An indoor greenhouse or grow tent gives you year-round access to the relaxation and rewards of gardening. First, you must undertake the less-than-relaxing process of choosing, buying, and assembling the parts. Here’s how to get it right the first time.
These seven elements will give you the best indoor gardening results, with the least amount of stress:
* Height: The grow tent must be tall enough to accommodate lighting, watering, and ventilation equipment, while also accommodating the height of the plants you want to grow.
* Overall footprint: In addition to the area you need to grow plants, consider whether the unit includes exterior water and/or drainage tanks, and other equipment.
* Power needs: Does the electrical circuit serving the room where you want your greenhouse have the capacity for the unit’s lights, pumps, and other electrical components? Check with an electrician.
* Access to ventilation: The heat of your grow lights will need to be vented outside the greenhouse, so it needs to be located where that heat can safely dissipate, or you’ll need to vent the hot air to the outside.
2. Multi-layer tent cover. For your grow lights and climate controls to do their jobs, the tent cover (also called the “shroud”) surrounding your unit must be able to block out all outside light, while retaining heat and moisture. Look for:
* An outer layer of densely-woven canvas and another layer of light-blocking material beneath it.
* An interior lining of Mylar that reflects the grow lights back onto the plants at multiple angles.
* Sturdy zippers for the door flaps; cheap zippers break easily allow external light to intrude.
* Viewing panels that you can unzip to check on your plants without opening the doors and disturbing the climate controls.
A quality cover allows you to light your plants at night, when electrical costs may be cheaper. Preventing outside light from leaking in also gives your plants the proper “sleep” cycle they need to thrive.
3. Strong framework. A collapsing indoor greenhouse can be nothing short of a calamity: Expensive grow lights shattering; water pouring from watering tubes or pumps; plants being crushed or toppled; etc.
Protect your investment with framework sturdy enough to endure the weight of lights, plants, and anything else it must support.
Look for strong plastic framework, rather than the weaker PVC tubing. The moisture inside a greenhouse will make metal rust–even coated metal, eventually. Rust tends to attack the joints first, which will weaken the structure over time.
4. The right lights. Among indoor gardeners, lights are a topic of intense debate: The wattage, light spectrum, heat emissions, and placement of lights can vary according to what you want to grow.
High-output, full-spectrum T5 lights are excellent, all-purpose grow lights. They’re relatively cool, affordable and easy to install. LED lights can also be effective and draw less power, but the up-front cost may be prohibitive.
Be sure the greenhouse includes a method for lighting plants from the sides as well as the top. Your goal with indoor lighting is to mimic both the spectrum of sunlight and the multiple directions from which the sun’s rays hit the plants over the course of a day.
5. A thermostat-controlled ventilation system. To keep the temperature optimal in your grow space, and to ensure the proper exchange of carbon dioxide in and oxygen out, look for a vent system with dual fans activated automatically by a thermostat.
6. Automated drip watering system. Pumping fresh water, treated with nutrients, into your plants at regular intervals is the best way to get optimal yield for your fruits and vegetables.
This is crucial when you’re trying to feed a family with limited planting space. Find a system that allows you to customize watering times and volumes, so you can keep your plants properly fed even if you’re not home for a weekend or more. This controlled-drip method also conserves water, so it’s more environmentally sound.
7. A drainage system. As with outdoor gardens, it’s critical for indoor greenhouse plants to have proper drainage. But in an enclosed grow tent, this means you must have an effective system of draining excess (or “gray”) water without endangering your home.
A layer of plastic sheeting beneath your growing area isn’t enough. It will leak, and/or allow water to pool. Leaks can seriously damage the floor beneath your grow area, and standing water is a breeding area of toxic molds and other undesirables.
Look for a greenhouse with a drainage system already integrated, or research flooring made to channel gray water into a tank or drain.
The effort you put forth to set up your indoor garden won’t be wasted. It’s a perfect private nursery for an outdoor garden. But even better, if you don’t have the space or the conditions where you live to garden outdoors, you won’t have to go without the fresh veggies, fruits, and other plants you love.
Are you ready to grow your garden year-round?
Learn more about the Eco Garden House!