Monday, July 5, 2010

The Stylish Indoor Grow Box

If you would like to see how our plants are growing in our grow box, here they are: Grow Box Updates

* * * * *
Hey everyone, this is Keith.  Usually I'm the "behind the scenes" helper when it comes to this blog but I was asked to do a short write-up on the newest addition to our gardening arsenal, our indoor grow box.

Temperatures here in Indiana (or anywhere else that gets snow) make it a bit difficult to get our gardening “fix” during the winter months. The obvious solution to this is to have some sort of setup indoors that will allow us to grow some plants, and start some seeds during the times when mother nature isn't being cooperative!

However, from looking at pictures around the internet of people's indoor gardening setups, I find most of them to be a little..... ummm...... “rough” looking (no offense to anyone!).   As Minji will no doubt confirm, I tend to be a little (very) picky when it comes to how the inside of the house looks, and a table with a light hanging above it doesn't fit very well into my interior decorating plan. :)

So I set out to build something that would allow us to garden in the winter months, while still making it easy on the eyes. Here's what I came up with...

My perfectly logical drawing of a grow box.

Makes perfect sense, right?  Minji was skeptical though.  I can't imagine why!  Basically, I explained, my goal was to build a grow box inside of an old armoire!  Still skeptical.  "Trust me", I said.  :)

Warning! Long Post!  If you just want pictures of the finished product, skip to the end!

Step One - Get an Armoire!
I searched around on for this until I found one that I thought would fit our requirements.  I was was looking for something that looked fairly nice, and that had multiple shelves (no drawers). I found this one for $50.

Step Two - Prepare for Lighting

My idea was to run lights directly down the center of the armoire so I didn't have to mount a bunch of light socketts on each level.  This involved drilling some holes in the shelves.

The lights I used are 4' fluorescent bulbs (four 6500k "daylight" and two 3000k "warm white" fluorescents), and seeing as how the armoire was taller than 4' inside, I had to build up the top and bottom a bit to fit them correctly.  Luckily, I saved all the circle pieces that I drilled out for just that purpose.  They weren't quite tall enough though, so I cut a few more pieces from some scrap wood I had left over from another project.

I then measured how many I needed and glued them to the top and bottom inside the armoire.  To those, I glued the lamp holders in a hexagon...... ending up with this....

Step Three - Wiring

I used two, three lamp ballasts (for six lights total).  Wiring these to the lamp holders was the most time consuming part of this whole process.  After I wired it, I used electrical tape to neaten it all up and run everything as cleanly as possible.

Next, I mounted the timer I bought to a piece of laminated shelving and used some small "L" brackets to secure it to the bottom of the armoire, in front of the ballasts.

At this point the whole unit looked like this.....

Step Four - Finishing!

Now it was time for the finishing touches!  After putting the light bulbs in we measured the inside temperature while the lights were on.  It was getting up towards 90 degrees so we decided to install an exhaust fan to let some of the heat out.  I drilled out a hole on the back of the unit and installed a simple 120v computer fan.  It now stays between 76-81 degrees in the box at all times.

We then added some aluminum foil to help reflect the light for the plants and put a few test subjects (basil, lettuce seeds, rosemary) in to test it out!

So right now it looks like this.....

And here it is in full operation.....

As the picture above shows, I found it was difficult to take good pictures looking directly at the box because it is so bright and my camera tries to compensate.  Here is one from the side....

Our plants are so bright, you gotta wear shades!

As for materials and cost.....

ItemCostWhere to buy / Details
Armoire $
Two GE332-N ballasts$56Lowes
Four F32T8 6500k fluorescent bulbs (daylight)$14Lowes
Two F32T8 3000k fluorescent bulbs (warm)$7Lowes
Two outlet digital timer clock$17Lowes
Twelve medium bi-pin lamp holders$30Lowes
120v Fan$25Radio Shack
Small “L” bracket$1.75Lowes
8' Three prong extension cord$6Lowes
10' Two Prong extension cord$6Lowes
Small white laminate shelf (or scrap wood)$3Menards (just for looks)
Two boxes of aluminum foil$5Kroger (grocery)
Double sided scotch tape$3K-mart

So that's it!  We set the timer to come on in the morning at 6am and go off in the evening at 8pm.  And from the outside, you can't tell it's anything but a normal armoire!

Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with the outcome but being new to gardening I'm sure there are ways to make this thing better.  Anyone have any suggestions?  Do I have to worry about humidity too, or just make sure it doesn't get too high?  I heard humidity is a killer for tomato plants.

Thoughts and suggestions are always appreciated!  Any ideas?

If you would like to see how our plants are growing in our grow box, here they are: Grow Box Updates


foodgardenkitchen said...

Wow, you're quite the handyman! I don't have any suggestions in this endeavor, but I just wanted you to know that I'm impressed :)

Annie's Granny said...

Nice meeting you, Keith! If we could get you, EG (from Our Engineered Garden) and my son John together, we could rule the world! I'm anxious to see how well things grow. I'd think your exhaust fan would take care of the humidity.

Annie's Granny said...

Oh, I forgot to add....I'm sorry I told Minji to give you away. You're much handier to have around than my Mr. Granny, I think she should keep you after all.

thyme2garden said...

Thank you! I'm just happy that it turned out as well as I had pictured it in my head.

Thomas said...

That's definitely space age! If the cops come around, they might get the wrong impression. :)

kitsapFG said...

That is brilliant! Love it! I need me one of those. :D

Susan said...

That's spectacular!
My only suggestion is that if your foil doesn't hold up well, you can get large sheets of virtually indestructible metallic silver mylar (also adhesive- backed, if you prefer) for a few dollars a sheet. I get it at a graphic supply store. The mylar would be unlikely to tear while moving flats, wiping up dirt etc.

thyme2garden said...

foodgardenkitchen - We know it looks good. Now let's just hope it actually works to grow some veggies. Thanks for being impressed.

Granny - I don't know if I have enough energy to rule the world! I'm also anxious to see how things grow. Only time will tell! And I forgive you for telling Minji to give me away. :)

Thomas - It's actually based off of a $1900 box designed for growing "lettuce"...
It's amazing the kind of info you can find on those sites. We're growing LEGAL lettuce though!

kitsap - You can build your own.... go for it!

Susan - I thought about the durability issue of the foil but couldn't think of anything similar but stronger (besides mirrors!). Mylar is a great suggestion.... maybe I'll swap it out eventually. Thanks!

Melissa said...

Wow! That is really cool - well done!

Megan said...

I LOVE this! What a great idea! My grow shelves (though INCREDIBLY appreciated) are from random pieces of wood put together, and had to occupy the dining room while we had people in town. What a great job!

Peek at My Paper said...

WOW and Indoor Garden!? cool!

Thanks for your advice on my blog today. I am very excited to get my garden started. I will definitely keep you and your blog in mind when I need ideas and advice.
Nice to meet you.

Shawn Ann said...

That is awesome! I love it!

Momma_S said...

Looks good! I was going to say what Thomas said about growing non-vegetable matter, LOL. I agree with Susan about the mylar--or even Foylon, but that's more expensive. Foil actually is not very reflective--about the same as a flat white paint, even less if the foil is creased. The other problem with foil is it can have unpredictable hot spots. Since you have an enclosed space, it could pose an additional heat factor the veggies won't like. Looking forward to seeing the cabinet in action. nice handy work.

debiclegg said...

Minji, I have been on the road so much in the last week and am so behind on reading my blogs. This is impressive. My dear husband is so good about building things for me when I give him a vague description from my wish list. I can't wait to show him this!! I look forward to seeing plants growing in it!!

thyme2garden said...

(This is Minji answering on behalf of Keith)

Melissa, Megan, Brenda, Shawn Ann, Momma_S, and debiclegg, THANK YOU all so much for visiting our blog, reading this post (and others) and leaving thoughtful comments. As new gardeners and bloggers, we are really encouraged by fellow bloggers and readers, and we just LOVE it when you leave us comments.

Stay tuned for future updates about our grow box in action!

Cheryl said...

Genius. And I just promised to give away my armoire :-(

Anonymous said...

This is incredible!

Jessica V.

thyme2garden said...

Cheryl - thank you!

* * * * *
Jessica V. - thank you! Keith is really handy like that, it's great!

Kelly said...

I know this is an older post, but I am just now learning about your amazing (and beautiful) grow box. WOW! I am so impressed. :)

thyme2garden said...

Kelly - thanks for checking out this post! This is an older post, but it's the most popular post on this blog so far, as it's the one that gets the most hits from google searches.

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Brian Shaffer said...

Wow, you are undoubtedly good with your hands... I must admit I struggle to find the difference between a hammer and a screwdriver. I did however create a blog post on what to look for when buying an indoor growbox so maybe that can help others like me who aren't so good at building things! :)

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