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Classroom gro-lights/walls'o'water/hard times

  • Subject: [cg] Classroom gro-lights/walls'o'water/hard times
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Mon, 26 Dec 2005 09:01:32 -0800 (PST)

Hi, Judy and all,

Interesting multilog on growing lights, thanks all for
an interesting exchange of ideas, and happy winter
holiday season to all. Nothing better than thinking
about gardening when it's cold outside (actually, here
in the Carolina piedmont, it's shirtsleeve weather
this morning...) and when pre-enlightenment Grinches
run Washington.

Anyway, so you want it for classrooms, Judy? You might
want to check out
The National Gardening Assn, building on the
experience of the Knox Parks Foundation in Hartford,
Conn., came up with a grow light for the classroom as
part of their 'Grow-Lab' program. You may want to
contact Jack Hale at Knox Parks to see what their
experience was. NGA has pushed the Grow-Lab program in
a big way, including using very fast growing mustards
to get something green for the kids to see.

In our very large school district,
Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the district purchased
Grow-Labs (a virtual mini-greenhouse) for all our
third grade classrooms several years ago. Many if not
most go unused - you might check your local school
science program to see if you don't already have some
around. Many teachers are afraid of them, I think -
new teachers don't know what to do with them, since
the training money was just for the first year.

I used one of these Grow-Lab one year more-or-less as
they suggest as a 'garden in a bubble' (black seeded
simpson meets W.?) (Of course, they are also great for
just growing transplants to set outside - if you have
a school garden, and if you have the people and access
to keep it going when school is not in session; or if
you have a community garden partner for the school/s
(win-win). Three observations:

* I philosophically have all kinds of issues with
growing gardens for kids indoors under highly
artificial conditions - only in America! But the kids
did love growing their own salad garden and the
harvest and 'salad party' was a huge success.

* The units themselves do use full spectrum bulbs but
don't get overly hot - probably, Mike, NGA worked to
design these right, youth gardening is one of their
main 'things'. They are worth looking at to steal
ideas from, Judy. One touch is a big cover of flexible
plastic sheeting that covers the whole unit like a
tent, holding in moisture and heat. The other is a
simple tray-based 'self-watering' system. The frame is
metal, and reasonably stable - better than any
jury-rigged 2x4 system I've ever seen (or made
myself). I think the easiest way to make a poor folks
version might be with that open metal restaurant
shelving (like what I saw in Chicago). We get bunches
of that sometimes at the recycling center's swap shop.

* NGA says they do discounts etc, and they are a
non-profit that, back in the early days, was very
close to ACGA. So, you might want to ask 'em about
recycled units, if they can cut you a deal, let you be
a demo, etc etc

Now, about wall'o'water. Hmmmm. Ken, this is the
second time I've heard good things about them
recently. A local small grower who has a beautiful
little (2-3 acres) truck farm swears by them, using
them that same way of getting an early start (he grows
summer tomatoes, and beats the market by 2-3 weeks
consistently. He is a skeptical guy, but swears by
'WOW'. So, two questions:
Where can you get walls'o'water cheap enough so
community gardeners can afford them, and are there any
alternatives or jury-rigs that work as well?


Don B, Charlotte, NC

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