by Kathy OMeal
I do garden outside in the winter using double hoops/high tunnels, cold frames, and a greenhouse built into the side of a hill, which has some passive solar capacity. This all works very well.
A few years back I was lucky to visit Eliot Coleman's 4 season farm in Maine. I live between Zone 5 and 6 so learning the skills he redeveloped from century old information came in very handy.
Yet, I have to say that I really enjoy having (4) 4.6' x 2.4'x 8 foot natural branch garden frames (I took the bark off and smoothed some and then varnished)which have pegs so shelves are easily movable. In these I have 2 each of 2 different wavelength 4 foot florescent lights in $7.00 shop lights per shelf (2 different full-spectrum lights from different companies, each has a little different spectrum...together much more intense).
For the grow containers I use 1 foot cubes, which are made from thin wood, varnished with a safe boat varnish and painted in different motifs on each side. I turn them for the seasons.(sorry sounds obsessive but aesthetics are meaningful to me). These have air holes drilled all the way around. These are breakaway 4 square gardens. This way I can use the same soil mixes indoors and out. I merely carry them to the outside when weather is good and put them all together back into the 4 square puzzle. Would rather have plexiglass but that is too expensive/ OK so I have 6 4x4's growing on vertical shelves, in one room in my home....plenty of fresh greens
I like the foot cubes because I plant a single salad mix in each. This way I can carry it to the table and let everyone cut what they want....company....no problem...just bring 2 instead of 1. It is always fresh, and having the smaller cubes makes it easier for everyone to be able to carry around, doctor etc..I take them to a workbench for pulling out any leftover roots, either test soil myself or add special composting I make myself and then replant them with 3 week old soil blocked seedlings....they're ready to eat in 3 again.
So I start the seedlings in tiny soil blocks and gradually transplant them into the foot cubes. This saves a lot of space and I can use a single heat mat for germination.
They are constantly restocked for the least amount of space.
We have a great deal of fresh produce, onions, pokchoy, arugula, tatsoi,romaine raddichio, the whole caboodle year round this way. There are two of us and I am feeding another family as well.
I bought 8 aerogardens for $10.00 a piece at a garage sale and grow tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in these....make up my own nutrient mixes for pennies and only use their lights for flowering...everything else is used under the cheap full spectrum shop lights...so they are lasting about 3 years without a change....
Now for the really interesting thing....I got involved in a local mushroom growing club....really great stuff, so I drill holes in the wood making up a shelf I keep in a special cellar environment and put spores into the holes and have been eating incredible mushrooms....4 kinds and adding a new kind about every 6 months....I have a lot to learn about mushrooms...
This is so much fun.....
We are also growing potatoes, and some tomatoes and melons vertically by hanging the shop lights vertically from the ceiling....
This has taken a while to put together and I keep expanding as I am able to. People who see this are generally really astounded and want to take a cube home to get them started. I think Heavenly Father wants us to have beauty and delicious high end nutrition.
If we lose our back up utilities also, we have a whopping bunch of fresh produce in greenhouse/cold frames/high tunnels which do not rely on utilities.
Our current project is growing citrus and figs in our cold climate. I am learning from a man who has been doing this for many years. so far we have 2 fig trees and a few lemon trees. We hope to expand a lot by this year though.
I facilitate a local Organic Gardening Club.
I need to take some pictures or video clips of this to send to you so you can post and edit this.
We are in middle of a highwind/storm warning here so I need to be checking the storm guys and tarps outside right now.
We are having fresh 3 seed /whole grain bread, homemade butter, vegetable bean soup, a kale, arugula, red romaine,tatsoi and baby spinach, salad with green onions, pine nut(you can call DEC to find out where the pine trees are you can gather nuts from nearest you....this is usually free) vinegar(from grapes and/or apples)/olive oil and wheat gluten chicken strips with fresh made mozzarella from our neighbors cow, for supper. I give him greens and he gives me unadulterated whole milk.
I would have to pay about $25.00 a plate for this in a restaurant.
My biggest expense is the first cold press olive oil or coconut oil I use and very little electric. Everything else is home grown or produced, or purchased from the Bishop's Storehouse/or local farms and not even costs for seeds as I save my own now. I figure this meal for 4 gluttonous people (2 missionaries and us)costs me about $2.25. and that includes the raspberries (I have raspberries still spitting out several quarts of raspberries in the high tunnels) pie and icecream.
I hear there is a new plastic being made in England and also glass same company which is dong some incredible things in high tunnels/greenhouses. I know there is a huge amount of research happening right now, at Cornell University Geneva Experimental Station which is very close to me, to find out why this is causing doubles in yields and sizes of fruits and vegetable.
We are just getting permission to raise fish now.
This is a very complicated process at this point because of the regulation in our area. I have been taking classes in Icthiology from a local University to learn how to farm fish. Problem is, the more I am around them the more I fall in love with them and don't want to eat them.