Designing a Hydroponic Garage Garden in Alaska

by Rick
(Palmer, Alaska, USA)

I live in Alaska and started growing tomatoes outside in the Summer of 2009. My first crop was surprisingly very good with little maintenance on my part. We had almost 24 hours of sun light, with an average of 70 to 75 degrees every day. This is due to Alaska's perfect growing season with plenty of sun light, which yielded (I think) better tomatoes then any store bought in Alaska.

Dutch pots are reliable and make the maintenance of a big garden considerably easier. Some of the best looking gardens that I've seen have been using dutch pots

My wife and I like them so much we decided to try growing tomatoes all year round. Now being in Alaska means growing indoors during the Winter. This creates a challenge because of Alaska's long and cold winters, with only a garage to grow them in.

What would you recommend to keep a fresh supply of tomatoes flowing? Hey who knows, this may be a lead in to start growing other fresh vegetables all year long if this works!

Answer:
I picked an empty corner of the garage to start with, and started by putting in a vertical furring strip to help support the foam wallRick, I recently designed a hydroponic garden inside a garage myself! And you are right, temperature in the grow room is my number one concern!

My garage is a newer built structure, attached to the house. It has a concrete floor and drywall, but the garage door is loose fitting and still let's a lot of cold air in. My garage stays about 10 degrees F warmer than the outside temp, which is about 25 F this time of year.

I was able to get hold of some old carpet a neighbor was throwing away. It was in good shape, so I used it on the floor of the garden space. The carpet helps mainly to keep the nutrient reservoir directly off of the cold concrete floor. It also makes the garden feel a little more comfortable to be in. The most effective and affordable way to construct a garden space with an R value is with 4'x 8' foam insulation boards (1 1/2" thick) and 1"x 3" furring strips (8' long).

Furring strips are screwed into the studs behind the drywall to make a reliable place to secure the lights toIt is especially important that the furring strip on the ceiling is screwed securely into the studs behind the drywall to support the weight of the grow lights







The foam walls themselves were almost the perfect height. All I had to do to keep them in place was fold a long piece of cardboard in half a couple of times and wedge it tightly underneath the edge of the foam wall. This particular foam had a mylar surface on one side of it, which worked out really well!

The seam between the two pieces of foam making up the foam wall were sealed tightly with clear packing tape. To the garden space I added a homemade DWC hydroponic system made from two 27 gallon storage totes, four square PVC fence posts, an air pump, and a 420 GPH low pressure water pump. I'll be sure to include a link to the page where I cover the hydroponic system build as soon as I get around to writing it! I finished the design with a 1000 watt Metal Halide light, a 12" oscillating fan, and a 465 CFM centrifugal exhaust fan, with the exhaust outlet cut high in one of the foam walls.

With the grow light on and the outdoor temp at 25 degrees F, the grow room kept a steady 75 F temp. And no, those aren't tomatoes...cannabis is legal in ColoradoThe biggest challenge was figuring out how to keep the temp right in the garden. I put an aquarium heater preset to 72 F in the nutrient reservoir, which had been staying a little too cool at 67 F. With an outdoor temp of 25 degrees F, the grow room was keeping a steady temp of 75 F with the grow lights on. This was perfect, except for two problems. First- I wasn't currently running an exhaust fan, and eventually (like in one hour!) my garden would use up all the CO2 in the garden space. Instead of running an exhaust fan to exchange the air (which would also drop my room temp), I decided instead to add a CO2 emitter system using a tank and a timer.

One of the most important pieces of indoor gardening equipment to have. Timers are used to force flowering, control CO2 levels, activate exhaust cycles, and moreSecond problem- eventually I would have to turn the lights off to flower them! Solution: I hooked up a small space heater to a digital timer and made sure to position it safely in the grow room. After monitoring things for several nights with a digital thermometer to make sure the nighttime temperature was not falling below 58 F, I considered the garage garden design finished for the most part. I hope this helps you out Rick, and Happy Growing!

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Hi everyone, Jason from Jason's Indoor Guide here. When I got started with hydroponic gardening more than 22 years ago, my first garden used rockwool cubes and B.C. Nutrients....and I remember thinking to myself yeah, sure, there may be a lot of advantages to gardening with hydroponics, for example there are very few pest problems, therefore very little pest control, no weeding, no plowing or tilling the soil, no soil testing or having to add things into the garden soil, no watering the garden....but for someone who just wants to grow their own vegetables and have more control over their food supply and the quality of the food that they eat, the cost of constantly having to buy grow media and hydroponic nutrients makes this an expensive hobby for most people.

I suppose when you take into consideration how much money you save NOT having to buy food at the grocery store, it is surely cheaper to grow your own food hydroponically even with the cost of high quality nutrients. Nevertheless, I didn't have a whole lot of money to work with and I needed to make my efforts as affordable and effective as possible....and in the last 20 years I HAVE learned a thing or two!

As you browse through Jason's Indoor Guide, you will notice all of the systems that I use personally are homemade systems. As I got 3 or 4 years of experience under my belt, I quickly adopted a preference to standing water systems and systems that use expanded clay pellets or lava rock, because the media is re-usable and it eliminates a huge operating expense. So once a hydroponic system is built, garden maintenance is minimal- check and adjust the nutrient solution daily, and to change it completely every 2 weeks....and the biggest operating cost is the hydroponic nutrients. (and the electric bill, lol).

And, regarding the cost of the nutrients....I experimented for about 3 years with making different compost teas and nutrient teas, but there is still a lot of expense $$$ associated with making high quality nutrient teas....like kelp meal, liquid seaweed, rock dust, bat guano, un-sulfured molasses, worm castings. You can eliminate a lot of this expense by becoming an expert at making high-quality colloidal humus compost, and use your properly made compost as the basis of your hydroponic nutrient solution.



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Unfortunately, I have been gardening for over 20 years and I have only just recently mastered this difficult skill....and even then, only because I happened to find a very easy to follow, high quality technique and decided to follow the instructions to the letter. I produced more high quality compost in just one week than I was able to use in a whole year! I highly recommend it. It is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase the productivity of your food production efforts, while at the same time decreasing the amount of effort required to grow all of your own food, and decreasing the total cost of operating your food production system.

And when I say decrease operating costs, I mean decrease them to almost ZERO, especially if you are producing your own nutrients.


High Efficiency
Hydroponics

One final solution to eliminate the cost of your hydroponic nutrients: Imagine a hydroponic system that does not require you to buy any nutrients, does not require you to make your own compost, and does not require you to brew your own nutrient tea. Seriously! No cost and no effort as far as providing nutrients to your plants is concerned. Plus, at the end of the gardening cycle, you harvest all of your garden vegetables, PLUS YOU HARVEST FISH from the system!


Aquaponics

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This solution is aquaponics. If you are serious about producing all of your own food and being self-sufficient, this is the ultimate solution for reducing expenses (as much as possible), reducing the total amount of work required, and maximizing the productivity of your gardening efforts. I have been gardening for over 20 years, and it is the perfect food production solution in my opinion.


Produce garnden vegetables AND fish together. Eliminate fertilizer costs!

Besides mastering how to make high quality compost, learning aquaponics is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your garden productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work. The product that I learned from is called Aquaponics4you. With all of my hydroponic gardening experience, the first time I came across the Aquaponics4you product I knew immediately that it was something very special! Place an aquaponics system outdoors and use the sun instead of grow lights, and you have reduced every garden expense to nearly ZERO!


High Efficiency
Soil Gardening

This is where my advice ends for people growing in water. But some of you out there are in love with soil gardening and organic gardening, and rightly so! It's a pro-human activity. It is pro-conservation. It is pro-life. It nurtures and promotes life at all levels, from the micro-organisms to beneficial insects, to healthy humans. It's natural. it's spiritual. Gardening is written deeply into our DNA, like how you feel watching a bonfire or sitting by the ocean or next to a river.

My friend John at Food4Wealth has more than 20 years experience organic gardening, so he reminds me a lot of myself. He knows organic gardening like I know hydroponic gardening, and over the years he has learned just about every trick there is to organic gardening. He knows what makes the plants grow, and he knows how to do it with as little effort as humanly possible. His garden never needs digging, naturally repels pests, has no weeds, always produces more than his family is able to eat, produces vegetables everyday all year round, and....only requires 8 HOURS of light, easy effort PER YEAR!


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Years and years of experience and results can't be argued with....the Food4Wealth gardening strategy is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work....specifically for organic gardeners who love soil gardening. THIS is the most efficient and productive way to do organic gardening, period! And combined with the ability to make a years' worth of colloidal humus compost in just one week (see World's Best Compost), this overall organic soil gardening strategy is just unstoppable- foolproof, low cost, and low effort!

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