Our move to the country had a broad-ranging purpose.
One of them was to reduce the excessive waste associated with unnecessary supermarket packaging of all sorts, especially of vegetable. Veggies do not need to be individually packaged. Set them free, sell them lose and people can easily fill brown paper bags.
We got sick and tired of throwing away so many plastics (among other reasons we decided to look for alternative ways to live better).
So here we are composting as if it was our last day on this planet, turning all our compostable waste into black gold... check out this beauty!
But excited as we were to move to the country, we faced a problem in our quest to grow our own supply of veg: The great British weather.
Luckily we're resourceful and I grew up with a huge vegetable garden back in France. I also studied a little botany.
But what do we do until Spring arrives? We grow vegetables indoors under lights!
Now I hear some may object and claim the electricity required to power grow lights defeats the whole "environmental friendly" aspect.
And I hear them but times have changed.
Using LED grow lights, the latest advance in grow lights, the power required to grow an indoor garden is really quite reasonable.
Some of the many benefits include:
- A year round supply of home-grown veggies
- Pesticide and preservatives-free food
- Obtaining a 100% organic harvest (when grown in soil and not hydroponics)
- No food miles linked to tomatoes imported from Spain or further afield
- Far better tasting veggies, harvested at peak ripeness (as opposed to bland tasting supermarket tomatoes harvested way before they are ripe to ripen artificially during transport)
- Up to 90% less water required to grow the same volume
How do we do that I hear you ask? It seems straight out of "The Martian" or some sci-fi film.
Well it's actually fairly easy in principle.
First off you either buy a grow tent or dedicate an entire room aka a grow-room.
Then you will need the right lights. These can be fluorescent lights (neons), Metal Halides, High Pressure Sodium or LEDs.
Having used High Pressure Sodium lamps in the past, they do produce an excellent crop/yield but tend to really heat up the grow space requiring a lot of attention on getting rid of that heat which to some extent can harm the plants or their ability to grow and ultimately produce optimally.
My choice today goes for LEDs which in the past few years have really developed to such an extent they are now used on an industrial indoor farming scale.
First they last up to 50,000 hours which far outlasts any other lights. that represents an economy.
Second, they produce very little heat compared to other lights and that's a huge advantage since without effort the temperature of the grow room can be kept at the perfect level, around 22-25 degrees celcius.
Then, since the produce so much less heat, the distance between your tomatoes or chillies and the LED is reduced as there's less risk of burning the plant tops, and that saves space.
In terms of efficiency, they use nearly 5 times less electricity than HPS lights, so cheaper to run.
And finally, since plants mostly need blue and red spectrum to grow and flower or fruit, LEDs can be tailored to produce just the perfect spectrum for the plants to thrive.
Right, enough with the geeky stuff... bring on MORE geeky stuff!
So with the space and lights sorted very little more is needed.
You need an air inlet as well as an extractor fan able to fully replace the air and this all day long at a pace of every 3 minutes. Yes plants just like humans need fresh air to thrive.
Most plants are grown in rich organic soil but a few we're also testing with hydroponics (growing without soil).
This spinach is grown using the Kratky method, it's fascinating but that'll be covered in more detail in a future article!
Once you have all this, all you need is a timer to give your plants a regular night and day cycle and a fan to simulate wind and while moving the air around also help plants strengthen their branches.
Did I forget anything?
Well of course I did!
Seeds, beautiful seeds.
We opted for Tomatoes (3 varieties), Chillies (3 varieties), Basil, Parsley, Coriander, Ginger (from a piece of leftover ginger we planted), Yellow Carrots and Radishes, Spinach and edible flowers.
I love seeds, they are real little miracles waiting to happen. After only 2 days you see radishes sprout! These guys are so fast that within 3 weeks we ate our first. (Tip: Radish leaves are excellent too!)
The soil we use will sustain growth for about 2 weeks and then ensuring the PH of our water is around a constant 6, we will supplement plants with a good balance of bio feed rich in NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium).
This, although a simplified version, is how you grow vegetables indoors under lights.
What I love most about this indoor garden is that although not free to run, it's a great hobby and can help polish your gardening skills during winter. For example at the moment I'm learning how to propagate plants via cuttings and how to graft chilli plants. I also find that caring for plants is something everyone should try. I don't have kids so these are my babies.
We will, as the garden grows, show you all the steps towards producing your own organic pesticide-free vegetables.
Join us on our journey!
Nicholas Goodden aka Nico is a London/Dorset based pro photographer and writer, co-founder of Great Things To Do.
He regularly produces visual content for international brands (including Adidas and Peugeot) and his work has been published in over 70 international publications such as TimeOut, Huffington Post and Creative Review.
Digital Marketing is his big strength with over 100,000 followers on social media backed by kick-ass content he creates.