What does you interior setup look like

Rick Moquin

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Spurred by the USB greenhouse yesterday, I thought I would start a thread on interior setups.

To some tropicals are not bonsai, but to others it is a way to spend the winter. Our trees have special needs during this period and I was wondering what type of set up you use.

The attached photos is what I built. The shelving unit was acquire at Home Depot, haven,t seen another since like it since. This particular unit is 60" long, 18" wide and 42" tall. They still stock the 36x18x72. I would like to acquire another one just to make another level. I believe the unit was acquired for around $59.

The humidity trays are cafeteria trays, in this case 4 are used (for each shelf) and span the shelf nicely. In the beginning I use to sit the pots on the pebbles, but came to find out the roots were growing through the drain holes in search of the moisture provided by the humidity trays. Although this was great in order to keep the trees happy between watering, it led to a bigger problem of clogging the drainage mesh. So I added a steel shelf on top of the trays and this problem is all but non existent now, not to mention it provides more room for the trees, and of course more trees :) .

The lighting for this project consisted of 4 double 4 ft fluorescent fictures acquire at around $19 each. the bulbs are T12 and as mentioned in the other thread: a cool white, a soft white, a daylight and a full spectrum comprised the lighting arrangement. I am stil waiting for the info wrt wave length and the benifits of this combination for different species. As stated, this year I replaced all tubes to natural daylight as an experiment. Various reasons, but cost was a prevalent factor. I will post my findings later wrt this experiment. But, one thing I previously mentioned is that the tubes need to be replaced every year, regardless of manufactures recommended life span. The luminescence greatly reduces over time. When the bulbs are changed, the luminescence nearly doubles. I will never have to buy fluos for any other place in my house: the garage, the den, the laundry room, as spent bulbs are recycled to these areas. I even gave some to neighbours.

The cost to run this setup 14hrs/day and bulb replacement $0.55/day.

After I am done with my renovations, I intend to fully encapsulate this set up to form a mini greenhouse, while leaving the top shelf open for aeration.

Because of the relatively short growing season here in Nova Scotia ((about 2.5 months only) for tropicals)), I no longer place my tropicals outside. Although all trees benefit in the presence of sunlight, the side effects outweighed the benefits IMO. The locational move (at both ends) reduced active growth and the constant battle of fighting pests after a short trip outside would further reduce their progress. This past summer was the first year I kept them inside and they never missed a beat.

Now having said that, many folks have different weather patterns and would definitely benefit of outdoor exposure, and hence that is indeed the way to go. However, successes in bonsai is adapting your medium and practices to suit your region and climate.
 

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Rick,

Nice clean set up with only a few minor things I would correct.

First your shelves are adjustable, but on this type of shelf, it is a pain, so I would make the lights adjustable. I use a similar setup, however I suspended my lights from the shelfs with chain, making them very easy to adjust, in fact in order to keep the lights at the optimal 2-4 inches above the foliage, my lights are often at an angle. I personally think your lights on the bottom shelf are too far away from the foliage of most the plants. You can attach multiple lights to a board ot use metal bracket to connect them, in this way you adjust all the lights on one level at the same time, much easier.

Second, the box stores and the home improvement stores will often sell large trays, or in my case I used the lids off of large storage containers for my gravel. In these I drilled a hole and fitted a lamp fitting in it so that I had a small brass tube sealed into it that sticks down below about 1/2 inch, to this I fitted a piece of aquarium hose that runs down the leg, meets the others, and ends up in a 5 gallon bucket. This allows me to water the plants in location, it allows for some water to remain in the tray, thanks to the height of the fitting, but makes over flow a non issue.

Third, you can almost double the output of your tubes by wiring two ballasts in one light casing, in series. You can obtain high intensity lighting without buying special bulbs or fittings. Short of soing that, these shelfs have room for three light fixtures side by side, I would add a third in the center, it is hard to error on the side of too much light.

Lastly, if you simply purchased some plastic sheeting and wrapped it around your shelfs, using clips at the top, so that the two ends meet in the front for easy access, you'll have a nice little green house. The ends can be spaced or closed tight, depending on the humidity and a small muffin fan will allow for air circulation.


Will
 
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Rick Moquin

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Rick,

Nice clean set up with only a few minor things I would correct.
... thanks Will and I did just taht after looking closer to my pics while posting. The house has been a mess with renos and well as you probably giuessed the bonsais sort of took a back seat to the rest, not to mention the holidays.

First your shelves are adjustable, but on this type of shelf, it is a pain, so I would make the lights adjustable. I use a similar setup, however I suspended my lights from the shelfs with chain, making them very easy to adjust, in fact in order to keep the lights at the optimal 2-4 inches above the foliage, my lights are often at an angle. I personally think your lights on the bottom shelf are too far away from the foliage of most the plants. You can attach multiple lights to a board ot use metal bracket to connect them, in this way you adjust all the lights on one level at the same time, much easier.

Yup as mentioned above the set up was not ideal. I have removed the wire shelf and have raised three trays in the process, bringing the trees within 2-3 inches from the lights. Those that were still to far away, were raised on terracotta pots. The remaining tray contains the ficus clump and my root over rock salicifolia.

Second, the box stores and the home improvement stores will often sell large trays, or in my case I used the lids off of large storage containers for my gravel. In these I drilled a hole and fitted a lamp fitting in it so that I had a small brass tube sealed into it that sticks down below about 1/2 inch, to this I fitted a piece of aquarium hose that runs down the leg, meets the others, and ends up in a 5 gallon bucket. This allows me to water the plants in location, it allows for some water to remain in the tray, thanks to the height of the fitting, but makes over flow a non issue.
Great tip and I use to water in situ as well in the past. How do you find the algae formation in your trays? That is why I gave up on it myself as it was too much, not to mention unsightly.

Third, you can almost double the output of your tubes by wiring two ballasts in one light casing, in series. You can obtain high intensity lighting without buying special bulbs or fittings. Short of soing that, these shelfs have room for three light fixtures side by side, I would add a third in the center, it is hard to error on the side of too much light.
Doubling of the ballast is a new one to me, ad I may just do that down the road. Wrt a third light down the centre, yup I thought of that too. Two was never a problem until my trees outgrew the setup. I have way too many, hence why I wanted another shelf. However I have started to cull the herd and given many away to friends and family. The largest portion of this collection is cuttings in various stages of development. I only have about 6 or 8 serious trees, but have difficulty parting with any of the cuttings as they are coming along quite nicely (being developed properly). I have about 9 Scheffleras, that just got reduced after the holidays.

Lastly, if you simply purchased some plastic sheeting and wrapped it around your shelfs, using clips at the top, so that the two ends meet in the front for easy access, you'll have a nice little green house. The ends can be spaced or closed tight, depending on the humidity and a small muffin fan will allow for air circulation.
I was looking more in line (once it gets moved to the rec rm vice the living rm, it used to be housed in the dining rm) of plexiglass with mylar attached (for reflected light) with a clear front, more of a showcase, but that is down the road. The plastic sheeting is definitely the most frugal way to achieve the same end. I must decide in the future where I want to go, regardless many useful tips have been brought forward thanks.
 
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I find that by watering the trays and gravel, not the plants, with bleach every month or so and letting the bleach drain through the hoses into the bucket takes care of algae before it starts.



Will
 

bisjoe

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I put in a greenhouse window in the family room to replace a regular window, that faces south.

While I have to share it with my wife's houseplants, I keep my tropicals on the top shelf where they get sun from 3 sides and the top. On the bottom shelf is a waterfall in a bowl that runs 24/7 for humidity. Even in our gloomy climate I have found that I don't need supplemental light for my tropicals that I keep there. I have a rack for many of my outdoor trees directly on the other side of it, so I can see them through the glass from inside.
 

BonsaiRic

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For a smaller house with no basement this setup has worked well for me.

Dresser Greenhouse
Living in Ohio makes it hard to work with Bonsai during the winter. I wanted to work on some tropical plants but did not have the cash to build and maintain an outdoor greenhouse. My house also has long roof overhangs and few good windows to maintain tropicals indoors in the winter. I considered buying a light cart with a plastic cover for humidity but did not have the space in my house or the money to buy all the accessories.

One winter I decided to build a crude “Dresser Greenhouse”. It was a simple design with a wood frame, a plastic film attached to the frame, plants sitting on humidity trays and grow lights hanging above. This was placed on top of the dresser in my bedroom. The first prototype was only a three sided structure that slid up against my bedroom wall. You can imagine that this did not work out well as excess moisture did not agree with the wall paint. I did not have any sort of air circulation in the first model which allowed some mildew growth. The plants actually put on some growth through the winter. When summer came I put the plants outside under my irrigation system. They handled the transition well and put on more growth.

After the first winter I realized the concept would work but I needed something more functional AND aesthetically pleasing.

I decided to make something that was larger so it would require its own base that would rest on top of the dresser. I built the base to accommodate three of the large, plastic humidity trays. The base has oak pegs glued in it with corresponding holes in each side panel so that the four side panels could be secured to the base. I used two wooden shelf brackets to support the part of the base which overhangs the dresser.

The new design allows me to make each of the four side walls as individual panels for ease of construction and tear-down in case of a move in the future. The side panels’ construction is illustrated in figure 1 (second post). Each side panel is lined with the weather-proofing plastic used for old windows and stretched with a hair dryer. I used the special tape that comes with the kit to secure it to the frame. I decided to add aluminum foil to the back and side panels and a partial strip at the TOP of the front panel to reflect light back into the greenhouse instead of it being lost out into the room. This has proven to keep foliage strong on all sides of the plants. The front panel was built a little taller so that it is not under the top plate. The front panel is attached to the two side panels with a hook-and-eye on each side towards the top of the panels. This configuration allows me to remove the entire front panel to access the plants for watering and maintenance.

The top plate of the greenhouse was engineered to have the oak pegs like the bottom to “lock” the two side panels and the back panel together. As mentioned in the above paragraph, the front panel rests on pegs glued into the base but is not connected to the top plate. The top plate has a hole cut in it to fit the opening of a small squirrel-cage fan that circulates air into the greenhouse. This cut down on unwanted fungal growth. The circulating air escapes through the 4 holes cut into the top plate where the cords for the grow lights are threaded through. There is a vertical rib of wood hanging down from the top plate where the 4 grow lights are attached. Originally I used Incandescent light bulbs but the heat generated and the power usage was too great. I now have three fluorescents and one incandescent bulb. I found that the one incandescent bulb gives me a good level of heat to keep the tropicals thriving.

I used pine for the frame but stained it with a walnut stain to match the dresser. I used spar varnish over the stain to add a nice water resistant layer. This has worked out very well so far.

Being an indoor greenhouse I use mild chemicals for insect control. Neem has been effective as well as insecticidal soap. I usually place the plants in the bathtub for their treatments and allow them to dry before placing them back in their greenhouse.

This greenhouse has brought me great satisfaction over the past two winters as it brightens a tough part of the year for a bonsai enthusiast. I am not trained as a carpenter or an engineer but simply put an idea to paper and figured out how to make it work. I wanted to share this with the bonsai community as a possibility for some who have may have minimal skills like me but would like a way to house a small number of tropicals through northern winters. I don’t have formal blueprints or scale drawings but would be happy to answer any questions concerning construction if someone would like to attempt this project.

Obviously the size of this greenhouse limits the size of the bonsai. One could have a single larger bonsai or numerous shohin or mame bonsai. Most of my tropicals are shohin and not finished bonsai but are in training. BUT isn’t that the point…having something to maintain during the long winters.
 

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BonsaiRic

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Dresser Greenhouse

a few more pics...
 

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My wife has started a certificate in horticulture at the university and her first class was on plant physology. In her section on physiological aspects of plant development they mention that blue and violet waves in the light spectrum are favorable to short internodes and also reduction in size of the petiole, midrib and also blade of the leafs. Red waves have the opposite effect. We are curious if anyone knows of bulbs which use these spectrums as the majority? Or if anyone has played with the spectrums of light to see the effects on their plants?
 

Rick Moquin

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Jason,

This was covered in length by Simon over at GCB. With the update to the new site, this info was lost. I have been in contact with Simon and as soon as he has sent me the info I will post it. Basically it pointed out exactly what you/wife are saying. In his article it also covered the red spectrum and what the benefits were. I do not wish to speculate at this time, but once I have the info I will post it.

Suffice it to say that full spectrum although covers the entire gama of wave length as their name implies, may very well be an expense that is not needed in many case. I can't go any further than that for the time being.
 

Dale Cochoy

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The vast majority of my bonsai are overwintered outside in an unheated greenhouse, so, tropicals must come inside. I have no heated greenhouse. Here are a few shots of my basement "overflow trees" overwintering areas for tropicals.
My BEST tropicals are upstairs in the living quarters and in windows which I've found to work better than fluorescent lites even though it's winter.
BTW, this is in NE Ohio.

I built racks years ago when distributing chinese trees for an importer. These have been put to use for my trees. Each rack has 4 fluorescent lights on chains that can be moved up and down to get as close as possible and spread light as well as possible. The rack clears ceiling by a couple feet and is pot storage in winter when I'm making pots and don't have the storage space I have in the summer. ( the racks are storage space for pots and construction space for pots during the summer :) ). Ditto for the table next to the racks which usually gets a larger tree or two. This area is lighted by simple flood lamps in aluminum work lights. They are "pointable". I have no halogen, etc. lites and no movable chain driven lights.
The trees sit in hospital food trays which I got many years ago when a hospital I used to service was replacing them. They were 10 cents each! I bought a lot! ( note: also good for making "poo balls" in the summer) .
I use a room-sized humidifier and a fan with a slight breeze. I also, for several years now, use the yellow sticky pad bug pads which hang from the racks.
Also, over near my pottery wheel I have two 8 foot bonsai benches. One is there all year and I use for assembly/drying and the other is outside in garden until fall. I installed the same fluorescent lights w/ adjustable chains above them. In the summer when I only have the one bench I simply raise up the lights and move wheel over under the lights.
All in all, the tropics is by far better!:) but, this gets me buy. But, after about 7+ months inside....they are crying to get outside in spring!
I hope this helps. I've done this for many years.
Dale
 

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Rick Moquin

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Now that is a complete surprise. I never took you for a tropical kind of guy. To many this part of bonsai is not quite "bonsai" but also to many this a way to enjoy our passion 365 days of the year. Quite the set up you have there, not to mention some great looking specimens, you should post them some time.
 

Rick Moquin

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Bonsai Ric,

Great idea for a limited space, you seemed to have maximized on the minimum. I had to read your post several times to fully comprehend the engineering of some of it, anyway.

Could you go into greater detail about the mildew?

The fan was incorporated for circulation and alleviated fungal growth. Could you elaborate?

I am taking that their is a front panel to totally encapsulate this green house but is not in the photos, is this correct?
 

BonsaiRic

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Rick,

The first dresser greenhouse design only had three sides and a top which were covered in plastic. The back side of the dresser greenhouse was open and I slid the whole unit back up to the wall. There was NO fan to circulate the air in the first design and the stagnant, high humidity air caused mildew to form on the wall. There was also a mushroom that grew up in one of the pots and spread spores too.(I found it after it released its spores)

The second design incorporated 4 side panels and a top to contain the humidity better, BUT also a fan to circulate some fresh air in from the top of the Greenhouse. Some excess air escapes from between the panels as well as the holes drilled in the top plate where the electrical cords for the lights are threaded through. My plant propagation professor in college indicated that the air movement also helps to create an environment unfavorable to the mildew growth.

The circulating air seemed to eliminate the mildew problem. I also strive to keep the humidity trays cleaned often to minimize bacteria, fungus etc.

Rick, you are correct about the front panel. I included a pic below to show it.
 

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Dale Cochoy

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Now that is a complete surprise. I never took you for a tropical kind of guy. To many this part of bonsai is not quite "bonsai" but also to many this a way to enjoy our passion 365 days of the year. Quite the set up you have there, not to mention some great looking specimens, you should post them some time.

Thanks Rick, I have had this shelving aray for about 18 years now I think? This is my "Overflow" area! :D
 

BonsaiRic

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Dale,
Amazing tropical bonsai for Ohio!!

I usually take my tropicals out for the summer as you do...they seem to explode with new growth.

When you bring them in for the winter have you run into any problems with pests...if so what do you use to handle them?

Eric
 

Dale Cochoy

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Dale,
When you bring them in for the winter have you run into any problems with pests...if so what do you use to handle them?

Eric

Rick,
about 2-3 weeks before I bring them in each fall I move ALL my tropicals into my grenhouse which is empty in the summer/fall. I find I can 'cheat' the season 2-3 weeks in there by closing it up and keeping it warmer and more humid than outside, especially at night. While I have them all in there I spray twice about two weeks apart with hort. oil and two different insecticdes.
That usually gets me through the winter pretty good, although some years I find my ficus start gettig scale towards end of winter. I use a spritzer in the basement for real local spraying and as spring gets nearer I sometimes willtake a few out on a warm day and spray and then rinse off with as high pressure as I dare after a few hours. I only do this once and a while though. I hate moving them in/out of basement so try not to. The yellow sticky pads also help a bit I figure since they always seem to have a lot of carcasses attached to them.:D
No matter how bug-free they are though, they are crying to get out by April!!
Dale
 

Vic N

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Dale, I've seen something similar to your "bonsai benches" in box stores and have wondered where they could be purchased? Thanks, Vic
 

Dale Cochoy

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Vic,
Every time I show a shot of some trees someone asks about the benches:)
These are not the cheaper/flimsy type benches sold at big box stores. These are sturdy professional benches that come in MANY configurations. They are thick and sturdy. I have had most of mine since 1994 and most have spent 12 months a year out in the cold and sun. They are all like new. They can cut the PVC legs to any length you like. Many bonsai vendors you will see are using these.
I have three different styles. The single bench 24" wide, and the double and tripple benches with the 18" tops.
When I got mine they were fairly cheap to ship. They used a trucker "jobber" who at that time only cost me about $50 to get about a dozen 8 foot single, double or triple benches with legs and bases. but I'm sure it's more now.
Here is a link.
http://www.stepmaster.com/garden_center.html

Dale
 

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