I'm researching techniques for indoor gardening, and soliciting tips on plants that grow well indoors.

My usual sources are turning up frustratingly empty, and the older books I'm finding on the subject all assume that I have land and sun and, mostly, that I'm in the midwest. (Also, they don't address things like nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the soil)

I would eventually like to be growing enough food to account for 50% of my caloric needs in my very small apartment. Is this possible?

@ajroach42 I really like what they are doing with the more mass indoor hydroponics, the ones closer to but on shelves with grow lights. They have a pretty high requirement for electricity and water, but I always though if you stacked enough properly, you'd get a sizable amount.

There were some environment controlled (sterile) versions some startups are trying which also appealed to me. (Including the robotic harvesting.)

@ajroach42 When I did apartment gardening, it was mostly experimenting with what worked. Sun lamps were a big part of it.

Nowadays, I'd suggest looking into building out your own Arduino-driven hydroponics. If you want this for food production, you may be looking at a vertical farming setup. In that case, however, you'll want to balance energy costs (grid and human) vs caloric output.

Maybe also consider mycoculture for some of those calories.

A big challenge will be pest/disease remediation.


Roughly what amount of illuminated surface area does a human need for continuous sustenance?

@Alonealastalovedalongthe @ajroach42 A 2000 calorie/day diet averages out to about 100 watts. High end of quoted efficiency for crop plants with sunlight is 2% efficiency for conversion to usable chemical energy. That can potentially be increased by growing mushrooms on the waste or otherwise extracting usable energy from it. But we're still talking nearly 5000W of sunlight even assuming 100% efficiency of everything else.

@ajroach42 @Alonealastalovedalongthe Indeed, and that's just just *average* light power. OTOH, average insolation in the US is around 19 W/ft^2, so that amounts to around 270 ft^2 of ground area, if that's entirely green ;-)

Though again this assumes everything else in the process is 100% efficient. But I think it does tell you that a roof garden on an 800 ft^2 place at least has some chance of being able to provide a significant fraction of your caloric intake.

@freakazoid @Alonealastalovedalongthe That's a good point, and we'll have more space than that on the ground dedicated to growing.

@freakazoid @Alonealastalovedalongthe sorry that wasn't clear.

At the moment, indoors. When we get back to our house, ground.

@ajroach42 do you eat meat or are you veggie? if the latter it will be tough or even impossible to produce that amount of food in a small apartment.

If the former then aquaponics might be the way forwards as the fish will provide some of the calories - though for indoor growth consider if the cost of growlights will outweigh the reduction in food miles and money spent on food. I'm still not sure 50% is possible but you should be able to get a higher proportion than the veggie only route

@Shutsumon I eat meat. Aquaponics might be hard to pull off in this space, but it is something I am researching for when we have a greenhouse again.

I don't *have* to get up to 50%, that's just where I would like to get. Any significant reduction in dependence on existing shipping lanes would be good.

@ajroach42 you can pull off a mini system with a large fishtank and a growbed (atop the fishtank) but it would probably be too small for you needs

But if you are on ground floor what about window boxes since you won't have to lean out to tend them? Also how about a mini fruit tree in a pot or two for the paved area ... that shouldn't be harmed too much by cat attention (obvs these are british but I'm sure you have them in the US too)

@ajroach42 also mushrooms... yoou can even grow them in a dark cupboard or under the bed or something since they don't need light

@Shutsumon Windows only open about 8 inches, and again there is the cat to worry about. It likes to sit on the ledge by the windows.

Fruit trees are a really interesting idea that I will explore in more detail.

Mushrooms are a great idea, and I will dig in to that some more.

Thank you for the link.

@Shutsumon Technically, yes.

We're on the ground floor, and we have a space behind our apartment that is pave before it opens in to a courtyard.

There are also several cats who make use of that area, and I would not feel confident that food left on the porch would be allowed to grow without being disturbed.

@aldersprig @Shutsumon I feel like there is more conveyed in this picture than I am able to interpret.

@ajroach42 @Shutsumon They're lightweight flexible spikes that won't hurt kitties (etc) but will discourage them from digging. (or napping on your plants).

Of course, if your neighborhood cats like to EAT your plants, can't help you with that.

@aldersprig @Shutsumon Oh, that's neat!

I dunno if it'll eat the plants. I guess we can find out.

@ajroach42 @Shutsumon For what it's worth, i once had a cat eat a cactus but for the MOST part, cats are more likely to nap on plants than eat them.

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