Overall, Covid-19 Project: Basement Garden was a success. It was and will continue to be great learning experience, paid for some of the initial investment through vegetables and provides some tasty food!
In terms of produce, it seems I was able to harvest approximately 50 cherry tomatoes and 30-40 smaller peppers. I even took down the plants with numerous growing fruits.
It looks like the influx of growth towards the end of the project was due to plants being stifled by other plants; something I am looking to resolve for round two.
Cleaning Up Round One
If you ever wondered what a plant's root system looks like, well, here you go.
Yes, I had to cut the roots in order to lift the lid off. As you can see, lifting the lid also dislodged the pump and frame from the bottom of the bin.
Fortunately, there were no parts that needed to be replaced between round one and two. All parts were cleaned and reused. To add to that, no parts are showing any degradation to require a "near future" replacement. Good News.
I was pretty impressed with how deep the roots were able to penetrate.
The filters on the pump are essentially a sponge. I fished strand after stand of root tentacles out of the filter sponges. There were no roots present in the pump itself. Success!
Plant Selection and Adding Bin Two
There are two main issues I wanted to address for round two:
- The growth pattern of the plants chosen may not have been the best for the confined space
- The floor area allows for a second bin
I redesigned the second bin. I placed less pots in the second bin for a few reasons. The root systems in Bin One were intense. The hopes are that, with less plants it may provide more resources to the six pods and promote growth. As noted earlier, a few plants were dwarfed until I removed the overgrowth of the monster plants. I wanted provide more space for the plants; Bin One cannot sustain plants of those species or size in ten pods.
The plants selected for this round are based on harvestability and growth stability. The peppers and tomato plants grew up and then toppled. I did not add any sort of stabilization on my own accord. I do not want to add any physical stabilization to the system.
The plant selection is a mixture of leafy greens and herbs. Looking at Bin One, I have placed the herbs in the center as they will most likely be the smallest plants. The Kale is placed around the outside as I anticipate these to be the largest. The Swiss Chard and Lettuce are placed in the interior.
Bin Two is set up with the smaller plants at the front and the larger plants at the back. The second bin is set up with six nets and no Kale. Historically, I have found Kale to grow rather large; this is a concern. Bin Two, will provide a sample of the difference in how much difference the extra space and nutrients will make.
The plant selection was based on the ability to constantly harvest. If the plants can maintain a small footprint will growing at an accelerated pace compared to the outdoors.
It would be nice to go downstairs and trim off some leaves whenever we want to make a fresh salad or pesto.
Here are a list of the modifications made from round one:
- Addition of Bin Two
- Improved plant spacing
- Improved plant selection
- Less nozzles on pump framework
Leeching. This has always been a concern with starting a food project out of plastic containers.
You will notice Bin One's colour has begun to fade. I am guessing the is breaking down the colour / plastic of the lid. I mean there is no direct contact with the lid and the water, so is it actually leeching? Not sure. It is a concern though.
I did have a concern about insects that I no longer have. There are more spiders (1 - that has been hunted down) outside the tent than inside. I haven't seen any mites, or little creepy beings either. Bonus!
After Day 10 there is evidence of fourteen plants. There is evidence of one plant not surviving, the other's status is unknown.
The Kale is growing strong with the Swiss Chard following close behind. The Basil is slowly catching up. The Parsley is just starting to make an appearance. Unfortunately, it looks like the two plants that were lost are forms of lettuce. The starters may have been too small to transplant.
I have been playing with the idea of the exact maintenance costs (and potential profits) of operating the system, including the nutrients and power consumptions. I would like to measure the exact water, nutrient additives and power through sensors and scales, while doing the same for the produce.
I am also considering adding a better method of filling the bins. I currently remove a pod, add a funnel then dump a bucket of nutrient rich water.
A live camera or time lapsed pictures and videos make also be something of the future... we shall see...