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end of the cellar garden experiment

Tomatoes on scaleToday, Oct 17th (day 348), I’m calling the cellar garden experiment complete.  It has served its purpose.  It demonstrated that a garden can produce food in small quantities with very little light, but to be abundant it needs a considerable amount.  Only the plants closest to the lights produced anything significant.  I had thought about using a spare bedroom as a hobby aquaponics room, but that room doesn’t get much light.  This experiment demonstrated that I’d need to supplement the light in that room too much for it to be worth it.

We have enjoyed the peas and tomatoes it produced as tiny little treats during the experiment.

I posted the final, detailed results on the results page.  In summary, the peas produced about three-eighths of a pound and the tomatoes produced just over one pound.

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day 253: green tomatoes

Green TomatoesBack in April when I lost the peas, I figured the experiment was over.  However, once I pulled out the pea plants, the tomato plants started growing far better.  I let them continue on even though I didn’t have much hope for them.   I got lots of flowers on them, but no fruit.  I assume I wasn’t doing a good job pollinating them.  A couple of weeks ago I decided it was time to end the experiment and move them outside, but I was too busy with other stuff and didn’t get around to moving them.

Today for the first time I saw green tomatoes growing!  I counted four of them.  There are other flowers so I gave the vines a good shaking.  Maybe more will grow.

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rest in peas

In late April we went on vacation.  When we returned the pots in the cellar garden experiment were bone dry despite being flooded when we left.  Although the tomato plants were ok, the peas were dead.  I pulled them all out on May 12th.  This means the tomatoes will have more light now.  The experiment is nearing the end anyway.  Given the production level, I think I have gone far enough.

We had a friend taking care of the chickens, but I didn’t care enough about these plants, especially this late in the experiment, to impose on her to also take on watching over the cellar garden.

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Cellar Garden ExprimentAccording to my Kill A Watt electricity monitor, the cellar garden experiment used an even 100 kilowatt hours of electricity in 61 days for an average of 1.64 kilowatt hours per day.  My electric bill works out to about $0.145 per kilowatt hour once you count all the fees and taxes, so this experiment is costing me a little less than a quarter per day in electricity.

Were I to do this for real, I’d set up the lights differently and would probably get all eight pots to have the same amount of light the two end pots do now without using any more electricity.  However, even that way, it probably still wouldn’t be worth it.

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day 140: first tomato flower

first tomato flowerToday the first of the tomato buds opened up.  It is amazing how slowly the tomatoes are progressing despite looking so healthy.  As usual, sorry for the lousy pic, the conditions aren’t great and neither is my skill.

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day 127: growth report

Peas plants in pot 8

Tiny tomato flower buds

Tiny flower buds on the pot 7 tomato plant.

The peas in pot 8 are still doing well. They are quite bushy and produce four or five peas every few days.  They do well for the first four feet.  Once they get above the top of the light, they turn yellow and weak and head back down into the light. Then once back in the light they do well. The peas in the other pots aren’t doing so well.  Several have died and most aren’t producing anything worth mentioning.

The measured tomato in pot 1 is now about 33 inches tall.  It has two clusters of flower buds. Still no flowers.  The tomato in pot 7 now had a few tiny flower buds as well.  The tomatoes in the other pots aren’t as tall, and some are small and thin, but none have died.

Tomato plant in pot 1

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day 112: first tomato buds

First tomato budToday I saw buds on the tomato plant in pot 1.  That plant is now about 28 inches tall.  It is clearly the tallest of the tomatoes, but some of the others are starting to look like they’ll make it.  I really should have waited to transplant them.

The peas in pot 8 are still doing well.  Some of the others, not so much.  A few have died.  A couple looked like they were dying, but then they put up a new vine down at ground level.  I don’t understand that.  I continue to harvest a few peas at a time.  I’m keeping the weights on the Cellar Garden Results page.


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day 105: first harvest

Today I picked one pea (0.03oz) from pot 7 and four peas (0.44oz) from pot 8. Unfortunately, we ate them before I thought to take a photo.  They were just enough to make you want more.

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day 102: growth report

measured-tomatoMost of the pea plants continue to grow, but the one in pot 4 and one of the ones in pot 6 are dying.  Some of the others have lots of flowers and a few peas.  None of the peas are large enough to bother harvesting though.

The measured tomato is up to about two feet tall.  Some of the tomatoes are doing better than others, but that was expected due to the premature transplantation.

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day 89: growth report

Pea flowerThe peas in pot eight, the densely packed pot near the right hand light, are getting quite crowded.  If the tomatoes in that pot grow they’ll be struggling for room.

I’ve seen several flowers and several peas, but none have gotten large enough for me to think they are ripe yet.  I did pick three tiny ones because their edge was turning brown.

The tomatoes continue to grow slowly.  The measured one in pot one is now 19 1/2 inches tall.  Although it looks very healthy, it just isn’t growing very fast. (The yellow tint in the photo is just from the bright lights.)  Perhaps they just need more light or warmth.


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