The purpose of this information is not to make you an instant horticulturalist, but rather to provide you with the basic knowledge you will need to enjoy raising plants and flowers in your Klima-Gro system with minimal fuss and effort.
By necessity, we can only cover the broad base of how to grow common plants. We cannot, for example, devote a lengthy treatise on how to raise orchids or other exotic varieties; this would require a separate book in itself. Incidentally, many varieties of orchids can, of course, be grown superbly in Klima-Gro. Specialized information is available at your public library, plant and garden supply stores, greenhouses and from your state and university extension services. A list of several recommended books/ publications is included at the end of this manual as a starting source for such detailed information.
What Klima-Gro is, and what it can do for you.
First of all, Klima-Gro is not a toy. It is a highly sophisticated, precision engineered, 100% solid-state, controlled climate growing system. It provides optimum conditions for most plant growth right in your own home, office and classroom.
With this system, you can raise almost anything a commercial greenhouse can, albeit on a smaller scale, subject only to mature plant height. You can have blooming flowers throughout the year . . . or fresh vegetables, herbs and spices . . . or a display of foliage plants. Or a combination of the three, if you wish.
What makes plants grow?
Basically, there are three requirements for proper plant growth, blooming and fruitfulness: balanced light, heat and moisture. Take away any one of these, and the result can be stunted or dead plants.
Used properly, according to the instructions contained in this manual, your Klima-Gro will fulfill these three requirements and provide near optimum conditions for successfully raising your own living, blooming garden whether you're in suburbia or an 80-story high-rise building.
What plants to raise.
While most any plant will grow excellently in your Klima-Gro, the main and obvious limitation is mature plant height. You have approximately 21" of height from the seedbed to the center of the roof and this will determine what plants you can and cannot grow. (Approximately 37" of height in the KG-3000. Approximately 45" of height in the KG-5000.)
In addition, some plants, like some people, are just plain fussy and temperamental. Some orchids, cacti and most exotic plants fall into this category.
For this reason, we have listed a variety of the most popular plants and flowers which are most suitable for growth in the Klima-Gro system; they are listed in chart form. These will require little more than proper light, water, temperature control and fertilizer.
After you have had some experience with your Klima-Gro, you will probably want to get into experimentation and/or specialization. By all means, do so. We can only provide general guidelines in this manual. Before you invest time and money, become informed of the requirements for the varieties which hold special interest for you. Visit a greenhouse, garden store or your public library.
Mixing plants and flowers.
There is no reason why you can't mix a variety of foliage plants and flowering plants to fashion a stunning floral display. There is only one requirement: All plants sharing the same Klima-Gro unit must be compatible as to temperature, moisture and light requirements. You couldn't, for example, raise ferns and cacti in the same bed.
To help you make a selection, the plant and flower charts clearly indicate these three requirements by variety . . . the rest is up to your imagination and creativity to fashion a display to suit your specific tastes. We suggest that, rather than have an entire display of flowering plants, or just foliage plants, you mix and match flowers and foliage to create a setting that enhances your room decor.
The amateur chef will find a list of the most adaptable vegetables, herbs and spices that are particularly suited to Klima-Gro cultivation. For example, indeterminate cherry tomatoes will produce fruit 12 months a year from the same plant. Garden lettuce will grow the year round. Spices, too.
What soil to use.
We strongly recommend the use of a good, prepackaged general purpose houseplant soil. Selection of a proper growing medium is vital; don't scrimp to save a couple pennies. You will need approximately 2 cu. ft. of mix for the KG-1000, 3 cu. ft. for the KG-2000 and KG-3000, or 4 cu. ft. for the KG-4000 and KG-5000.
There are a variety of such soil mixes available, some excellent, some far from satisfactory. Whatever brand you select, it should contain sterile ingredients, relatively free of weeds and diseases. It should contain vermiculite and ground peat moss (or a similar product, such as ground bark). The Ball Co., through one of its divisions, Carefree Garden Products, Inc., West Chicago, III., puts out a quality 100% artificial soil mix, Jiffy Mix, which is excellent. Other satisfactory brands are Pro-Mix and Readi-Earth.
The brand you choose should contain a sizeable portion of vermiculite, generic term for a type of expanded rock. It has the property of being able to adsorb soil nutrients, and release them through cationic exchange to feed your plants.
It is vitally important that you choose a Sterile soil mix, otherwise you may be planting in a medium contaminated by plant pathogens - bugs, fungi, bacteria, etc. - which can be harmful to your plants. Most (and all good) pre-mix soils are sterile. Double check the bag label to make sure, and if it doesn't specifically state that the mixture is sterile, beware - don't buy it.
There are a variety of general-purpose house plant fertilizers suitable for use in your Klima-Gro in both liquid (water soluble) and pellet timed-release forms.
General purpose fertilizers contain three basic elements: Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. Each of these elements has its own job to do in promoting proper plant growth.
These elements are always listed in this order on the fertilizer container, with numbers showing the percentage of each element: for example, 5-12-8. We recommend the use of low-analysis fertilizers not to exceed a formula of 20-20-20. Higher analysis mixtures have been subjected to increased processing which results in lower quantities of valuable trace elements (boron, manganese, iron, zinc, etc.). Check your fertilizer label to insure that such trace elements are included as a part of the mixture; if not, these trace elements can and should be purchased separately.
You can choose from a variety of liquid or pellet type timed release fertilizers. Rapid-Gro is an excellent general purpose liquid type; the 3-M Company manufactures a good pellet-type, Precise Time Release Plant Food. Other acceptable brands are Osmocote (Sierra Chemical), Ortho general purpose house plant food and Magamp (W.R. Grace). Check the container label for the formula, and if you stick to a 5-10-5, 10-10-10 or similar makeup, you should do fine. Avoid the use of a high nitrogen formula, as it can result in producing excess stem growth and excess height. We suggest you experiment to find which product will do the best job for you.
Do not over fertilize. Next to over watering, this is the most common mistake made by the beginning grower. Always apply fertilizer strictly according to label directions. Too much fertilizer can kill your plants.
If your soil mix does not have fertilizer already added, fertilize before planting and follow label instructions strictly as to when to refertilize. As a rule of thumb, liquid fertilizers should be added about every 10 - 20 days; pellet types about every 60 - 90 days. But again, since conditions will vary depending on what you have planted and how many plants you have planted, experiment to see what works best for you, using label instructions as a start. As you become increasingly familiar with the Klima-Gro system, you'll become familiar with just how much to use and when to apply it.
Too much water can cause the plant roots to rot. To water your Klima-Gro properly, follow these simple steps:
1. Insert your Klima-Gro moisture sensor deep into the soil at various spots and read the moisture level on the control panel dial. Should you need more moisture, sprinkle about a quart of water evenly on soil surface (using a watering can) and let it sink in. If possible, water under the leaf surfaces, directly on the plant bed (wet leaves should be generally avoided). Continue this process until the meter shows the proper level of moisture content.
2. Test the soil every other day or so. When the moisture sensor tells you it's time to add water, repeat step 1, above.
3. Because plants, exterior air and humidity conditions can vary from one section of the country to another, and from season to season, you may find you'll have to water more often, or less often. As you become experienced with your Klima-Gro, you'll be able to determine when and how much water to use in your particular situation.
NOTE: DO NOT USE SOFTENED WATER!
Your Klima-Gro is equipped with two reservoirs, one on each side, running the length of the base. You will note that the bottom of the base is slightly convex; this is to provide instant runoff of excess water into the reservoirs, and prevent excess water from rotting plant roots. While we do not often recommend it, should you have to leave your Klima-Gro unattended for a period of up to 30 days, you can purposely overwater the soil bed. Do this as follows:
Distribute water evenly over the soil bed surface and let it sink in. Continue adding water until the moisture level in the bed is on the high side for the plants you are growing, as per the plant charts. If you require a low moist reading normally, water until your meter reads high moist, or even low wet. This should hold your Klima-Gro for up to 30 days. However, this can and will vary. We recommend that you experiment prior to leaving the unit unattended to determine the proper amount of water to add, and how long your plants will have adequate moisture. You can do this by saturating as per above instructions, and checking the moisture level daily to determine the length of time before it is necessary to rewater to maintain the required moisture level in the soil.
All plants require light for growing and darkness for respiration and are divided into three main categories:
1. Long day - short night plants, can require as much as 18-20 hours of light.
2. Long night - short day plants require more than 12 hours of darkness for proper growth and flower initiation and development.
3. Light-neutral plants are not nearly so dependent on day-darkness cycles.
Note: Much of the information in this section was gleaned from an excellent publication, Plant Growth Lighting. You will find it well worth your while to read this manual. You can obtain a copy by writing: General Electric Company, Lamp Business Division, Nela Park, Cleveland, OH 44112, and requesting the pamphlet by name, and by number, TP-127.
Plants will grow with or without natural sunlight. The Klima-Gro has built-in lights that should provide sufficient light for proper growth, under normal conditions. The plant charts list the length of time various plants should have light for optimum growth. But again, these are strictly averages and you should experiment to determine what amount of light works best for you.
There are special "grow lights" available under a variety of trade names which contain rare earth elements which alter the color temperature of the transmitted light. This will enhance the appearance of greens, since it has a high percentage of yellow light. However, these lights last only about half as long . . . and don't affect the plant's growth appreciably.
Accordingly, each Klima-Gro is equipped with GE's most advanced lighting technology. SP30 fluorescent lamps use rare earth triphosphors to produce a unique combination of excellent color, outstanding lumen maintenance, unsurpassed light output and GE's longest lamp life.
Under normal conditions, it is recommended that the lights be changed every two years, even though they may still appear to be serviceable. Beyond this point, the amount of usable light drops rapidly.
Plants require, on the average, from 12-14 hours of light daily for maximum growth. Refer to the amount of light required for the plants you are growing, given in the plant charts, and set your timer accordingly.
Most plants will grow well with a soil temperature of between 60 - 75°F. Check the proper soil temperature requirement for the varieties of plants you are growing given in the plant charts, set the heat control dial; and the soil temperature will be maintained automatically. Again we remind you that these are merely averages. You should experiment to find the soil temperature best suited for your particular situation, since requirements can vary depending on a number of exterior conditions such as unit placement, ambient air temperature, relative humidity, season of the year, etc.
Air temperature and ventilation.
Both of these factors are critical in growing under glass. Under no conditions should the air temperature rise above 80°F. inside the Klima-Gro, or serious plant harm can be done. We recommend that you purchase an inexpensive thermometer at any variety or hardware store and place it inside the unit to monitor air temperature. You can control the air temperature by opening or closing the top vents. On the average, if you keep the top panel open 2 - 4", the temperature should be satisfactory and adequate ventilation should be provided. But keep an eye on it until you determine, by experimentation, how much you should keep the panels open to keep the air temperature under 80° in your particular situation, since it will vary depending on unit placement, humidity and season of the year.
In addition to air temperature, plants require moisture in the air. Under normal conditions, the plants will give off enough moisture on their own to provide adequate amounts in the air. You might want to buy an inexpensive humidistat (any hardware store) to monitor air humidity. A relative humidity of from 65 - 85% is preferred.
Generally speaking, you will have to provide less ventilation in the winter than in summer to control humidity, because the air is dryer in a heated room in the winter when the furnace is running. As a general rule, you should not open the side vents unless absolutely necessary (to maintain temperature, for example) since this will allow needed moisture to escape into the exterior air.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that both plants and fungi require the same conditions for growth, e.g., moisture and temperature. Accordingly, keep a close eye on plant leaves and the inside of the unit. If you see water condensing on either the plant leaves or the inside of the glass, you know you have inadequate ventilation and too much moisture which can promote fungus growth and you should act immediately to provide more ventilation by opening the vents further. You will have to experiment to find the proper opening.
We would also suggest the use of a small auxiliary (2-3") bladed fan to enhance the propagation of predominantly blooming plants and provide sufficient ventilation. You will not need a high-volume fan, just enough to keep the air moving.
You are well aware how fast direct sunlight can heat up a room, especially in the summer. This effect is magnified in a controlled climate situation. Accordingly, do not place your Klima-Gro in direct sunlight, especially in the summer, unless you are prepared to keep a very close eye on the temperature and determine how much ventilation is required to keep the interior air below 80°F. Since this will vary from season to season, you will have to refigure the requirement as the seasons change. You can help alleviate this problem by placing the Klima-Gro in either indirect light, or even shade.
Preparing the soil for planting.
1. Remove heat shield and attached heating wires. These are shipped preconnected to the control panel. However, there is about a foot of excess wire provided so you can merely roll back the shield to get at the base of the unit.
2. Fill the reservoirs on both sides with soil mix. Cover the entire base with soil mix to a depth of 1" overall.
3. Replace the heat shield and heating wires on top of the soil.
Important Note: Make sure the heat shield is replaced wire side down and that there is sufficient soil under the wires so that they are entirely surrounded by soil. This is extremely important. The heat shield not only distributes the heat and prevents "hot spots" which can kill fragile plant roots, but it also serves as protection against accidental severing of the heating wires. These wires are carrying 110-120 V. of house current and, if severed, could cause an electrical shock. Double check to make certain the wires are down before going any further.
4. Fill with soil mix to a depth of 5 to 6 inches.
5. If the soil mix you are using does not contain fertilizer, fertilize prior to planting, following label instructions. See Fertilizing.
6. Add water to obtain proper degree of soil moisture, see Watering.
7. Insert the heat sensor deep into the soil bed, alongside the heat shield, and leave it there. Remember where you placed it, since it is a delicate wire and can be easily severed by accident if you are careless. However, since the entire control system is solid-state, it can be replaced easily and inexpensively should this occur.
8. Plant your bed as you wish, set for proper temperature and amount of light, and plug the unit into an exterior power source (wall socket) making sure the Klima-Gro is properly grounded. (Refer to Klima-Gro assembly instructions).
Planting the bed.
While vegetables should always be planted directly in the soil bed (with the possible exception of cherry tomatoes, which can be either potted or direct-bed planted), other plants can be either planted directly in the bed, or in shallow clay pots with a hole in the bottom.
There is an advantage to growing in pots, if mature plant height approximates two feet; the pots will tend to stifle root development and should result in shorter mature plants. In addition, should you want to get an early start on plants you are planning to move outdoors when the weather permits (such as tomato plants or some annual flowers or shrubs), having them in individual pots makes it simple.
To plant in pots, bury the pots in the bed and just cover the pots with soil. This will allow proper spread of moisture and heat.
To plant directly in the soil bed, remove the plants and bury in the soil to the same depth as in the pot.
We recommend, at least at the start, that you obtain started plants from a garden supply store or greenhouse. You can, of course, start from seeds and do your own germination. Seeds for germination should be placed on the shelves, close to the light source, to provide sufficient lighting. For detailed information, we refer you to Gardening Under Glass. Full book information and author is listed under Recommended Reading at the end of this manual.
Arranging your display.
You are limited only by your imagination. However, we suggest that if you position your Klima-Gro along a wall, you plant the tallest plants in the rear, medium sized plants in the middle and the smaller plants to the front.
Proper soil care.
As mentioned previously, don't over water and don't over fertilize. Even under optimum conditions, the soil will eventually wear out because of soil breakdown, leaching, etc. Accordingly, the soil should be changed in its entirety every 2 - 3 years. Simply discard the old soil, and prepare a new bed using fresh soil mixture.
Fungi and pest control.
You should, of course, carefully examine plants before you buy them to make sure they are healthy and both bug and fungi-free. However, this is difficult for even the experienced grower. Your best protection is to buy from a reputable plant source. Should problems arise, you can probably return the plants.
Even so, we recommend that you spray the plants prior to planting with a general purpose fungicide and insecticide, repeating this treatment monthly thereafter, following label instructions, or whenever needed. Sprays should be applied in time to assure that the leaves will be completely dry by nightfall.
There are a number of such sprays available which are perfectly suitable; your nurseryman or garden supply store can advise you. Two typical insecticides are Malathion (Ortho) and Isotox (Ortho).
Use common sense when applying any preparation. They are all chemicals and can be harmful if misused. They should be applied strictly according to label instructions in all cases.
While the Klima-Gro system is designed to raise plants, there is no reason why you can't add some animal life as well. If you're raising cacti or other dry-soil plants, consider adding iguanas or other type lizards. Conversely, if you're raising heavy foliage plants in a relatively moist climate, chameleons, some frogs or toads will thrive. We're not in the pet business, but why don't you talk with your local pet shop for ideas, if you're interested?
Do's and don'ts.
DO water and fertilize in moderation.
DON'T over water or over fertilize.
DON'T place your Klima-Gro in direct sunlight unless you want cooked plants.
DO place it in indirect light, or even shade.
DON'T TRY TO USE YOUR KLIMA-GRO OUTDOORS. IT IS DESIGNED EXPRESSLY FOR INDOOR USE.
DO work the soil frequently to prevent compacting.
DON'T try to fix the unit yourself in the unlikely event of an electrical problem. Call an electrician or contact us directly.
DON'T be afraid to experiment with different plants and flowers; simply do some research before you plant.
DON'T rely on this manual as the "bible" for raising plants indoors under glass. Its purpose is simply to give you a generalized set of instructions for raising average plants under average conditions. Experiment and find out what works best for you.
Klima-Gro controls and how to operate them.
Below is a detailed photograph of the Klima-Gro control panel with individually numbered call-out features.
1. Automatic soil temperature control. Simply set the control to the desired temperature setting and it will be maintained automatically. Remember, however, that your Klima-Gro is not a refrigerator, and cannot reduce temperature; it is limited on the low temperature end by the ambient temperature of the room.
2. Automatic timer to control lights. The DIAL rotates in a clockwise direction once every 24 hours. Its face is clearly marked to indicate AM and PM. The TRIPPERS are marked "ON" and "OFF", and when depressed can be moved around the dial as desired to program when lights come off and on. The TIME INDICATOR works just like a clock and indicates the correct time of day. The MANUAL CONTROL lets you turn lights on or off by hand at any time.
How to set the timer.
(a) Hold dial, then DEPRESS and slide the OFF and ON trippers to the desired times you want the lights to operate. (Illus. 2)
(b) Now that the trippers are set, turn the large knob on the face of the 24- hour dial until present time of day is shown on the time indicator. Turn knob in CLOCKWISE direction only. Lights will now come on and be turned off automatically until you reset the timer. (illus. 3)
(c) you can override the automatic timer by depressing the manual control. To reset on automatic, depress again.
(d) You can suspend automatic operation for a day or several days by gently pulling time dial out until first "click" is felt or heard (see Illus. 4). To return to automatic operation, simply push time dial inward until it "clicks" again. No need to reset trippers or timeline settings.
3. Power light shows when unit is plugged into exterior power source and power is being supplied to the unit.
4. Heat light shows that the heating wires are drawing current and working. Because this control system contains integrated circuits and zero-switching, combined with solid-state electronics, it will maintain an accuracy of 1/2° at the sensor. When the unit is operating properly, and power is being fed to the heating wires, you may notice the light is constantly flickering; this is because the unit is constantly switching on/off many times a second to maintain temperature accuracy. In fact, once the soil reaches required temperature, if the heat light is on constantly, something is wrong and you should call an electrician, or contact us directly.
5. Direct reading moisture indicator dial shows the percentage of moisture in the soil. Note: Except when you are actually using the probe to test moisture, it should be kept out of the soil. If left in place in the soil it can corrode.
Make your Klima-Gro a beautiful piece of furniture.
We also provide optional custom-built cabinets that, when used with your Klima-Gro, will make a handsome and distinguished piece of furniture. The quality cabinets are either laminate or all-wood to match the unit. It brings your Klima-Gro to the proper height for viewing and working with the plants. It also has approximately 10 to 13 cu. ft. of storage area for keeping soil, fertilizers, tools, etc., handy- yet out of the way.
You can order your furniture cabinet directly from the Klima-Gro web site, just go to our accessory section for complete descriptions. Happy gardening ... with your Klima-Gro controlled climate eco-system!
Vegetables, spices and misc. information.
The following herbs and spices will grow well in Klima-Gro. Seeds can be obtained at greenhouses or garden supply stores. Follow seed pack instructions.
Thyme, sweet woodruff, oregano, rosemary, parsley, chives, cress, borage, French sorrel savory, marjoram, dwarf sage, lavender, dwarf scented geranium, mint, nasturtium, lemon verbena. These should grow best in temperatures of 55 - 75°, with 12 -14 hours of light in a moist soil.
Some vegetables can also be grown: indeterminate varieties of cherry tomatoes, red radishes, garden onions, leaf lettuce. Same general instructions as above.
A great many varieties of cacti can grow well in Klima-Gro. Here are just a few: Aloes, Haworthia, Sedum Crassula, Echeveria, Kalanchoe, Astrophytum (Bishop's Cap), Cephalocereus (Old Man Cactus), Chamaecereus (Peanut Cactus), Hedgehog Cactus, Easter Lily Cactus, Lovivia, Chin Cactus, Pincushion Cactus, Opuntia, Rebutia (Crown Cactus).
Refer to one of the reference books in Recommended Reading for details on soil, fertilization, etc. or a specialty book on raising Cacti. In general, they should have 12 - 18 hours of light, dry soil and a temperature range of 55 - 75°F.
About plant size.
While we have tried to recommend plants that are particularly suited to growth in the Klima-Gro system by virtue of mature plant height, it may be that because of the optimum growing conditions, plants will mature oversized. If you see this happening, keep the plants "pinched back" to correct.
This manual provides you with the basic knowledge and instructions on how to use your Klima-Gro to raise the most popular plants and flowers. For more detailed instructions on raising specific varieties, and more detailed information on raising plants under glass in a controlled climate situation, the following books/ publications will be of interest:
GARDENING UNDER GLASS, Jerome A. Eaton, MacMillan Pub. Co., New York (1974)
PLANT GROWTH LIGHTING, number TP-127, General Electric Co., Lamp Business Div., Nela Park, Cleveland, Ohio 44112
HOUSE PLANTS UNDER ARTIFICIAL LIGHTS, (HO-74-1) Purdue Univ., Cooperative Extension Service, Agricultural Experimental Station, Lafayette, Ind.
GARDENING INDOORS UNDER LIGHTS Frederick and Jacqueline Kranz, Viking Press, New York (1971)
EXOTIC HOUSE PLANTS, A.B. Graf, Charles Scribners Sons, New York (1973)
FOLIAGE PLANTS FOR MODERN LIVING, Merchants Pub. Co., Kalamazoo, Ml
The Klima-Gro system has been developed in conjunction with leading electronic engineers and the horticultural departments of several of the nation's leading universities.
Used properly, it will provide years of trouble-free service, and make your
Klima-Gro the focal-point of your room decor.
© Copyright 2000.Klima-Gro. This site is protected by copyright and trademark laws under U.S. and international law. All rights reserved.
© Copyright 2000.Klima-Gro. This site is protected by copyright and trademark laws under U.S. and international law. All rights reserved.