Introduction: Hydroponics and Indoor Gardening in the Winter

Picture of Hydroponics and Indoor Gardening in the Winter

This is my Hobby Greenhouse made mainly out of 110 year old lead glass windows. It took me over 1 1/2 years to build on my free time. It was built as a memorial to my mother and 16 yr.old daughter. This picture was taken on a hot day in August 2013. I was still and probably always will have problems keeping the temperature regulated. I tried using 70 % shade cloth on the top and sides and it seems to have helped a lot, along with some fans and exhaust fan. On the inside I have constructed a hydroponic channel system on one side and on the other side pepper plants in potted soil.     John 3:16                                                                                                                                                                    

Step 1: GT70: 6.5"W X 2.75"D (supply Side)

Picture of GT70: 6.5"W X 2.75"D (supply Side)

This system is the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) using channels constructed from UV-stabilized, recycled plastics, 6"Wide x 2.5"Deep. It is suitable for large, leafy plants and vine varieties, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicum and zucchini,  in which the recycled nutrients flow past the roots 24/7. I am learning this technique before starting a second type. You can see I have the channels, holes for the 2" net pots, the tank with pump inside, the air pump for the air stones inside the tank. there are water flow supply hoses going into the channels that are duel. A lot of systems I have seen only have one. They say the second one is a backup in case one gets clogged. (makes sense to me)

Step 2: GT70: 6.5"W X 2.75"D (return Side)

Picture of GT70: 6.5"W X 2.75"D (return Side)

This is the return side if the system. All the channels have a a down slope to them. I forget to what degree. I guess as long as water flows down it that should do. The water gravity feeds into the trough and flows back into the water tank. Since I used PVC as a stand it has a tendency to be a little slippery PVC to PVC and the channels slid around some. So, to prevent that I used velcro under the channels, works well.

Step 3: Cucumber Seedlings , Week 1

Picture of Cucumber Seedlings , Week 1

I started these seedlings inside my workshop using 1.5" Grodan A-OK Starter Plugs inside a domed tray. You need to keep the plugs moist using water that has had the PH balanced. Google how to adjust the PH in water and read about it. I  would mist them in the morning and evening. Once I was happy with the sprouting of the seeds I removed the dome and placed them under a grow light following the manufacturer's instructions. When roots began growing through the plugs I moved them into the channels and this is what your seeing now. I also started tomato, lettuce, and a variety of peppers which include some of the hottest in the world: Ghost,Scotch Bonnet.Scorpion, Habanero, Chipotle and sweet no heat Bell.     

Step 4: Tomatoes, Cucumber, Pepper, Week 3

Picture of Tomatoes, Cucumber, Pepper, Week 3

Everything is looking pretty good, It's exciting watching these plants grow. By doing some research and reading I can anticipate what to expect. For the nutrients I selected a product called  General Hydroponics Flora Series QT - FloraGro, FloraBloom, and FloraMicro, 32 oz each.GH Flora Series is the original Building Block Nutrient System imitated but never duplicated. Contains complete Primary, Secondary and Micro Nutrients for enhanced yields and better crop quality. Users can adjust mixtures to suit specific plant needs. Enhances flavor, nutrition, aroma and essential oils in both hydroponic and soil cultivated plants. Contains highly purified concentrates for maximum solubility. PH balanced for ease of use. NASA and Antarctic research scientists choose Flora Series -- because of its superior formulation and reliability. One source says it is recommended that the mixed solution be replaced every 2 weeks. While another source says to let the solution be consumed down to just above the pump twice. Meaning let it deplete down to the pump, fill it to the top with water and let it deplete down again. I did it this way. I do recall in the heat of the summer it would be about two weeks between change out due to high usage by the plants and evaporation. I don't guess it really matters does it? Just don't let it run dry what ever you decide to do.Did forget to mention, when you fill it with fresh water check the 
PH balance and put in back in check.

Step 5: Nutrient Flow Technique, Week 3

Picture of Nutrient Flow Technique, Week 3

As you can see thing are looking good. It seems like every day I look at them they have been a noticeable growth. So far so good. I have more holes pre-drilled in the cover but keeping them covered with tape until some of the other plants are ready to be placed inside.  

Step 6: NFT, Week 6

Picture of NFT, Week 6

See what I mean. The previous picture was at three weeks and this is at six. There are already small tomatoes on the plants. and the lettuce is impressive. There are loads of roots in the channel system. I just keep an eye on the water level and keep the 
PH adjusted to around a 5.5. Pretty easy, but don't just walk away away and forget about them or things might go bad on you. Notice the name on the door. That is the name of my 16 y.o. daughter who pass last year 4-1-12. This GH is built in her memory. That was her favorite color.

Step 7: Cherry Tomato Forrest

Picture of Cherry Tomato Forrest

Have you had lunch yet? Here you have a bunch sweet juicy cherry tomatoes. They taste so good! Often times I just pluck them off the vine and devour them. I am very pleased with this crop. Just for the heck of it I saved it as a screensaver on my desktop. I must admit it looks really good. I like the way as they grew they were on a single long vine and everywhere there were flowers. I should tell you that I read that since we don't have bees in a greenhouse to pollinate the blooms we were to use one of those battery operated toothbrushes. I'm here to tell you that it works. Once you learn what to look for in the flower you can tell when they are ready to pollinate. You wanna know how I tell? Well,in the center of the flower there is this thing called a mantel. I see it swelling and when I touch it with the toothbrush a plume of yellow looking dust is emitted and that is when it does it's thing. I also learned that even the wind will aid in the flowers to pollinate. So I guess the bees are not the only thing that works.  

Step 8: Beefsteak Tomato Cluster, Week 9

Picture of Beefsteak Tomato Cluster, Week 9

Here you have a cluster of Beefsteak tomatoes. They are still kinda small but you will see later on how they turned out. This is very exciting. I forgot to mention that you will have to hang some line down from the rafters in order to keep your vines in an upright position. Notice the little clip to the left of these. These are special clips I bought from Farm Tec that they sell for this purpose. They are really easy to clip on.

Step 9: Beefsteak Ripening

Picture of Beefsteak Ripening

Well they are coming along nicely. I'm just keep the nutrients in check and watch the PH. You can see in the background that fall is here. The tomato plants outside in my mothers memorial garden have already out of season and are no more. But not in the Greenhouse. 

Step 10: My Big Fat Tomato Cluster

Picture of My Big Fat Tomato Cluster

This is what it's all about. For months now I have been working this greenhouse and I finally get to reap the benefits. You might say why don't you just go to the store and buy some tomatoes instead of spending all this time in money for a bunch of dumb tomatoes. And I say " I would if I liked the taste of cardboard ".  :P  Notice the leaves on the ground, it's late November here.

Step 11: My Day Starts Out With Beefsteaks

Picture of My Day Starts Out With Beefsteaks

Every weekday morning around 5:30 I head out to the Greenhouse to check on things and make sure everything is good and while I'm out there I check the crops. Sometimes I pick some peppers to take in to work and give away but here lately I have been taking these big juicy beefsteak tomatoes. Theres nothing like sitting at my desk during my lunch break with one of these jewels. I break out the salt  and pepper shaker and season the freshly sliced delicious looking ripe red tomato, with some cottage cheese and half an avocado, this makes a tasty low calorie nutritious meal that gets the job done. Today I even had some of the worlds hottest pepper with it. Yum!

Step 12: Yes, We Have Cucumbers Too

Picture of Yes, We Have Cucumbers Too

I forgot to mention that there was also cucumber in the making. I did not spotlight these earlier on because out of 6 plants only one of the made it. When the seedling is placed in the channels you must topwater them. You do that until the roots grow long enough to reach the nutrient flow. For some reason the roots would not grow through the grow plug. I don't get it. This one only produced three. But take a look at these two. You be the judge. Next crop I expect to do better. Tonight is 12-15-13 and we are having the remainder of the last one in a salad along with some cherry tomatoes. 

Step 13: Worlds Hottest Pepper Plants

Picture of Worlds Hottest Pepper Plants

This is the Soil side of the Greenhouse. I decided to do this as well as the Hydroponics. These plants were all started from seed last spring. The ones in the back row were brought over here from my friend Bruce. He brought them over here in the late fall before the first frost. They are keeping my plants company for the winter. Here we have 5 types of Peppers. They are the Ghost, Scorpion, Scotch Bonnet, Chipote. The next page goes into more detail.

You might be thinking; Why all the pepper plants? Peppers are fairly simple to grow plus they are so pretty when they ripen and they are powerful. In terms of power I think since this is a memorial greenhouse what better way to honor them then having all this power growing in here. Being with all the powerful living plants gives me that alive feeling,  you know what I mean.

Did I tell you these were breathtaking hot peppers? Well they are, I have always liked hot peppers but these give the word hot a new meaning. I decided if I was going to grow them I should eat them, Right? So I take one of the Ghost peppers to work with me and decided to start eating them there. I cut about 3/8" off the end of one and placed it in my mouth, chewed it up real good and swallowed it......... Continued next page............

Step 14: (cont.) Worlds Hottest Peppers

Picture of (cont.) Worlds Hottest Peppers

.......So I placed it in my mouth and chewed it up real good, swallowed it and started feeling the fireworks go off in my mouth. It was like pouring hot lave in it, it felt like a thousand needles sticking into my tongue, it felt like it feels when you hit your thumb real hard with a hammer, it felt like I was drinking hot tar. My throat burned and so did my food pipe. I felt nauseated and started sweating bullets. Did I mention to you these were hot peppers? This all lasted about 20 min. I also felt that sense of natural high. It has caused the endorphin to be released.(they resemble the opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a feeling of well-being), not a bad feeling. I read about it and the chemical in the peppers (capsaicin) does that. 

Well,  that was a lesson in what hot peppers will do to you. I have not given up on pepper eating. Now I cut them up in small pieces and eat them with meals. I even put them in my morning oatmeal. Give it a try.

Step 15: Warning!! Entering Hot Lava Zone

Picture of Warning!! Entering Hot Lava Zone

Hot Chihuahua, Guadalajara, (just an expression) These were grown from seeds that my friend Bruce gave me. I used some of those grow plugs and a seedling tray w / dome. Once they began to grow I removed the dome and put them under a grow light. The grow light uses two T-5 bulbs and I  had never used one before this. I'm here to tell you they do a great job and  they work. One thing you must keep an eye on is the wetness of the grow plug. I checked mine twice a day. It's a pain but you gotta do it. Once they grew to about 2 inches tall I put them in small pots and they took root. I left them in the small ones still under lamp  for a couple of weeks and then put them in their new home pot. I put them in the greenhouse and watched them grow.

What you see here are 3 types and their heat is measured using the Scoville scale. The Scoville scale is the measurement of the pungency (spicy heat) of chili peppers or other spicy foods reported in Scoville heat units (SHU),[1] a function of capsaicin concentration. The scale is named after its creator, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville. His method, devised in 1912, is known as the Scoville Organoleptic Test. (source- Wikipedia) The three types are:

Bhot Jolokia (Ghost Pepper) 330,000 - 1,532,000
Trinidad Scorpion  500,000 - 1,463,700
Scotch Bonnet  100,000 - 350,000

Step 16: Hydroponics and Indoor Gardening in the Winter

Picture of Hydroponics and Indoor Gardening in the Winter

Thank you for taking your time out of your busy schedule to read this. I tried not only to make it informative but an interesting read. I've accomplished alot of things in in my life but I have to tell you this has been the most rewarding and a life saver. It kept me going during the hardest most painful year of my life. Now I have this to enjoy and a place to reflect. If you are interested in seeing and reading about how I constructed this from ground breaking to completion, click the picture to the right under more by jddelta. It will take you to the construction site of  Let it Be, Hydroponic Greenhouse in memory of Lois Lee and Rachael Marie.

P.S. Don't forget to wear your hard hat!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                 John 3:16



fsaforoS (author)2016-01-28

Very nice indeed!

I too am sorry for your loss and my prayers are with you. This is a great way to keep your loved ones memories "growing' in your heart too.


crank_girl (author)2015-03-14

Thank you so much for sharing this fascinating experience with us. I'm so very sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine how i might go on in your situation but you did and produced something incredible - memorials don't come better than that.

I'm hoping to institute a similar setup indoors. :)

jddelta (author)crank_girl2015-03-21

Thank you very much crank_girl. I also want to make the world a little bit better. I hope you succeed in your indoor project. If I can help in anyway let me know


R-A (author)2014-05-26


I'm quite interested in your greenhouse project and have a question for which I can't seem to get a clean answer.

Where do you place the temperature sensor, inside the greenhouse? And how do you protect it from the sun, and moisture / wind?

i.e. how do you know the temperatures reported are accurate, and not affected by the elements?

jddelta (author)R-A2015-01-09

Hi R-A,

Sorry I have taken so long to respond, I have two digital and one analog thermometers, both ends and middle about eye level. there is no wind inside and no direct sun, no moisture to speak of. All the readings are pretty much the same. I have a temperature switch on a fan that comes on at 85 and it comes on at 85 + or also a 220 volt heater that comes on at 55. Remember that this is a hobby for me and I enjoy it no matter what. But this is how I do it. Good luck and have fun.


andy.knote (author)2015-01-08

Greenhouse or no greenhouse, a house made of windows, that is amazingly awesome! What a great build!!!

jddelta (author)andy.knote2015-01-09

Thanks andy.knote, you should be inside it during a spring thunderstorm, it's awesome. I really enjoyed building it. So far it is holding up very well.


charlessenf-gm (author)2014-01-31

Thank you for company info. I read your statement about the incline/slope:

"...channels have a slope to them. I forget to what degree. I guess as long as water flows ... it ... should do."

And thought to share some feedback:

Actually, there may be some reason for the degree of slope to be 'important.' Since the water will drain, even if the channels are perfectly level, the degree to which they are sloped toward the drain opening (assume at one end) will impact the time the roots are exposed to the nurtrients, right?

If the drain is relatively small, the channels could conceivably fill with each cycle and drain ever so slowly (think "THUNDERSTORM" effect where the rains deluge the ground and the soil drains well.

In the altenative, with a slope (but larger drain openings), the tendency to barely 'fill' the channels as the fluids exit almost as fast as they enter without full inundating the roots.

charlessenf-gm (author)2014-01-21

Interesting setup. Where did you get the square PVC tubes to put the plants in? Or, did you make them?

jddelta (author)charlessenf-gm2014-01-31

charlessenf-gm, thanks for asking, The company called calls them channels. The lids and channel are sold separately. I like them because they are removable for cleaning.

zikzak1 (author)2014-01-12

Peppers are getting hotter and hotter. Trinidad Scorpion isn't at the top anymore...

Carolina Reaper is 2,200,000 SHU, and I'm sure something is already in the works to replace that LOL! Very nice job on the greenhouse BTW!!

jddelta (author)zikzak12014-01-21

zikzak1, Thanks for the nice remarks, Yes, you are correct. the carolina reaper is the hottest now. I saw a video on youtube showing a mother, father and son eat some. haha, check it out. these people who do that are nuts. I tried about 1/3 and you read what I thought of it. Dang. take care

wildbill001 (author)2014-01-12

NICE job on both greenhouse and plans! Can you share where you got your channels and cover? They look far stronger and sturdier than anything I have seen to date.

jddelta (author)wildbill0012014-01-21

Thanks wildbill001, I got them from a place call farmtec. they have thousands of things and some excellent training videos and pdf files with instructions on how to build a system. prices are reasonable, shipping freight a little high but I can live with it.Appreciate the nice remarks.

tn. (author)2014-01-12

bhut jolokia was at one point a few years ago the world's hottest pepper. it was blown out of the water by the trinidad moruga scorpion which is so high in capsaicin that it started to melt the protective gloves worn by the lab measuring the scoville units.

Silence (author)tn.2014-01-12

And people eat them ?

tn. (author)Silence2014-01-12

Yup. I have a couple pounds in my freezer right now straight from Trinidad. Youngest daughter's father is from Trinidad. You develop asbestos mouth tissues PDQ.

Gordyh (author)tn.2014-01-12

I worked with a guy from northern Iowa how said there was a store there that sold only hot sauce. They have many varieties that you have to sign a waiver releasing the store of any responsibility for what you do to yourself ;-) Recommended use is to dip a tooth pick into the sauce then stir the soup or whatever with the tooth pick, repeat as necessary to get the desired heat level.

Oh, and you need to develop asbestos on the output side too :-O if you know what I mean ;-)


tn. (author)Gordyh2014-01-12

oddly enough, i never had that trouble (heard of it, though).

i don't do that toothpick thing. my daughter's father makes a hot sauce that's basically blended scotch bonnet with a bit of scorpion tossed in and then a bit of onion, garlic, chaton benine, salt, lime juice, and.... can't remember what else. that might be about it. he throws it all in the blender and leaves it in the sun for about a week:

and that's it: hot sauce. i make two pieces of toast, put on some block cheese (old cheddar for favourite), then use a spoon to drop the hot sauce all over it (it breaks down and goes mushy and more saucelike as it matures).

jddelta (author)tn.2014-01-21

tn, I opened the picture link and was impressed, I think the sauce is very pretty, would love to have the recipe, do you think he would send it to me? if he will. I saved the picture and put it on my desktop background at work. I like the jars he uses, recycled is best.

tn. (author)Gordyh2014-01-12

it really is true: you don't feel the heat after a while. i can eat jalapenos like they're apples - there is literally no heat to them.

doccat5 (author)2014-01-13

Fascinating. I'm an experience organic gardener, but since I've gotten older, my bend don't work quite like it use too. I've been researching using hydroponics as an alternative. Thanks for sharing. Your information is clear, concise and easy to follow.

jddelta (author)doccat52014-01-21

Thanks doccat5, yes, if your back is giving you trouble then this will work for you, raise the plants to where you are comfortable and no soil to deal with. be looking for more instructables from mr in the future, working on new system Butch Buckets an the way in about 3 monthe I should have them in service.

rbrazil (author)2014-01-13

Home grown tomatoes are always better and besides you are still able to grow them in late November is a plus also. Thank you for your service to this great country of ours!

jddelta (author)rbrazil2014-01-21

Thank you rbrazil, they were delicious appreciate the nice comment, take care

zawy (author)2014-01-13

Use the $100 heliostat in my instructable for this size greenhouse and the sun intensity will be the same as summer. I'm still working on the details to make it a more realistic instructable (primarily wind problems).

jddelta (author)zawy2014-01-21

Thanks zawy, fantastic instructable, I'm not quite sure about it for me just now, I need to do some thinking on this one. I'll get back to you.

shortcircuitaz (author)2014-01-19

you mention the slope within the article...

per wikipedia:

it is recommended that slopes of 1:30 to 1:40 be used

jddelta (author)shortcircuitaz2014-01-21

Thanks for looking that up shortcircuitaz, I will keep that in mind. I plan on redesigning the channels real soon. I going to put them along the wall four high and grow short plants. I'm currently designing a grow bench to put some dutch buckets on, tomatoes and cucumbers. I will make an instructable on it from ground zero. Thanks

VeganJuneDad (author)2014-01-19

Thanks for the instructable and great work. I particularly like your reason for growing peppers - all the power, indeed. May I humbly suggest you try some other things, such as rosemary or lavender? Perhaps not as powerful on their own, but you might enjoy the smell of rosemary each time to use it. Same is true of the lavender - it's smell is quite long lasting. Or perhaps other herbs? Simple roasted potatoes are much better, in my opinion, with some fresh thyme, or even rosemary, for that matter. You can put herbs in cocktails, dry them for future use, make stocks, etc. Cheers

jddelta (author)VeganJuneDad2014-01-21

What a great suggestion VeganJuneDad, yes indeed I enjoy herbs. I currently have basil growing in two of the channel holes. I have rosemary and spanish sage in Mother's garden outside, however they are taking a winter break, but will be back in the spring. As far as the other herbs you mentioned I'm all for it. I have a dehydrator and will dry some. Thanks for the nice comment

sheripres (author)2014-01-17

What a fantastic read! Sorry for your loss and this goes to show that your memories will live forever.

Congrats on creating this wonderful garden center!

jddelta (author)sheripres2014-01-17

Sheripres, Thank you for the be nice comment and condolences. I really enjoy working in the living garden. Take care.

totszwai (author)2014-01-13

Hi, your "winter" looks pretty green, i'm wondering how cold is your winter over there? Cos I don't think i saw any mention of heating system in the instructable?

jddelta (author)totszwai2014-01-14

Hi totszwai, your right, compared to northern U.S. states we have pretty mild winters. It does freeze here though and must be careful or the plants will suffer. I don't have anything special, just some space heaters on timers. During the day it warms up nicely with all the windows. One day I would like to run a natural gas line for some heat instead of electric heaters or maybe some solar power.

totszwai (author)jddelta2014-01-14

Nice, look forward to your gas and/or solar addition in the future! I want to build something like this too, but with -25c easy here in winter, i don't think that would be possible. :(

jddelta (author)totszwai2014-01-14

totszwai, I did a copy and paste with this information. reader Silence from below says "There are greenhouse designs that will passively heat all winter. Most of them take into account the low sun and sharply angle one side of the roof. The good ol traditional greenhouse is great for warmer climates, but not up here in Canada.

some dig into the ground as well to get below the frost layer which helps to heat the greenhouse. (pit greenhouse)

A good thermal mass will help in collecting and storing heat for the night".

Maybe this give you some ideas and when I make a decision on the the heat I will post it.

take care


Rohit.Agrawal (author)2014-01-12

Very inspiring and positive feeling after reading your "building the hydroponic" and the story behind it. Every one goes through some kind of pain in his life but nothing can be compared with loss of your nearest and dearest ones.

One should learn from you how to fight with loss and pain.



jddelta (author)Rohit.Agrawal2014-01-14

Thanks Rohit.Argrawal, There is a song named the Scientist that keeps saying "nobody said it would be easy" If you can watch the video. I appreciate your support and I tell everyone these things so they know it is going to be OK

pdionne (author)2014-01-12

Good project. I used hydroponics for the first time last year and had trouble with cukes also. I used tubes, but it seems your system worked better.

Thanks for sharing.

jddelta (author)pdionne2014-01-14

Thanks pdionne. Look on the website Farmtec. there are lots of ideas there and some training videos. I'm trying dutch buckets soon.

Mikeyfl (author)2014-01-14

Hi, It was a pleasure to read this article, your hydroponics set up does you credit, I had quite some success with various systems but the extreme heat here took its toll, congratulations


jddelta (author)Mikeyfl2014-01-14

Thanks Mikeyfl, I know what you mean about the heat. Unless you have big bucks it is hard to get the climate right but I'm glad you have had some success. I'm going to set up a 7 dutch bucket system pretty soon. I will make an instructable on it also.

rolandcontreras (author)2014-01-13

Congratulations, very well done and described! A cost calculation might have been interesting, but a nice hobby can have a price.

jddelta (author)rolandcontreras2014-01-13

Thanks rolandcontreras for the nice remarks, I saved all the receipts and some day I will add it up. I tried to repurpose as many things as possible. Went to swap meets, a couple of construction sites,craigslist.
Habitat for Humanity store. I would buy as I went so costs were not all at once and your are right, hobby's have a price.

tkjtkj (author)2014-01-13

Thank you John .. for opening up about your terrible losses ..and showing us how you managed it all .. You constructed a wonderful and powerful thing that brings its beauty to all of us, ..

jddelta (author)tkjtkj2014-01-13

Thanks tkjthj, I appreciate the kind words and glad there is a place where we can share these kind of things.

ibwebb (author)2014-01-12

My deepest sympathies for you losses.
Next.. WOW! This is fantabulous! Very nice work on all of it. You got my votes! lol

LP2 (author)2014-01-12

Fantastic ! Stupendous ! Phenomenal ! Excellent !!

Thank you !, I always wished there was No Winter so I could garden all year.

I would have to heat the greenhouse where I live so it has never been built.

-30 and windy.

Silence (author)LP22014-01-12

Where abouts do you live ? If you're up in canada or on a similar northern or far southern latitude, there are greenhouse designs that will passively heat all winter. Most of them take into account the low sun and sharply angle one side of the roof. The good ol traditional greenhouse is great for warmer climates, but not up here in Canada.

some dig into the ground as well to get below the frost layer which helps to heat the greenhouse. (pit greenhouse)

A good thermal mass will help in collecting and storing heat for the night.

About This Instructable




Bio: Retired from the U.S. Navy of 24 yrs. in 1996. Was a Navy Deep Sea Diver for 18 1/2 yrs.Have always loved ... More »
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