Indoor Grow Tables Inexpensive Setup for Winter Production

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon, SK

You don’t need an expensive greenhouse to keep going through the winter. I use  grow tables in my basement. Advantage: you don’t need to pay to heat it. There is a small cost for lighting, but it’s a fraction of what you can make from this type of setup. I can fit 16 trays per table.

This week Gail and I are ramping up indoor winter greens production. A chef’s event coming up means I have to deal with 30 trays of micro greens. We will lay them out on the table and shelves, and cut before Nov. 8. We’ll be doing a winter salad mix, which will be pea greens and a variety of micro greens. Pea greens might seem a little foreign to many people, but when you make them a part of a salad mix, then it is an easy sell. Micro greens are a luxury item at winter markets, and you can charge luxury prices.

SPIN photo grow table in basement 2

Mantis Tiller Perfect For Some SPIN-Farming Contexts

Courtesy of James K., Virtually Green, San Francisco CA

The Mantis comes in two versions.

– Electric
– Gasoline

The electric is the far better choice if you have a power socket nearby. The gasoline version is noisy and not very powerful.

The torque on the electric is enormous. It easily can churn 10 inches deep through hard packed soil and has no problem spitting up large rocks. If you’re using it heavily it may periodically trip its internal circuit breaker when it gets too hot: just wait a few minutes, hit the breaker reset button and resume tilling.

It’s small and light enough to take on a bus carried over one shoulder. A guaranteed conversation starter.

Very sturdy. Have been using one now since 2009 and it’s still going strong.

It’s no substitute for a BCS for larger plots, but for small plots or rooftop use it’s excellent.

Several other SPIN farmers weighed in favorably on the Mantis. Linda Borghi at Abundant Life Farm in Walker Valley NY love love loves hers.

SPIN photo mantis 4


Earthway Plates Don’t Always Work as Labeled

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon, SK

You’ll find that the Earthway plates don’t always work as labeled. Here’s what I have found:

1) The radish plate works for radish, beans and peas

2) The carrot plate works for carrots. A single pass will give you larger sized carrots. Double pass,meaning you make one pass, then another, over the same furrow, will give you small to mid-size carrots.

3) The lettuce plate works for lettuce. You can use single, double, or even triple passes, depending on what your lettuce strategy is.

4) The beet/chard plate works for cilantro, dill and spinach.

5) The spinach/radish plate works for leaf lettuce, radish, baby carrots, arugula, mustard, mizuna, turnips.

SPIN photo seeder c

Tips for Using the Earthway Seeder

Courtesy of Michael K. , Good Fortune Farm, Brandywine MD
If you are having trouble using the Earthway, here are a few tips.

1. Try spraying the interior where the plate rides, and back of plates, with spray wax like pledge, let dry and and polish.
2. The Earthway instructions suggest soaking the plates in a soapy solution and letting it dry.
3. Try different seed varieties to see which work best. For example spinach and beet  seeds vary by 2X in diameter so different varieties will work differently with each plate. Round smooth pea seeds sometimes work better then wrinkled types.
4. Keep the interior as clean as possible. Little bits of dust get behind the plate and cause problems. I use an air compressor to blow out the seeder before use if it looks dirty.
5. I purchased a small vacuum like a dust buster to help remove the seeds.
6. Watch out for spiders building nests in the seed shoot, they seem to like that place and it is tricky to clean out. A weed whacker line works OK or maybe one of those as seen on TV drain snakes.
7. Earthway sells a few other plates for different varieties about $5 each. The popcorn plate works great for okra and some similar sized seeds. The cucumber plate works nicely. They also sell a heavy cabbage or turnip plate. I find it plants too heavy, but it may work for some farmers. Lima bean plate is very size sensitive.
8. Tilt the seeder to the right when seeding it helps to keep the seeds in the plate cups.
9. Alter your pace, sometimes the speed that you push it changes the way the seed react in the seeder.
10. Store it upside down or covered to keep the seed chamber clean.

DDG3 photo 16

Video on Building a Cooler Using the Coolbot

Courtesy of Paul, H., Victory Garden Vegetables, Cobourg, ON

I use the CoolBot, and this is the second walk-in cooler I’ve built using a CoolBot and air conditioner. Last summer I made a 20-minute video about its construction and posted it to our website:

I have yet to tabulate the cost figures. What I can say for sure is that this size works great for us right now, and in fact we are still hardly using even a quarter of it. However we still only have about 5000 square feet of land in cultivation right now, so hopefully our use of the cooler will change as we continue expanding!

As far as time expenditure goes, I would very roughly say it probably took 6-8 full days to get built into a usable state, plus another day here and there spent on aesthetics and touch-ups.

Building a Bike Trailer

Courtesy of Didacus R. Haywood, CA

Here is a link to a bike trailer/dolly. My only modification would be larger wheels placed so they are equal to the bottom of the trailer when it is upright as a dolly and far down enough so that they don’t interfere with the trailer bed when laying flat as a trailer. Of course that part is not critical if you don’t intend to load your trailer wider than the width of the trailer.


The Right Tiller for the Mature Woman Farmer

Courtesy of Barb McK, Mountain View Meadows Farm, Elbert CO
I’m 5’1″ and 50 this year. Not as thin as I once was either. I have an older BCS that was gifted to me by my father. I think they are awesome. Mine has the electric start. Can’t beat an electric start for us more mature gals. I am darned sure my BCS is nearly 20 years, old and it is still running strong. I get a tune up every few years and replace the battery once in a while when it doesn’t start up as fast as it should. That thing is a work horse. I also have a smaller tiller with front tines that is a pull start. NOT my favorite tool at all. My sons like to play with that one. I grow on a small area here, about 1/4 acre, and I’ve been more than happy with my BCS.

Check List For Buying a Used Tiller

Courtesy of James K., Virtually Green, San Francisco

If you are considering buying a used tiller, ask to take it for a spin for an hour where you can till some deep soil.
Tighten up all the bolts you can find and then check to be sure they’re not loose after the hour of  tilling.
Test all the accessories to make sure they work.
Look for any oil or fuel leaks at seals and tubing.
Check to be sure the engine exhaust is clean.
Inspect the tires.
Listen for any odd noises, especially squeals or grinding sounds.

Vertical Bucket Farms

Courtesy of Didacus R. Haywood, CA

Here is something that is fascinating a lot of us in the SPIN Farming community–especially those with far off fields. Using buckets to grow vertical farms.

We cut a bucket off about 6-8 inches from the bottom. Then we take a full bucket, cut a 1″ hole on the bottom, stuff the whole with a wick–cloth, terry cloth or enough cotton cloth to plug the hole. The wick hangs about 12-18″ below the hole and at least 6″ above in order to wick water up into the bucket.

Drill 1 1/2″ a hole about 3″ from the bottom, and another hole about 6″ above it. The next 2 holes are about 3 1/2″ around the side–but start these 3″ from the top. So, each row is staggered 2 down, 2 up all the way around. A 5-gallon bucket will give you 20 holes per bucket.

That’s a lot of plants in a very small area. But wait! There’s more!

Put a lid on the bucket and stack them! You can stack at least 3 buckets easily and stably.

Two important points. Cut a port hole about 3″ from the bottom of the water reserve (bottom short bucket) so you can easily fill the reserve every few days as needed. And, cut about 20 small holes in the bottom of the upper bucket for drainage.

You can plant small plants like strawberries, lettuce and herbs in a 20-hole bucket. Fewer holes for bigger plants. Say, 4 holes for tomatoes, peppers etc.

If you don’t have buckets, perhaps you could build a 3-tier garden from clay?

We usually put about 1 cup of fertilizer in a sock (a nylon is perfect, but any cloth bag or sock will do) burried on the top of the bucket equal to the level of the 1st plants. When the water wicks up to it the fertilizer slowly releases. Worm poop works very well.

Enough of these going could make a micro-micro-farm right against the south facing wall of a home. That could save some walking.

DIY Strawberry Planters

Courtesy of Trevor VH. , Pedal to Petal, Victoria BC
The easiest way to construct strawberry planters is to use 5 gallon buckets. Here’s a description with video of a self-watering vertical strawberry setup. Very cool!