The Space Bucket design is composed of two parts: a main bucket with a power strip, and a light-top with CFL bulbs (both with ventilation). The steps below cover the construction of the main bucket, which holds the plant. Next you’ll find instructions for light-tops (click here to jump there). These grow buckets can be made in a few hours if the gardener has a hands-on attitude. Knowledge of the dangers of electricity is essential: this thread with electrical safety tips by SAG should be applied thoroughly during the bucket build process.
Let’s begin with the bucket build process! Remember that you can grow any kind of plant once your garden is up and running.
This shopping list serves as a starting point for one basic CFL Space Bucket:
- At least four 5gal (20L) buckets, and one lid.
- At least four 23-27w CFL bulbs, with their E27 sockets.
- Two PC Fans and also a 12v power supply.
- A power strip, and a 24h timer. Some wire and minor tools.
First, pick your best looking bucket and make some holes in the bottom with a hot piece of metal (a screwdriver will work perfectly). You can also use a rotary tool (like a Dremel), which allows faster builds. The holes will enable water drainage once the medium and the plant is put inside. It is always recommended to put rocks on the bottom of the bucket, as this will keep it from getting clogged with soil runoff. The more drainage, the better.
Next, put reflective material on the inside walls. This will optimize the lumen output once the light-top is stacked. Mylar film sticks neatly with any kind of glue (and a little patience). If you happen to have white buckets, this covering is optional, as the walls will be very reflective.
Now, cover the outside walls of your main bucket with layers of black masking tape, this will make the Space Bucket lightproof and let you control light leaks. You’re looking for lumen tightness.
Second, with the drainage and lightproofing complete, cut holes on the sides of the main bucket to hold the PC Fans (they can be 8×8 or 12×12). Once the fans are in place, connect the 12v power supply to them. Make sure the power supply has the right amperage (a standard 1A can run at least two fans). One will act as intake, the other as exhaust. If you have one fan, use it an active exhaust and keep the intake passive. Heat from the bulbs needs to be extracted.
Then, glue a power strip to one side of the main bucket, which now has ventilation, drainage and lumen optimization. In the strip you will connect the plug from the lights (and timer) and the 12v power supply for the fans, among other things you’ll find along the way.
Carefully, cut the top of three or four buckets, leaving some inches of the plastic wall; the resulting bucket-tops can be stacked to the main bucket to alter the height of the light-top. Remember to put reflective material inside and masking tape outside to ensure light-proofness.
Third, it is now time to build the light-top. It is recommended to use at least 100 true Watts of CFL, so that means 4 or 5 bulbs that can be arranged in many configurations. Mixing spectrums is encouraged with warm white and cool white lights. The new light-top design allows for sideways bulbs, and should be more effective than light-lids.
Start by picking the best bucket-top and lid you have available. Make holes on the walls of the bucket-top to fit the E27 bulb sockets, and wire them in parallel with cable and a plug on top of the lid. Always solder and tape your wires! Twisting the leads is not safe enough (wire nuts can be used too). Once the wiring is finished, glue a container on the lid to hide the installation.
Make room for a 8×8 PC fan on the side of the light-top: this will ensure that the heat emmited by the bulbs is extracted outside the plants environment. You can choose more effective fans for this task, combining the extraction system with a carbon filter. Inline fans are pretty popular among buckets users, as they allow a near flawless control of odors. Read more about inline filtering buckets in this thread from the Space Buckets community.
Fourth, you can now connect and assemble your indoor garden. Use black tape to cover holes and make the bucket as lightproof as possible, this step is for finishing touches and other details. Connect the light-top timer and 12v supplies to the power strip, and then the strip to the wall.
That is it, you’re done! You now have one fully functional Space Bucket, with a main container, light-top with CFLs and bucket-tops for added height. Plant in the main bucket (directly or with a pot), turn on the light-top and timer, and watch life thrive and grow.
Keep in mind that this is the basic Space Bucket design: check the Resources and stuff section for advanced techniques. You can also join the always-on discussion at the /r/SpaceBuckets subreddit, or banter and chat on the awesome site-wide open board below. Good luck!