My Orchid Room
In a few days (as the outside temperature gets warmer), I plan to move my collection of orchids outside where they'll stay until October. As I contemplated the move, I thought that you may be interested in knowing a bit about how I grow orchids during the cold months of the year. I compiled nine photos of my setup that you can look at as you read the description (below).
My 'room' or chamber is located in the unfinished, working basement of my house. As such, I don't fear getting water on the floor, and (conveniently) the orchid room is located adjacent to the basement floor drain and sump pump, which takes care of any accidental spills during plant watering.
The room itself measures 6 ft in width, 4 ft in depth, and is 6 ft tall; exactly the measurements of the two metal storage racks that make up its structure. These are the same rack you can find in any big box home improvement store. The racks are covered with 3 mil poly sheeting, again found in any home improvement store. I don't recall the width of the sheeting, I think it is 10 ft, and experience has taught that two 10' sheets of approx. 20' each will cover the rack frame: one sheet drapes over the frame from left to right, while the second drapes over from front to back. I use clear boxing tape to seal each section, with the ends tucked under the rack legs thereby providing a water-proof seal. Trust me, the seal is very good and keeps the temperature and humidity in the chamber that is, unless one of my cats decides to claw through the poly sheet, which has happened a few times. A third sheet is used as a 'door' and is held in place by tape, as a door hinge, and magnets to seal it tight. The space is tight for sure, but does the trick.
I have only four racks on two levels in the chamber, as this gives me enough space for my current collection of plants. In fact, all of the plants are on the top racks; the bottom two serve to hold carboys, spray bottles, a jade plant, and a heater. I use the remainder of the shelves that come with these racks as support for the chamber's 'roof' (see photograph).
Lighting is supplied by 16 100w LED bulbs on a 14/10 h on-off cycle. A ZooMed Hygrotherm controls the temperature -- 77F during the day, 60F at night -- and the humidity (70% supplied by a low-cost humidifier bought at a big box store). The heater is an old Nesco Dehydrator that is relatively low wattage and efficient. The Hygrotherm is the single best investment I've made for indoor orchid culture: very simple and effective!
Air movement is very important for orchid health, especially in a small, confined space such as this. I have four fans that are controlled with a Red Sea Fish pHarm ltd Wavemaster Pro pump controller. The controller turns each fan on and off to create random air movement. It works well under my conditions. Three of the four fans are repurposed muffin fans that I salvaged from old computers. The forth fan is a cheap one I bought at Walmart.
I water and mist the plants as required, with a tendency to keep things on the dry side to discourage fungal infections, and because many of my orchids are derived from species that live in habitats that are dry during the winter months.
I have used this arrangement for the past three years, and it works well for me. LED light bulbs are a godsend. They're bright but not hot, so I don't worry about burning the plants or have a need for cooling equipment. And as I said, all praise goes to the Hygrotherm, it's wonderful.
That's it for this installment. Migratory bird season is upon us in Maryland. Come back and you will hopefully get to see photos of some of the species moving through our area this year.