. Best when used in conjunction with organic or synthetic liquid and dry fertilizers.
Do not use with synthetic time-released fertilizers. A great organic different to synthetic B-1 formulas and growth boosters. Use as an organic cloning solution for soft-stem cuttings.
Air circulation and Exhaust
Air circulation – Its very important to provide your garden with fresh air. An oscillating fan will usually be enough to provide fresh air and to provide some sort of exhaust as long as your garden is in the open. If you grow your garden in a closet or a similar small space, be sure to leave the door open as much as possible. This will ensure proper ventilation and your garden will do well.
Good air circulation is basic for a good, strong garden. The motion of the air will cause your plants to have fat stalks and be able to sustain larger fruit. I wont use too much more time on this subject. Just go buy a fan and provide some fresh air for your garden. It will love you for it!
Try to buy a fan that oscillates, It will give you more option than a stationary. Making sure to hit every part of your garden.
Your light will depend on how much exhaust your garden will require. The heat from some lamps need to be directed out of the garden area closest. I have included some Pictures to give you a better idea about exhaust fans.These exhaust systems are not necessary with CFL’s or LED’s.
Temperature and Humidity Control
Temperature & Humidity Control – Keeping an eye out for your temperature and humidity can help prevent unwanted pest, mold, mildew, and over – heating. Most plants grow well between 70 and 80 degrees and, I like to keep my humidity around 50%, but, it will depend on your choice of plant life.
I use this EcoPlus thermometer / hygrometer. They are really inexpensive and will save you a lot of headache later. They are usually around $25.00.
o Perfect for continued temperature monitoring of a garden.
o Measures indoor/outdoor temperature & indoor humidity.
o Stores the Min./Max. values of the indoor/outdoor temperature and indoor humidity.
o Switch between °C and °F.
o Clock function with alarm
o 12/24 hour mode switch
o Water proof temperature probe
Really hot conditions can consequence in dry soil and your plants wilting away.
Pest Control – There are some really good organic pest killers and prevention products on the market but, I have found that a combination of cleanliness and preventive maintenance are the best avenues for a pest free garden.
Be sure to clean your grow area before planting the first seed. A associate of teaspoons of bleach in a gallon of water should do the trick. Spray your grow area down well and wipe dry.Pay special attention to the corners, making sure to get every bit of dust and dirt.
I like to follow up with Safer Brand insect killing soap that is all organic. This stuff keeps all the little guys away! It is best used as a preventative measure to ward off insects that might want to eat your lovely plant friends. It contains seaweed extract to keep plants healthy and combat stress.
An OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) organic product, which method you’re not spraying your leafy friends with toxins, unfriendly to either you or your plant. Made from plant oils, the soap gets rid of unwanted insects by disrupting their waxy outer skin (advantageous insects such as ladybugs and praying mantis are hard-bodied and not affected by the soap).
Keeping Safer’s on hand will ensure that your garden is a pest free ecosystem, enabling your plants to grow to their fullest capacity.Here are a few examples of the pest that can ravage your garden.
Fungus, Molds, and Mildew Control
Fungus, Molds, and Mildew – This is another example where I believe that Safer Brand is the best choice for my garden. I use their Garden Fungicide for my complete grow area. I would suggest spraying your grow area down with Safer before planting. This will kill any lingering mold or mildew that can harm your plants.
I believe that with the proper care and preventive maintenance, you can stop these problems from ever occurring. Just remember…..Keep your work area clean and find a good organic product to keep on hand and your end consequence will be a grow area that you can be proud of and it will produce a bounty for you repeatedly.
Sing to your plants!
I know it sounds crazy but they love it! You could whistle or just make a point to breath on your plants everyday. You could buy an expensive Co2 emitter but, for a small indoor garden, your breath will be plenty of Co2 to make a difference.
Here is a report about the importance of Co2 that I found on the internet:
The Importance of Carbon Dioxide (Co2) for Healthy Plant Growth
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) contributes to plant growth as part of the miracle of character known as photosynthesis. This enables plants to combine Carbon Dioxide and water with the aid of light energy to form sugar. Some of these sugars are converted into complicate compounds that increase dry substantial plant substances for continued growth to final maturity. However, when the supply of carbon dioxide is cut off, or reduced, the complicate plant cell structure cannot utilize the suns energy fully and growth or development is curtailed.
Although carbon dioxide is one of three main elements which combine to produce the products necessary for plant growth, the amount of carbon dioxide in the air is only 0.03% (250 to 330 parts per million). This compares to 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and 0.97% trace gases in normal air. Numerous tests have proven that during the winter months carbon dioxide concentrations inside greenhouses is always much lower than in outside air. This same occurrence has been shown in controlled ecosystem gardens.
CARBON DIOXIDE (CO2) – IMPROVES PLANT GROWTH AND QUALITY
Research has shown that in most situations rate of plant growth under otherwise identical growing conditions is directly related to carbon dioxide concentration.
The amount of carbon dioxide a plant requires to grow may vary from plant to plant, but tests show that most plants will stop growing when the CO2 level decreases below 150 ppm. already at 220 ppm, a slow-down in plant growth is considerably noticeable.
Colorado State University conducted tests with carnations and other flowers in controlled CO2 atmospheres ranging from 200 to 550 ppm. The higher CO2 concentrations considerably increased the rate of formation of dry plant matter, total flower provide and market value.
So basically, Co2, will help in making your fruits and flowers bigger and better. It will make all the difference to talk, sing, breath or whistle to your plants
And, you could supplement your singing with a Co2 raise kit. You can pick one up from $75.00 – $150.00 from many different suppliers over the internet. This would make all the difference in the world! Highly Recommended for Larger Gardens!!!
So, Enjoy your new garden, and make sure to have fun with it. With the proper care and a little patience, your garden will pay you back repeatedly.