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Indoor vegetable grower which blends in with your living room

A while back I watched a news article about restaurants in Tokyo which have begun to grow vegetables in units around the walls of their restaurant area.

Inspired by this, I thought it would be a great idea to be able to grow delicious vegetables all year round, in the comfort of my home, and set about achieving this task.

I had one main consideration on the end product – that it should blend in with the house, i.e. “it should look like part of the furniture”. I didn’t want some Heath Robinson arrangement sticking out like a sore thumb in the living room. So with that in mind I did some thinking and the idea popped into my head saying “Well, why not build the grower OUT of a piece of living room furniture?”.

Now, after doing a bit of research on indoor growing, I came to a couple of conclusions;

  • A lot of the search results seem to involve growing “illegal plants” :(
  • Most people seem to assume that when I talk about my project I want to grow “illegal plants” :(

Refusing to be discouraged, I ploughed on (heh), and started finding useful information about vegetable growing and plants in general;

  • Plants need water (duh).
  • Plants need nutrients (duh).
  • Plants need light (duh).
  • Some kind of breeze wafting over the plants is also needed – this I didn’t know. I guess it’s to do with not letting the air stagnate, plant perspiration, and probably other reasons.

Armed with this knowledge, I now had a fair idea of what I’d need to obtain for the cabinet;

  • A light source
  • A fan
  • A nice self-assembly cabinet

I went shopping for something suitable. Some kind of cupboard type furniture, and found what I was looking for. A self-assembly cupboard with nice windowed doors through which you could see the fine vegetables growing.

Because it’s self-assembly, this opens opportunities for doing my favourite thing – modifying the design B)

Now, this is the Scarygliders Grow-o-matic Vege Grower Mk.1, so I know this will either require tweaking or it’s the first attempt from which I’ll learn lots of things from for the Mk.II, III, ad nauseum.

I needed a light source. I know there are various red/blue LED growlight asemblies available, but for the life of me I couldn’t source any in Japan where I live. So I went instead for a fluroescent strip light. This fits nicely into the cupboard space and has a cord switch. I’ll deal with obtaining LED-based grow lamps some other time, because I want to get the Mk.1 up and running.

I also needed a fan. A visit to my local PC shop solved this and I bought a nice 12V PC cooling fan which has blue LED’s – which I thought might look nice when lit up in the living room – and also comes supplied with a fan speed controller.

For the 12V supply for the fan, I already had a nifty AC adaptor used for powering up hard drives when attaching an IDE to USB adaptor to them, so seeing as I don’t use that any more, that adapter will be the supply for the fan – game’s a good ‘un!

I also needed wire to hook up the strip light to the AC power, and something to cut a 120mm hole through the cupboard walls for fan intake, and air exhaust. I found a nice tool for this, a universal hole cutter.

FInally, I bought a sheet of that reflective blanket used for emergencies.

This is a picture of the stuff involved before assembly. Horribly blurry picture – sorry for that, didn’t realise at the time it was taken..

Flat-packed cabinet, fluorescent strip light, PC fan with variable speed controller, electrical cable with plug, PC fan filters, switched multisockets, and “space blanket” to add a reflective surface. Nothing complicted. The red circular thingy is a “universal circle cutter”, which I thought might be useful for cutting out the holes for the fan and air exhaust.

So, construction began. First thing to do is look at the instructions (all in Japanese), then throw ’em away B)

I need holes for the fan intake and air exhaust, to give any vegetable plants a nice little breeze whilst they grow.

 

Side panel, fan, circle-cutter.

 

First hole was cut, but I had it too high and hit the supporting frame at the top. Oh well, that’ll do for the exhaust…

 

Nice hole, shame about the frame ;)

 

 

Exhausting work ;)

 

Next the other side panel, and a hole cut lower down, to avoid the frame and for the fan…

 

Fan hole.

 

A little more assembly, and the cabinet begins to take shape…

 

Taking shape.

 

Fitting the fluorescent strip – being careful to leave enough space to fit the fanon the inside of the cabinet…

 

Fluorescent strip

 

 

Supply wire for striplight

 

Strip-light fitted and wired up, let’s have a test!

 

Lookin' good so far.

 

Next up, fit the intake fan…

 

Light and air intake fan.

 

 

Fits nicely :)

 

I was a bit puzzled as to why the PC fan wasn’t turning when I hooked it up to the AC adaptor. Turned out that one of the connections which is normally “ground”, was on this adaptor, a non-connection, so had to monkey around with the fan wiring a wee bit. But got it up and running ;)

 

MacGuyver'ed up the PC fan wiring ;)

 

The fan also came with a backplate for mounting the speed control knob at the back of a PC. That’ll come in handy for later.

Next up, fixing the space-blanket. This stuff is very thin and was fiddly to work with – took the most amount of assembly time, in fact…

 

Space blanket.

 

And phew! That’s that bit done. The end result looks lovely!

 

Looks darned good to me :D

 

And after a final bit of assembling, and tidying up, the end result looks like this…..

 

Ta-da!

 

My cat reluctantly agreed to model for me, for a modest fee.

I can also put in other shelves, to shorten the distance between seedlings and light. If there’s too much distance, then the seedlings will tend to get “leggy” and straggly, they’re trying to reach the light of course.

 

Shelving

 

And note the top-left corner of the cabinet where I used the PC mounting bracket to keep the variable speed knob tidy and accessible…

 

Nice tidy job.

 

And it’s ready to start growing delicious vegetables!

 

Ready to rock and roll B)

 

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