Growing with an S-Series
Customers buy our S-Series for a number of reasons and often have similar questions related to growing in them, so we thought it made sense to share some of our insights, as we not only design and make them, but we also enjoy using them.
Our insights are by no means gospel and it’s worth remembering that by growing stuff you are dealing with life, so a bit of trial and error is often necessary!
The first thing to mention is that the S-Series gives you the ability to control your growing environment and automate the heating, lighting, watering and ventilation. This is important as it means you can cater for your plants needs in a way not possible in a regular greenhouse, or outdoors, which leads to all sorts of benefits and possibilities.
There a so many benefits ranging from eating as fresh as it gets produce, to reducing all manner of waste and improved mental health. However, we’re not psychologists and this is meant to be a blog about our experience of growing with an S-Series, which we hope will be of some use to you.
Assuming you appreciate the physical limitations of the enclosure which include a 1.3m max growing height, then it’s more a case of what can’t you grow, than what you can. Our mission is to help people grow more and so it’s worth considering the less obvious factors such as habit, enjoyment and confidence as well as results.
The automation available with the S-Series makes creating a habit that much easier, as it requires less of your precious time. If you can simply peek at your plants without necessarily having to do anything, you’re more likely to do it with greater regularity and develop a habit of checking in with your plants.
From here you’re more likely to tinker with them as you deem necessary, experiment and then take enjoyment out of any successes, which breeds greater confidence. As this cycle builds, your growing ambitions and results will likely too and before you know it, you’ll be growing more!
Therefore, if you’re not particularly experienced or green-fingered we’d suggest starting with leafy greens / salad leaves, as they’re super easy and go from seed to harvestable produce in roughly 6-8 weeks.
What you want to get out of the S-Series will likely steer you from here. For example, many customers use our smart mini greenhouses for growing the usual suspects – salad and veg. However, others (admittedly more fringe) have written to us with reports of how they’ve been used to look after their treasured Orchids whilst on holiday and even propagating Sequoia trees!
Some folk simply use the S-Series as a propagator (a plant nursery where you can germinate and develop very young plants) before planting out in the garden, greenhouse, polytunnel, or allotment, whereas others use them all year round.
Once you’ve decided what you’d like to grow, your next thoughts might turn to how.
There can be huge variation between different types of plants and how they like to grow, so it’s difficult for us to specifically prescribe what set up might be best. As a rule of thumb, seed trays work well with leafy greens e.g. Rocket, etc. whereas we find individual pots work better for propagating plants like Tomatoes. This is because you might want to move them elsewhere at some point, which is difficult to do without damaging their roots if they’ve grown together with other plants in a seed tray.
Maybe the biggest influence on which container is best to grow in, is what the roots want to do naturally. Take herbs for example, Parsley tends to produce a taproot that wants to grow vertically down and therefore would be suited to a deeper pot. Whereas Mint prefers to spread its roots horizontally, so grows well in the wider and shallower seed trays. A quick internet search asking if your chosen plant is ‘deep or shallow-rooted’ should do the trick if you’re unsure.
We designed the S-Series to be versatile and so you can use all manner of containers to grow in. Moreover, using standardised micro-irrigation fittings e.g. drippers, sprayers, etc. you can create overhead, soil level, or bottom / reverse watering. (Both the S8 and S16 come with a standard dripper setup, which we’ve found cover most soil level and bottom watering bases, but you can easily add fittings as you see appropriate.)
The next consideration is growing media – again there’s a world of options, but to avoid that rabbit hole for now, we’d advocate making your own, or using peat free compost.
An entire blog could be written about each element, but to keep things simple and help us offer better value, we’ve put together the right amount of kit e.g. S16 Tray, Pot and Compost Bundle to give good usage optionality – you then just need seeds, plugs, or cuttings.
It’s not essential to use the drip trays and capillary matting that come with those bundles, as you might not be concerned about water usage having harvested a load of rain water. In which case we’d suggest you use a free draining grow media such as the Coco Grow+ (which you get in that bundle) and don’t use the drip trays, just place the drippers in the seed trays or pots and let the water drain through everything.
Dialling in your environment
As was mentioned above, it’s a good idea to start with something relatively simple to get a feel for the S-Series and in doing so develop a sound foundation which to start experimenting from.
We’d suggest setting your light to 14 hours a day, which is equivalent to the start of Spring and so suitable for a wide variety of plants you might wish to grow.
Set your watering to come on twice a day, firstly around the time your lights come on (morning) and then 10-12 hours later. It’s important that if you’re using drip trays to note that 10-20 seconds of watering might be sufficient once a day, as you don’t want to over do it and have your plants sitting in constantly soggy soil / compost. Until you become familiar with how much water your setup is using, it’s worth keeping an eye on it and don’t be afraid to adjust the watering duration as you see fit.
For good growth, soil needs to be around 15°C, colder than that and the rate of growth slows. If the soil is less than 5°C, growth will be practically non-existent. (This is why folk don’t need to mow the lawn during winter.)
The heating cables in the S-Series are designed to be used with the shelving so your seed trays and pots are sat on them. This way the heat gets absorbed by the soil, which is more efficient than heating the air. We would recommend that you set your heating to come on any time the enclosure drops below 20°C. The sensor is located in the enclosure and so when the lights turn off, the temperature will drop as naturally happens at night.
The S-Series has an aluminium frame and is designed with airflow in mind, so it’s unlikely you’ll be able maintain a steady 15°C all year round. However, you will be able to stop the soil from freezing in all but extreme conditions, push out hot air and provide an environment suitable for continued growth all year round.
As a follow up to this blog, we plan to write another explaining how you can influence your plants growth and trigger the fruiting and flowering stages at will through specific environmental settings, so look out for that one and happy growing!