Gavin Shoebridge – an electric vehicle nut, a keen environmentalist

                Electric Car Conversion Blog By Gavin Shoebridge

November 1st, 2015 at 9:27 am

Growing vegetables inside during autumn & winter

I decided to carry out an experiment. I really want to grow feijoas in Slovakia, but I fear the winters will be too harsh for the plant to endure, so I decided to make a “growing box”.

This experiment will see which is better for growing leafy vegetables in fall/winter: a greenhouse, a bright CFL lamp, or a specialised LED growing lamp.

1: Cut pieces of board to make a box.

No one I spoke to in Slovakia had ever heard of feijoas, so it’s a complete mystery whether or not this popular-in-New Zealand fruit will survive in Slovakia. But last week I tracked down a company in the Czech Republic that stocks feijoa seeds, so I bought a few packets.

growing box lamp

2: Make a box.

I bought a special LED growing lamp from eBay for $22 USD. But this had me scratching my head… Professional growing lamps are hundreds of dollars, so is a $22 growing lamp any good? What about a regular “warm white” compact florescent lamp (CFL) instead?

Making this box is One way to find out.

growing box lamp

I recommend adding handles for easy manoeuvrability.

Before I germinate (and possibly kill) my delicate feijoas, I need to find out if an LED or regular household CFL will grow plants. To do this, I’m going to use some cheap and rather bulletproof Chinese Cabbages.

In this experiment I’m going to compare three sources of light during autumn / winter period:

1: my new LED growing lamp
2: a standard ‘warm white’ CFL
3: the greenhouse in the back yard

I added a reflective interior and installed the two growing lamps

I added a reflective interior and installed the two lamps

The lamps in the picture above are (left) a 50 watt LED grow lamp  and (right) a 32 watt CFL lamp rated at 2200 lumens and a ‘soft white’ or ‘warm white’ colour (2700K).

According to the advert on ebay for the LED lamp, it produces light on the following wavelengths: blue (430~440nm, 450~460nm), red (610~615nm, 620~630nm, 650~660nm), white light / UV (380~400nm), infra red (730nm). 

LED growing lamp experiment

These innocent Chinese cabbages are my lab rats…

So, which is better in autumn or winter? LED, CFL, or a greenhouse? To find out I’m placing two cabbages in each environment over the next 10 weeks to see which has the best results.

These ones are using sunlight in the glasshouse.

These ones are using sunlight in the glasshouse.

The big benefit of the greenhouse is the natural light and the warmth during the daytime. However, the biggest problem with this time of year is the cold nights. I know I prefer being inside, so I wonder if my other seedlings will too…

CFL grow lamp versus LED grow lamp versus sunlight

What a difference in colour. The LED is hard to look at, while the CFL looks bright and inviting. What will the cabbages prefer?

With the box complete and my seedlings doing their thing, we just have to leave nature to do its work.

The box actually looks pretty good too after adding a vinyl wood veneer wrap.

These cabbages grow fast and reach maturity in around 10 weeks (the middle of winter). I wonder if it will work. Will the greenhouse offer enough light/warmth? Do you really need a special LED lamp? Will a bright CFL do the trick? Watch this space to find out.

Now we play the waiting game… Or the guitar.

These cabbages grow fast and reach maturity in around 10 weeks (the middle of winter). I wonder if it will work. Will the greenhouse offer enough light/warmth? Do you really need a special LED lamp? Will a bright CFL do the trick?

And then, will my feijoa seeds survive?

Watch this space to find out!

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