My dream job would be to run an indoor grow space year round and sell fresh herbs and vegetables to local chefs.
Living in northern Alberta makes for a very short growing period with gardens usually going into the ground around the 18th of May and the first hard frost usually by the second week of September. That is roughly 16 weeks. To have a heartier harvest I start my seeds in January and plant semi mature plants outside during the first week of June. Depending on conditions, that may not even be enough of a head start for fully ripe crops of peppers, tomatoes and melons.
With such a short season, growing indoors is a fantastic alternative. With a little bit of thought and good planning you can recreate mother nature in an indoor space and grow successfully year round. It does cost a bit to set up your grow room but with the capability of growing home grown produce year round you will be saving money and have an endless healthy, chemical free supply of some of the best vegetables herbs and fruits available.
You have a few things to consider when putting together your grow room.
The space I am talking about below is based on an 10×10 foot room. That is some serious gardening!
You will need 2 lights for your space.
The first is a Metal Halide. Metal halides are the most efficent source of white light availble on the market. They come clear or phosphor coated. Go with the clear. The coating changes the specturm a bit. Clear is better.
Next you will need a HPS – High Pressure Sodium light. They are also one of the most efficent lights available.
Those 2 lights combined will give you the perfect light spectrum for your grow area.
I used strictly 1000 watt bulbs. Yes that is a lot of light. Your $$$ value is best spent on the 1000 watt systems.
You could go with 400 watts with each bulb/system, but considering the cost of each system will be very close to the price of 1000 watt systems, the 600 watt jump with each bulb seems to make sence for getting the best bang for your buck.
Look at it this way – Would you rather garden under full sun, or a cloudy day?
I love 1000 watt lights. They are amazing for indoor gardening!
Do you need 1000 watt lights? Perhaps, that is one of your choices.
Now we need to discuss shades.
You NEED big round 4 foot shades. They are an absolute must. They push 100% of your light down and out.
They increase the light intensity substantially. Try and find shades that are white on the inside, the more light reflection the better. Both lights will need a shade. They are cheap, so be sure you get them. They make all the difference in the world.
Using a 1000 watt metal halide with a small 2 foot shade and no reflective walls give you and effective growing area of only 36sq feet. Using that same light with a 4 foot hood and flat white walls your effective growing area has now increased to 100 square feet. Big shades mean much more powerful light.
Next thing to look at is your space. What is on the walls? You have a few choices.
Lets talk reflection of light.
If you are painting I do suggest the use of flat white paint.
Using a flat white will bring the reflectiveness of the wall space back into the growing area by 85 – 93%
Want to kick that up even more.
There is a white agricultural plastic on the market. It is black on one side, white on the other. We are talking 90 – 95% reflection of light back into the space!
Any farm supply store will carry it. It is used for silage.
Bonus, it protects your walls from any moisture.
Now we need to discuss light coverage.
Each bulb emits a different spectrum which affects the growth of the plants differently.
As with any plants it will grow towards the lights. But we want even growth.
Now you could go in and rotate your plants every few days, which works. For a while.
But to really make it the ultimate indoor grow space you want to emulate the rise and fall of the sun.
To do this you need a light rail/tracking unit.
I promise, this is the last thing you need to buy.
But again, it really is a must. With using a light rail/tracking unit to move the light you will have an increase of 25 – 35% of light coverage with using one light rail to move the lights over the garden. With just simply moving the lights over the garden it emulates enough light as if you were actually using 3 bulbs.
Now that is getting the absolute most of your space, money and light.
You will need to make the rail that you hang the lights off of then attach it to the tracking unit. It slowly goes back and forth over the garden. Get creative here, you should be able to find a nice light metal bar at your local building supply store. Even some plactic pvc pipe with the lights at each end is sufficient. And it works like a charm. This will give your room an amazing amount of useable light.
We need to go over movement of air.
These lights are hot and it is imperative that you have a fan in your grow space. Just as it is outdoors, you need to have air movement in your indoor garden. Not only will it reduce humidity and cool the space, plants do much better and grow stronger when there is a breeze present.
Also as a final thought, just kind of be aware of where you have been before entering your room.
Like say you were at a greenhouse and were touching plants, maybe bought a few. Wash up before going into your room. Even change your clothes.. Because like outdoors those little bastards like spider mites love warm sunny grow rooms. And to battle them is just a nightmare. No need for extra work.