Living in Canada is great but it also means that you have to deal with a long winter which can make the gardening and growing season short especially in some more northern areas of the country. A great way to get a head start on your vegetable garden is to germinate and grow seedlings indoors instead of starting from seed outdoors when it finally gets warm enough. Now this is easier said than done, there are many factors that make growing your vegetables inside tricky. Some of which are; light availability, humidity, wind conditioning and proper soil drainage, not to mention having a place to let your seeds grow in peace.
I have only 1 south facing window in my house and I had been using the window ledge to get some herbs and other things growing but I also have a cat and well,,,the cat enjoys destroying my newly sprouted seeds. many times I would come home from work and see soil on the counter and the seedling ripped out of the soil. Even if my cat left my seedlings alone, the winter months only provide so much light in the day which limits the growth of any new seedling.
I decided that I would make something that would fix both problems as well as improve the growing conditions and really give my herbs, tomatoes and lemon tree a solid head start before going outside.
In this instructable I will show you how to make a self contained LED Grow Bucket that is very easy to make and uses very little power consumption.
**Disclaimer - you can use this grow bucket to grow anything you want but if you plan on growing items that may not be vegetables it would be a good idea to check your local laws to see if you need a medical license to grow certain things. I do not condone the growing of any plants medicinal or non medicinal with out the proper paper work***
Now that being said grow anything you want!! I love the process of watching things grow I am currently growing;
- Bucket and Lid
- Extension cord cheap 6'
- Power bar a decent power that will turn off if anything gets shorted (safety)
- Duct Tape
- Windshield sun protector
- 2 LED lights 6w =50w light output
- Ceiling light fixture and light box to insulate the wired connection
- Fasteners (crews or nuts and bolts)
- Computer fan 80mm
- 12v wall adapter
- Electrical tape
- Timer - for lights
- Growing containers - I found them at Walmart
- Potting Soil
- PVC pipe
- 1 Pair Pantyhose
- Carbon - found in aquarium section of a Walmart
- 1 pencil holder
- 1 can pizza sauce
- Lots of electrical tape
- Hot glue
- hand Drill
- Sharp knife or blade
Step 1: The Light
For the light source I used 2 LED 6watt bulbs that produce the equivalent of a 50 watt of light each but for a fraction of the energy cost.
This step is pretty easy you are basically creating a ceiling light that attaches to the bucket lit. make sure to use metal components to make sure all wiring is properly insulated.
First attach the round light box to the lid with some machine screws. Then wire the light up according to your local building code..I'm not an electrification so I just used the extension cord and cut the female end off then wired that to the light fixture. I made sure to insulate all connections and I checked the light to make sure it worked before installing it.
Make sure that your cord is coming out of the top of the bucket to the bucket lid sits properly when finished.
After the light is working properly you can then add the power bar to the outside of the bucket. I just taped it on with duct tape which was very simple and quick.
Important - make sure to use a power bar that has a safety built into it. Meaning that is for some reason there was a short in the wiring it will trip the power bar and turn off immediately
Step 2: Locking in the Light
Because plants crave light and will preform better with as much light as possible I wanted to maximize the light in the bucket. To do this I used a car windshield sun deflector to 1 keep the temperature of the bucket up (LED have little to no heat) and 2 to maximize the light reflection inside the bucket.
First measure the height of the bucket and cut your deflector to that size. Then secure multiple pieces of duct tape to the back of the deflector and then firmly secure it to the outer edge of the bucket. Next trace the bucket bottom with a sharp knife which will give you the perfect piece for the bottom.
After the deflector is secure you can add the planting tray to see how it will fit and look. Make sure your planting tray has holes in the bottom for proper drainage.
Step 3: Ventilation
Having proper air movement is crucial for your vegetables because it helps develop a stronger root systems as well as prevents any mold issues some plants can get. To do this I used a small 80mm computer fan I got from a computer supply store. The computer fan only uses 12v of energy so its very efficient in achieving the proper air circulation in a small space with out high energy costs.
To power the fan I used a 12v wall adapter that I also bought from a computer supply store. I cut off the barrel jack that it came with and wired that to the fan making sure all my wiring was correct and testing the connection before installing the fan. Make sure you know what way the air is blowing to ensure your fan isn't accidentally removing air from the grow bucket instead of providing ventilation.
After you have wired the fan correctly you can install it to the bucket about half way up the side. I used a marker to mark the drill holes and area I wanted to cut out for air flow. I then used a small extra piece of windshield protector to create an air tight gasket around the opening.
Step 4: Carbon Filter
With any indoor vegetable garden there is the potential for smells. The small isn't very strong but can have a slight mustiness because of the continually wet environment. To avoid this I made a carbon filter which will pull any undesirable smells out of the air. Making a carbon filter is also very cheap and easy to do:
Get you hands on some activated carbon which is located in the aquarium section of Walmart. It is used for fish tank filters.
Next get a small pencil holder, Small can of pizza sauce, PVC pipe and some panty hose. Now empty the contents of the pizza sauce out (save it or make a pizza) and drill multiple holes into the empty pizza sauce can. Now place the can into the pencil holder and see how it fits. Add some carbon to the pencil holder to raise the pizza can to be level with the top of the pencil holder. Place the pizza can ( I taped mine so it wouldn't damage the panty hose) into the panty hose then back in pencil holder and push the pantyhose into the pizza can. Add the carbon to the middle of the pizza can on top of the panty hose. Now you can pull the panty hose up and the carbon will fall off the off the panty hose then around the sides of the pizza can filling the pencil case all the way up.
Cut a small piece of windshield protector to seal the top then fold the pantyhose around the entire pencil case and pizza can securing the carbon in place.
Refer to the pictures to see how its done.
Once you have the filter part completed you can then add the PVC pipe and attach it to the lid of the bucket. The PVC pipe I used was a lot smaller then the pizza can so I used electrical tape to make a proper seal.
Step 5: All Done!
Light - check
Ventilation - check
filter - check
heat - check
Soil - You need potting soil not top soil but its easy to get at any garden center. Potting soil has proper drainage for container planted vegetables.
With this set up, you have now covered all the essential things your vegetables need to get a good head start regardless of where you live and the temperature outside. This system only uses small amounts of energy and can be placed anywhere that has a power source. Its small and 100% portable. Set up a timer on the lights to make it even easier. All you have to do is water.
What happens if my vegetables get bigger??? well that's easy Though I am only using the bucket to get my tomatoes about 6" tall then they will be going outside. If you are growing something that is larger or you started to early then all you have to do is buy another bucket and and cut the top off about 1" under the bottom lip this then can be placed on top of your growing bucket raising the light up 5". do this as many times as you need to. Also save some of the windshield deflector and attach that the bucket tops to insure optimal light reflection.
The seedling the pictures is a Lemon Tree I germinated from a lemon I bought about 1 month ago. Its so fun to see your vegetables grow
Good Luck and happy Growing.