About Garden Cruisers
The Original Mobile Greenhouse
Garden Cruisers came into place after we bought our first home in early 2020. We wanted to start a garden but due to the modest size of our townhome, the lack of a true yard, the surrounding unalterable hardscape, and HOA restrictions on permanent structures, we were left with limited options. Initially, we purchased a few rolling planters and built a PVC structure in our garage to hold lights. It worked well for a while but eventually resulted in a bit of an infestation of insects and spiders while simultaneously raising the humidity level to a constant 65% or higher in a garage that was doubling as a wood workshop. After recognizing the issues with an open-air garage garden, we decided to move the planters outside to our patio area where they could rest on pavers. This instantly resulted in our entire crop getting demolished by bunnies. In response, we purchased and installed a rabbit guard fence and tried to grow again. This second crop was well on its way to greatness until the birds and smaller creatures that could fit through the fence began feasting on our fresh fruits and vegetables once again. Our defensive strategy this time was to purchase and install a mesh cloth covering that we wrapped around the rabbit guard fence and folded over the planters. It worked for defending the garden for a while but it was annoying to open and close every day. It also was a bit ugly as it completely hid all the beautiful plants within it and looked like a giant candy wrapper. It was so ugly that we didn't ever even take a picture of it. Also, it wasn't very sturdy and could barely hold together in slight winds or rain, but it was doing the job and our third crop attempt was coming along nicely. The only issue now was that we were in the middle of the fall and there was just no way it was going to protect the plants from the Minnesota winter. They survived a few freezes but their growth slowed greatly and with the changing angles of the sun, our original location became shaded for most of the day. Eventually their growth completely stopped and our season was over without any yield. We were at a loss and it was a fairly disappointing conclusion to all our attempts at having a garden. As we hunkered down for winter, we went to the drawing board and began outlining the requirements for our next attempt.
The Original Garden Cruiser:
It became obvious to us that the solution to our issues was a Greenhouse - something that could withstand the elements, keep out pests, and allow us to control temperature and humidity. Unfortunately, our small townhome doesn't have enough room indoors for any type of garden and, because of HOA restrictions on 'permanent structures', we couldn't go the traditional greenhouse route outside. We scoured the internet for alternative options and concepts but found nothing that fit our needs, so we decided to design and build our own custom solution: a mobile greenhouse that could fit under the garage door so we could move it inside and out, depending on the weather. At the time, we were finishing some renovations to our home and I had built a material cart to hold the wood and other items. The cart, being mostly empty at this point, became the perfect chassis for our Mobile Greenhouse concept. We stripped it down from it's original state and built it back up according to our new design. We added a tough vinyl flooring with a drain, painted the entire structure white, and then put a Spar Urethane top coat on it to protect from UV light and the elements, inside and out. We wrapped the entire thing in greenhouse plastic and added hardware such as push/pull handles and a locking gate latch. We added vents and fans so we could maintain optimal temperature and humidity levels inside, depending on our desired grow. The exhaust ventilation was designed so that it could be connected to a thru-wall dryer vent to avoid increasing the humidity within the garage whenever we needed to move it inside. Lights were also installed along with a smart power strip and wireless thermometer/barometer to monitor, control, and automate the lighting and ventilation remotely.
It Worked - Better than Expected!
Once construction was complete, we refilled our rolling planters with soil, put them inside the Garden Cruiser, and planted a mix of seedlings for our initial run. We tried different types of potatoes, peppers, carrots, onions, radishes, kales, lettuces, spinaches, beets, broccoli, and cucumbers. They ALL LOVED IT and grew faster than any garden we tried before. We had a hiccup or two, like when the heat of the summer sun was a bit overpowering and some of our plants got a little wilted, but we simply moved the Garden Cruiser into a more shady area and every plant instantly recovered as the greenhouse returned to optimal temperatures - a testament to its mobility. We discovered that having a Movable Greenhouse is amazing! We learned from this experience and made sure our newer models have improved ventilation, options for additional shading elements, and different color profiles for their polycarbonate to mitigate the amount and types of light that enter the grow space. Thanks to the greenhouse, all the plants were well protected from animals like birds, bunnies, and bigger bugs. We learned to mitigate any small bug infestations by spraying a mild and eco-friendly insecticide along the exterior cracks and crevasses of the greenhouse and releasing a few ladybugs inside. The plants were also protected from the harsh weather like strong winds and hail, giving them the ability grow without issue. Because of the microclimate we created, we also noticed a significant reduction in how much water we needed to use every day. It was all just a real success story. Our dream of having a functional garden came true, the act of gardening transformed from aggravating to fun, and the family gets to regularly enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables.
Time for Improvements.
With the undeniable success of The Original Garden Cruiser, we started asking ourselves, "How can we make this even better?" Swapping out the greenhouse plastic wrap with a twin-walled poly-carbonate was the first thing on our minds. We also figured it might be nice to have other options for the primary structural material, like steel or aluminum. Size became a big topic of discussion as we imagined some should fit through through standardized doorways and others could be on trailers or even semi trucks. With that, some could be suited for different types of terrain, from carpet to soil, or some could even float on water and have a dock to their door. There could literally be a Garden Cruiser just about anywhere someone wanted one. Simultaneously we were researching Hydroponics and realized that every type could be scaled to fit within all these different varieties of Garden Cruisers. Aeroponics to Aquaponics, N.F.T. to Ebb & Flow, and everything in between, each type could be custom fit to a Garden Cruiser as well as be automated. Smart systems that control temperature, light, water levels, and nutrient percentages are widely available. They could thoughtfully be implemented in a variety of combinations to suit any specific mobile garden's needs. We then realized, with all of these powered devices, solar panels and battery banks would enhance any of the Garden Cruiser models as they all come standard with powered mechanical ventilation. We decided to put our design minds to the test and see if we could actually bring all these concepts into a single mobile greenhouse. This is when we focused on Design Development and the fitting of all these bits and pieces together in 3D.
Systems & Implementation:
We designed and modeled a hydroponics system suited for mobility which we dubbed the "Nutrient River". It's stackable, expandable, modular, adjustable, and can integrate UV-C sterilization, multi-level filtration, in-line aeration, and nutrient/PH levels control. We can customize and scale the Nutrient River to fit within almost any reasonably shaped 3D volume of appropriate size. We needed to put it to the test. At the time we were redesigning portions of the Compact Chassis and figured it would be wise to design and build our Nutrient River proof of concept system to fit the latest and greatest frame. Currently - parts are on order for that system and we will keep this website updated as milestones are reached.
We believe that Garden Cruiser Mobile Greenhouses can help people as well as our planet. These mobile protected micro-environments bring safety and security to a variety of gardens and grow types while reducing water use. This is especially true for the Garden Cruisers that incorporate the Nutrient River and smart systems. Because most Garden Cruisers can host solar panels, batteries, and controllers, they can be placed almost everywhere on the planet. This is exactly what we're hoping to do. It started on a walk around the neighborhood, we pointed at empty garages, patios, existing planters and gardens, a number of hardscapes, even parking lots saying to each other, "There." "...and there..." "Also, there." "There as well..." "You can put a Garden Cruiser anywhere!" From that moment, the dream has grown to, one day in the far future, creating massive land & sea-worthy vessels to aid in disaster relief & recovery. But, before we get too ahead of ourselves, we're beginning with the Compact & Midsize Chassis and the nurturing and development of a production facility that can accommodate growth.