Sunshine Box Reiterated

Here’s the sunshine box, whose interior dimensions are 6’W x 3’D x 4’8″H:



Gotta love that 1970’s carpet, eh? 😀 The reason it’s covered in poultry netting:



Can’t have Miss Awesome in there batting the tomatoes around. The most damage she managed to do was snaking a paw through the poultry netting to play in the soil of the container on the right. She likes to sleep on top of the box, especially when the lights are on to make it warm. Anticipating that, the top is covered with ¼” hardware cloth rather than poultry netting.

The floor is painted in white latex paint to keep it waterproof. I made it such that it can be taken down to all easily stored flat pieces without tools — it’s stuck together with ½” diameter wooden dowels that are under just enough lateral stress to hold them in place. They pull out readily enough by hand (if you have a sufficiently strong grip), but getting them in place is easier with a small urethane mallet. The light stand in the front is easily moved out of the way for access, and of course those hanging from the top are adjustable via the customary chains.

To provide for pollination and avoid early ripening I kept an oscillating floor fan on the same timer as the lights. It worked, but even with ideal temperatures and humidity the fruit was a bit small, more of a medium than a large size due to only marginally effective pollination. I considered adding smaller oscillating fans at several locations inside the box rather than the one big one outside, but all of the smaller fans I found were pretty cheesy looking. I could have got in there every day with my electric toothbrush to pretend I was a bee, but I’ve been a lazy gardener ever since I was a wee small child and I’m set in my ways.

I went with the fluorescent lamps for two reasons. The first is that I had four of the six hoods on hand already, and the second is that they’re easier on the electric bill than high pressure lamps. I was considering biting the bullet and setting up a high pressure system when some kind of virus or fungus wiped out everything. I think it came from the big green ceramic container with rosemary in it — we’ve replaced the rosemary in it several times and each time the plants have crashed in the same way. I washed the container thoroughly, rinsed it with a 10% bleach solution, and left it in the sun for a couple of days before rinsing it thoroughly with clear water before loading it up with new potting soil, but it crashed anyway, and crashed first. I thought we might get away with it, but the nasties had already spread.

Since the very tasty Brandywine tomatoes crashed we’ve been stuck with nasty damn agribusiness tomatoes. Yuck. We grew some last year that were simply marked “Tomato” at the feed store, thinking we’d just take our chances with the unknown cultivar… They were freaking market tomatoes, the same kind of tasteless garbage that comes from the supermarket. I was so disappointed that I saw no reason to bring them inside to the sunshine box. They were okay when they got their energy for free from the sun, but I wasn’t about to invest electricity bills to perpetuate the disappointment.

So there ’tis. Be well, friends and neighbors!


5 thoughts on “Sunshine Box Reiterated

  1. LAMarcom

    When I find myself in the States I always grow my own tomatoes. (Outside in big pots). Last year I had six plants: two cherry tomatoes, one yellow tomato, and three ‘normal’ tomatoes. I hate those store bought ones too. No taste to them at all.
    Have never experienced any problems with growing tomatoes, except last year I did let my plants get way too tall, but I still had fruit for several months and actually more than I could keep up with.
    Very impressed with your work here. I imagine you’d be really good with aquariums too.

  2. theinfiniterally

    Too cool. I love DIY inventions. Good thinking to make a seat for Miss Awesome.

    I can’t tell you how many times ‘wouldn’t it be awesome to grow Brandywines indoors’ has crossed my mind. Some of the dwarf varieties that have been developed by a network of home gardeners over the last few years might be easier to rein in, I don’t know. None would offer quite the flavor of a BW.

    You never know where you might go wrong with tomatoes. They’re the cottontail rabbit of the plant pathogen world. Everything is after em.


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