NYC INDOOR GARDENING IN A 2’ x 3’ SPACE!
Many urban dwellers are concerned how to grow gardens without a yard. There are many tutorials on how to grow some herbs on your windowsill, hanging planters, and balcony gardening. These are nice, but don’t yield very much food. Even if you have some yard, and you live in a suburban or rural area, growing outside, while the most productive and least costly, has risks. Freak weather can kill your seedings, or just wipe out the whole harvest. Animals such as groundhogs can come eat anytime. You’ll have to build fences 8 feet tall for deer, and 1 foot underneath for groundhogs! That is a lot of work, and seriously diminishes the room to grow your garden in the future. In these times of uncertainty, the most controllable environment is actually your home. Decreasing risk is high priority here. So what I’ve done is adapt the ever growing and popular home cannabis grower playbook for vegetables. I think once you’ve read through this, and checked out the 28 tools or so in this article, you’ll have the confidence to grow food in the safety and comfort of your own 350 square foot NYC apartment, or your McMansion basement in OH. It’s up to you! In addition to an utterly controlled environment, you’ll have the operation security of this being completely stealth, which has been important to cannabis growers, but now in times of uncertainty, everyone. Have I mentioned that you can do this year round! You can’t do a raised bed year round. Depending on your setup, you could grow MORE than you could outdoor for the whole year! Add a bunch of “water glassed” preserved eggs, and a stockpile of grains and beans, you are living high and mighty when the rest of the world is going to pot, dear readers! But wait, there’s more! You can even simulate weather environments not possible in your region, so you can grow some exotic stuff possibly. Although most fruits are admittedly outside the capacity of most tents, just way too much soil and space needed.
The playbook is rather simple, but gathering all the tools and putting it all together is a bit complex. This is designed to get you 80% of the way there immediately, and leave 20% to your improvements and learning experiences. Most things take 10 years to master, 2 years to get decent at. This will knock 2 years right of the bat!
The executive summary is this. We are controlling for 6 environmental variables, that is what gardening is pragmatically simplified. These are space, light, soil, water, temperature and humidity. Get a grow tent or build own of a size you can fit and manage. You can fit something like this on top of a dresser, or desk or table, if you had to! Then you install lighting, a fan and ducting, throw in a humidifier, a space heater, some controls to automate, and you are basically there! There’s a bunch of accessories and measuring tools, but you are basically set to put in some fabric pots with seeds or seedlings after a couple hours of futzing. Then you get to watch the magic happen with your semi-automated garden, that will take even less effort and time to make a run to the supermarket. What could be better? This is indefinitely sustainable, all you will ever need is compost, which you can furnish yourself, soil, and perhaps distilled water. Seeds if you want, but old vegetables will do fine! Solar power it as your first step to energy independence, it’s a nice way to segue into solar.
2’ x 3’ or 3’ x 4’ or 4’ x 6’ Dual Compartment Grow Tents
Triangle Shaped Grow Tent for corners of rooms
Whatever tent you like, zillions of choices online, or DIY
Starting at $50
Stage one. I did a lot of research on grow tents, they do range in sizes and quality. Because weed has been legalized, grow tents kits have exploded in manufacturing from China to US customers. The one I bought is sold out, but don’t worry there’s hundreds of options left. You can buy turn key solutions that have most everything to start, but I don’t recommend. The cheap stuff is fine, Vivosun is one of many big makes out there. The more expensive stuff has thicker nylon fabric, studier zippers and are just more durably built, if there is such a thing for a tent. They are mostly catering to semi-pro weed growers, don’t care. Just be gentle with your tent, no sudden movements, and take it easy on the zipper. I can tell that’s the part that will break without even looking at one. I like this series of Vivosun because they have two sections, one for seedlings, one for plants. Probably the optimal setup is THREE LED lamps, two for the seedlings, floors one and two, and one for the plant section. But I just got two lamps to start. At any rate, it allows you to seed and grow so you always have something to eat.
I point out the triangle shaped tent from Vivosun as a unique option for those who are looking to shave every square inch of their apartment.
Yes, you can build your own. But when they start at 50 bucks, why bother? Just the thought of cutting circles in fabric is enough to stop me, and I’m handy.
Lastly, I can tell the external piping is going to mess things up when they hit walls, but hell, cutting holes in drywall is easier than cutting holes in fabric for me. I’m a caveman however.
600 Watt LED, (buy 2 or more)
Whatever LEDs you like, or HID, or Fluorescent
Stage two. Grow lamps have evolved over time from buzzy sounding fluorescents, to HID’s, to early LED’s to newer ones that have no fans for quiet operation. With lamps and fans, you want low noise indoors, so that’s why I choose a fanless option for LED. You can shave a few dollars if you go with LED’s with fans. I’d say 600 watts is good, if you get a big 4’ by 6’ foot tent okay, maybe a couple of 1000 watts would be appropriate, but make sure it’s a tall tent. On tents 5’ foot or lower, there is a risk of the plants getting too close to the lamps and browning out the tops. Some grow lamps have automatic timers, even bluetooth and apps, but I’m going with $10 external timers, and I choose lights that best fit my needs for the lowest price. Forget apps, we want idiot-proof and reliable, not fancy. This is already state of the art tech in growing food as it is, and I am comparing myself to $30,000 self-contained turnkey setups in trailers like Growbox, or $5,000 setups like Farmshelf. LED is probably the best, since it’s efficient and doesn’t generate a lot of heat. I would see running hot HID’s in a plastic tent as a safety hazard. Generally, you better test your setup when done for safety, because no one else is going to. All the reward, and the risk, including injury and loss of property, that’s on you, not me. Myself and Azazel News are not liable nor responsible for your outcomes.
Like tents, I believe there’s a million made in China overpriced cheapies lying about in Amazon warehouses, and yes, for the near future, they will make more. Don’t panic, but yes buy TODAY for your desired selection. I got everything I wanted by the skin of my teeth. My checkout cart said my tent was out of stock then I reloaded and then it came back! You are probably not going to be as lucky.
4" Carbon Filter (optional)
4" Aluminum Ducting, 25’ long with 2 brackets
So stage three here is to get HVAC going. Unfortunately, the fan I bought just sold out. I compared my AC Infinity brand blower compared to popularly sold Vivosun and iPower, the AC Infinity make seems better all around, better motor, better fan blades, better housing, better bearings, better voltage regulator for speed control, they obviously put a lot of thought into it. Plus they have a controller of sorts that can shut down the fans when a certain humidity or temperature is reached. Now, this is different from a thermostat and humidistat for the space heater and humidifier we are going to put in the next stages, but it is a nice feature, because it will keep the setup from blowing optimal heat and moisture away so your electric bills are slightly less. A bonus, the AC Infinity doesn’t really cost much more. So a clear winner. Unfortunately, sold out. So yea, shop for a lesser make, sorry.
The carbon filter is optional, it is really sold to filter the smell of weed from stinking up your whole house, so you may not care to have this.
I purchased 4” ducting from AC Infinity again, because I like the black paint. Will it chip off over time as I monkey with it? Probably. Does it look better than bright shiny silver ducts that screams, “I surreptitiously jerry-rigged a weed grow operation in my mom’s basement because I have nothing better to do besides play Fortnight”? Oh yea, it does. It’s in your house. Have some self-respect. Pay the extra buck fifty for black matte paint.
Finally, make sure you are getting the right diameter fan and duct work for you tent. 4” is standard, but 6, 8 and even 10” is available for larger CFM’s. (Actually cubic foots of air moved per minute.)
Honeywell Fan Heater
or if no separate Temperature Controller
Honeywell Fan Heater with Adjustable Thermostat
Stage four, heating. Some of you may need AC or even dehumidifiers, but I assume you live in paradise somewhere then, and don’t need my help. Things get interesting with controlling heating, because you can’t do that outdoors. Having an optimal temperature all the time really encourages the highest production. So, to do that, we are going to have a sensor and an action, or a thermostat to regulate shutdown of our heater. You can either buy a dumb space heater, the first option for $25, plus the cool Inkbird temperature and humidity controller listed two sections ahead, or you can get the $43 one with a built-in thermostat. Or both the smart and the Inkbird if you are paranoid. It is actually cheaper to get the Inkbird plus dumb heater and dumb humidifier, but it’s not all that simple as we see in the next section. The dumb heater is also smaller, every square inch counts in a tent.
Honeywell Humidifier 1 Gallon
or if no separate Humidistat Controller
Honeywell Humidifier with Digital Humidistat 1.5 Gallon
or Honeywell Humidifier with Digital Humidistat 1.7 Gallon
Stage five, we are mostly done after this, rest is accessories, automation, supplies. So congrats! Now, humidification is something that I’m not sure the weed growers started, but no self-respecting one doesn’t do it. It’s part of climate so it makes sense that it has a pronounced effect. Mostly it’s to prevent fungal, mold, bacterial infections by having TOO MUCH moisture so that water forms on the leaves. Controlling humidity is the worst part of this in my opinion because you have to get distilled water, or reverse osmosis water system at least. Or, you have to use regular water and clean the humidifier with vinegar, baking soda, etc., etc., and for lazy geeks like me, that sucks. We’ll discuss more later below.
But again, I recommend the cheap dumb humidifier, except for the fact that the smart ones have 50 to 70 percent more tank capacity, which is really hard to find. Most are one gallon. The 1.7 gallon Honeywell HEV620 isn’t even sold on Amazon, it’s a Honeywell website only thing, which is nice, because that means no one is looking for it. You are getting some really nice tips here, you are way ahead of the curve, not complimenting myself, seriously. Anyway, the humidistat enabled Honeywell’s are more than double the price, so it’s up to you. An extra 50 bucks isn’t going to kill you on a sub $1000 build though. Why do I keep recommending Honeywell? Because they are an excellent American make, the filters will still be made after all the cheap made in China stuff goes out of business and breaks, the warranty and service is better. Honeywell is good, they are what General Electric should have been. Trust me I’m an engineer.
Inkbird Temperature and Humidity Controller
Programmable AC Outlet Timer
Stage six, automation! Imagine not having to manually regulate humidity and temperature, like a professional greenhouse! This where you see gains on your investment! The Inkbird is ridiculously highly rated on Amazon, not a single bad review in sight. It’s worth it. Sure, you can double it up with smart heater and smart humidifiers, but you may run into some problems Inkbird messing up the smart products auto start and auto stop features, you will just have to see. Just return it if it doesn’t work out. The cheap timers are for the grow lamps. Weed growers do 19 hours on, and 5 hours off, they really want to max out their bud I guess. I would just do whatever is similar for height of summer daylight for your region.
Welcome to stage seven, the lightning round! Every widget and gadget you must have, because high tech growing is all about the toys.
Adjustable Rope Clip Hangers
This is for hanging your grow lamps and main fan, maybe other things. There’s 12 hangers, so that’s plenty.
It’s important to simulate wind, because the plant stems will weaken if not subjected to a bit of resistance while they grow. Funny isn’t it? Use it or lose it applies to vegetation as well.
Bamboo Stake, 4-feet, 25-pack
This is actually the only thing on this entire article that’s overpriced. Over a dollar each for a bamboo stick painted green? Reminds me of those awful days as a kid when my parents used me as free labor for their garden and I swore to never garden. Oh well, things have changed, like a doomsday happening in my lifetime. I’m too rushed to look for alternatives except to steal public works marker poles. Ok that’s a joke. Let me know if you find something clever and CHEAP.
VELCRO Plant Ties
This is the fancy 20th century way of securing stems to stakes instead of cutting up old t-shirts. You’ll probably end up velcroing your ammo painted AR-15 clips to your thighs instead, but what do I know? Why this isn’t the same green as the hideous green of the bamboo stakes, I don’t know. There’s a lot I don’t know!
Trellis Netting with S Hooks
So it’s basically a net you clip on to the poles of the tent to help support growing plants, without stakes or ties. You want one that stretches and has s hooks. I feel that this is ideal for weed because those guys are growing one crop and they all grow the same height at the same rate. It’s probably better to just use stakes and ties for veggies. What if you want to rearrange? Everything becomes a tangled mess, you might snap a fruiting tomato plant in half, etc. This is fancy gardening, but don’t get too cute. There’s a difference.
Automatic Watering Spikes
This wonderful cheap and lazy man’s gadget on second revision turns an old water bottle into a upside down drip dispenser for your container plants for days on end. My goal was to leave this alone for even weekends at a time if I wanted. (After I am 100% confident no hazardous accidents could occur, even if a snooping pet was around.) I only got 6, but I’m getting more for sure, for every single plant I own and owned and killed because I didn’t water them. My recompense, please forgive, garden gods!
Digital Hygrometer / Thermometer
With all the smart devices and sensors we have, we really shouldn’t need a way to measure humidity and temperature, but eh no, we do. Engineers always measure 3 times at least before it’s seen as even remotely reliable. For 11 bucks, get it.
Digital Water Tester, Total Disolved Solids and pH Levels
This ubiquitous made in China meter sold under a myriad numbers of Chinese makes is the only one on Amazon that comes in a set, both the water tester and a pH level tester. It’s to see how bad the tap water, or even distilled, or reverse osmosis system water, is going to gunk up your humidifier.
3-in-1 Soil Tester Kit
This is a modern classic no battery needed gardener’s tool. I’ve had one for a few days and can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong with it. The manual could be a lot better. Maybe I’m just a nerd and can’t figure out idiot-proof devices.
Antimicrobial T-Series Filters for Honeywell Humidifier with Digital Humidistats HEV615 and HEV620
Colorfullife 6 Pack Humidifier Wicking Filter T for Honeywell (no antimicrobial)
ProTec PC-1 Humidifier Tank Cleaning Cartridge 3-pack
I told you the humidifier was going to be the pain in the ass. So if you get the smart Honeywells, they have this wick filter that slowly draws up the water to the system by capillary action maybe, I don’t know. It will help reduce the minerals that will destroy the machine. The official Honeywell filters have a blue outer fabric that is an anti-microbial feature. You really don’t want to be aerosolizing nasty microbes onto your plants or in your house for you to breathe. It could even be toxic! So distilled clean water is best, but then you still have to keep the machine somewhat sterile. Problem is, the Honeywell filters are really expensive on Honeywell’s site, a rip-off on Amazon. They only last a month each. Some people turn it upside down every day just to extend the life of it and clean the filter itself. That is not living the dream my friends. So you can get these cheapie third party filters, but they have no anti-microbe feature. (They are not blue, lol.) So, yes, there’s a workaround, you can buy these ProTec balls that drop in the tank and pretty much do the same thing, kill germs. They look like a baby sucker toys right down to the baby boy blue color so don’t leave them lying about, unless your kid is a microbial petri dish, which he is.
What a pain, at any rate.
DISTILLED WATER OR REVERSE OSMOSIS
Stage eight, actual “gardening”. Continuing on the pain of water for the humidifier, and maybe your hydroponic setup, if you do that, distilling your own water is very expensive, so distilled water is cheaper to buy. Yes I’ve looked into moonshine distillers, copper water distillers, homemade DIY, appliances. It’s all not worth it or even worse, they break because the engineering is done by bonobos who got fired from Google.
Now Reverse Osmosis Kits very plentiful, Amazon Basics has one even. Is it good enough to not mess up the humidifier? Probably not. Plus you have to worry about bacteria and mold, plus minerals. It’s complicated. But luckily, this article really figures all that out in excruciating detail. Suffer with me please.
Ins and Outs:
1 to 7 Gallon Fabric Grow Pots in 20-pack
$20 to $43 depending on size
Stage nine, I made the mistake of buying 5 packs initially and I regret not buying more. Finally I found ONE Amazon link to rule all fabric bag links, all sizes in 20-packs in one listing. My loss is your gain. I wish I had Amazon Affiliate links going, phew coulda made a few buffalo nickels. Oh well. Thank me in the comments? By the way, fabric bags rule, they can carry lots of things besides dirt, they fold way more compactly than pots, and you can throw them in the washing machine, just to make sure no mold or fungus is lying around when you re-use them. Cheap, breathable, many sizes, handles, they are clear winners.
SOIL OR HYDROPONIC
Stage ten, buy local soil and compost from farms or home depot/lowes as second choice. Add other soil ingredients as you grow experience, such as lime for PH, minerals, fertilizers, worm castings, perlite and sands, mulch, or make your own liquid fertilizer and black gold. But don’t worry about that now, just get started with quality soil and compost. Finally, like pots, over buy how much you think you need by 2x, maybe even 3x. Generally you don’t need a bag of compost if you are buying soil that has it already. Compost is for improving last year’s soil. I’m a beginner here, so I’ve never had soil. A beginner writing an expert guide to NYC indoor gardening, okay that’s very 2020 internets. But hey, it’s never been done.
Hydroponic is very doable but more complex, dependent on chemicals and more expensive generally. You can find various kits and hydroponic plant foods online. The one advantage hydroponic has is that it can be almost completely automated for days, maybe even weeks. Other than that, I think it’s kind of a strange way to grow food. I personally think it’s missing something nutrient wise. It’s bad enough that we are using grow lamps which isn’t the full spectrum of the sun, no matter what the sellers claim. If you’ve never done hydro, don’t start now, it’s way too much, all of this to begin with. Try it next year or never. Dirt works. Prove me wrong.
Stage eleven, seeds, you can buy them, or seedlings, or just plant cut up vegetables from supermarket, which excites the “I’m cheap about cheap things but dream of ways to throw more money than at expensive things” person inside me. Personally, I found Home Depot to be out of stock on tomatoes over a month ago, but guess what, a local organic farm had beautiful seedlings this week, in over 30 varieties! What a score. Find your best farm for you, and worship it every so often. I actually never gardened in my adult life, but I love this particular farm so much I’ll drive and gaze upon the empty frozen fields in winter. The produce there is so good. So that’s where you get seedling from, a farm you really love. Otherwise, I bought a 100 dollar survival seed set on Amazon, and some random seeds in store ranging from Walmart to H-Mart to a general store in Vermont this winter.
GROWING HERBS BONUS AND BEST WISHES
Stage 12, you made the final round! Well, to be honest, herbs is where everyone starts, but we are actually finishing that way. My advice? Don’t grow herbs in your $1000 grow tent setup. Get one of these cheeky but not offensive all in one units for the countertop. They automatically light and water and feed your herbs, what could be better? Is it as effective as a grow tent? Hell, no. But herbs are like weeds almost, especially mint, so it’s just fine. Besides, as you are cooking, you can casually but arrogantly slice or snip off some fresh chervil, umm, no, let’s do tarragon, tah tah, like your favorite celebrity chef, who, by the way, is out of a job now, so you are up!
Okay that was a back breaker to work up, my 8th article for all of you, much love and success in your gardening and food security. I’m under tremendous pressure to release this ASAP, so I’m not going to even get to proofread this once. My apologies for any typos, mistakes, factual errors. I admit, I literally don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m just coming up with a $1000 playbook and complete shopping list to make food in your home indefinitely, year round! I think it will work, I hope you do to, and again, best wishes to your own self-contained farm to table! -TUIT