Introduction: Hydroponics and Indoor Gardening in the Winter

About: Recently retired after 25 yrs. as a Navy contractor that involved the underwater repairs of US ships and submarines. Prior to that retired from the U.S. Navy serving 24 yrs. in 1996. Was a Navy Deep Sea Diver …

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)

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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.......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

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

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

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