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Chip-skiff
04-26-2010, 11:57 PM
Posted some pics of the frame and outside last fall. Here's an update on my big-boy science project:

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/S9ZnKJXdh9I/AAAAAAAAAbE/L9Sjm7z-334/ghouse%20east.jpg

The floor has a bubble/foil thermal barrier topped with foambaord and a drainage system. Over which I laid gravel, sand, and radiant heat tubing:

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/S9ZnNd3vBQI/AAAAAAAAAbI/BeK-F0ACcf8/ghouse%20heat.jpg

It runs through an insulated heatsink under the floor, that will eventually have two DC pumps powered by a solar panel and deep-cycle battery. The other loop will go to a solar hot-water collector.

This shows the big tank and one set of coils:

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/S9ZnPbO4fJI/AAAAAAAAAbM/P8VTIQJ7Lwk/Ghouse%20floor%20tank.jpg

I'll get it operating next fall. Insulated it like mad and covered it with floor panels. Then mounted four passive heatsink tanks on the south-facing wall:

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/S9ZnUmz6MqI/AAAAAAAAAbQ/6QNki1q7xcg/Ghouse%20wall%20tanks.jpg

Anchor-bolted a sill to the foundation of the garage, so the tanks don't rest on the floor panels, which raise up to expose the underfloor stuff.

Our last storm, windy and wet, coated the outside in rime-ice, with a nighttime low of about 20°F.

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/S9ZnZzOtjoI/AAAAAAAAAbY/X1oEBii1su8/Ghouse%20rime.jpg

But the excellent insulation (for a greenhouse) with R 3.8 in the roof, and passive solar heat from the tanks, kept it well above freezing:

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/S9ZngV-quDI/AAAAAAAAAbc/_x664h6WZx8/Ghouse%20temp.jpg

Just before sunrise. The upper value is the air temp next to the west wall. The lower one is the temp of the water in the black tanks, which on cold nights lose 5-8°.

(continued)

Chip-skiff
04-26-2010, 11:57 PM
(part 2)

Shelves mounted close to the tanks are for seedlings and frost-sensitive plants:

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/S9ZniFpzaVI/AAAAAAAAAbg/3I_9V7WO53Q/Ghouse%20shelves.jpg

The beds around the walls will hold tomatoes, peppers, etc. in containers. The center bed is for beans and peas (on vertical twine), salad greens, radishes, baby carrots, and such.

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/S9ZnjjRx76I/AAAAAAAAAbk/4ufzHJ6t4o8/Ghouse%20floor.jpg

We've started seedlings and planted the bed, which is exciting.

It's also a nice, bright, warm reading room on chilly spring days:

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/S9ZnmienrLI/AAAAAAAAAbo/da-Dh1jS-wE/Ghouse%20comfort.jpg

I've not yet run electricity in— it's completely passive solar, in a 12' x 12' structure.

Greenhouse buffs (huisjen, et al.) let's compare notes.

huisjen
04-27-2010, 05:30 AM
That's a lot higher tech than me. I'm more focused on cool weather crops and shoulder season extension.

I've seen some really positive results around here with the triple wall polycarbonate like that. One method used is to capture hot air at the top of the greenhouse on sunny days and blow it down into crushed rock beds under the growing beds. I'm not sure what their low temperature for the winter was, but I think it may be similar. They also use covers over the beds at night.

Dan

Paul Pless
04-27-2010, 05:57 AM
Thank you for this thread. A greenhouse is on our wish list big time. Yours looks really nice. I want to question the placement of the tanks on the south facing wall. How do the tanks being there affect the amount of low horizon winter sun reaching the plants?

huisjen
04-27-2010, 06:01 AM
Paul, I think he means they're on the north wall of the greenhouse room. That surface faces south. Sun gets to the plants, and any that gets by is absorbed by the black tanks.

Dan

Paul Pless
04-27-2010, 06:03 AM
Thank you Dan, that makes sense.

switters
04-27-2010, 09:28 AM
very nice, and well thought out. Can you tell us a bit about the ventilation?

Shang
04-27-2010, 09:37 AM
Good planning and nice work!

Someday I'll tell you about the attached greenhouse I built in Upstate New York. It turned out to be an asset for heating the house, on sunny winter days a third or more of out heat was solar.

Chip-skiff
04-27-2010, 12:13 PM
very nice, and well thought out. Can you tell us a bit about the ventilation?

Right— The nice thing about radiant heat is that you can have lots of air moving without decreasing the amount you collect. The big black tanks are pretty amazing.

There are two low vents at the south corners (I'm adding two more) powered by heat-driven pistons (Sesam Liberty, from Charley's Greenhouse Supply).

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/S9cRAHlFEFI/AAAAAAAAAdA/mmlDrRnFTqM/vent.jpg

The louvers are from Tek Supply and don't close as tight as I'd like. The pistons are filled with wax that expands at about 70°F.

There's an exhaust fan to push warm air into the garage/shop, so I can use it for gluing and painting without having to crank electric heaters all day.

Our wild wind has repeatedly ripped off the roof vents on a neighbor's greenhouse, so I built a clerestory roof with peak vents that open inward. The roofbeam had to be larger than I first thought, so the vents are smaller.

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/S9cRFGP-RzI/AAAAAAAAAdI/S-M5Rgh199U/roof%20vents%202.jpg

But the heat inside creates a decent airflow and the prevailing wind draws air out. The Liberty openers only have 4" travel, not enough, so I built levers to couple each one to two vents. The holes are to adjust the pull.

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/S9cRKSaoO1I/AAAAAAAAAdM/7f0Azjs7U5Q/roof%20vent%203.jpg

The aluminum frames are lightly built and the leverage can bend them (I had to move the upper post down a hole and decrease the pull).

There are eyebolts outside to anchor the springs that close the vent-windows. To get a straight pull on the vents, I had to bore through a roofbeam and mount a wee pully to change the direction of the cable (1/16" steel).

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/S9cRN9CXXNI/AAAAAAAAAdQ/kGK5_O4jkb4/roof%20vent%204.jpg

We have intense sun and very cold nights, so regulating the temperature is a challenge. The automatic openers respond quickly and dependably, so I don't have to dash out twenty times a day to open or shut vents. I'd like to avoid using a second exhaust fan to shed heat.

Except for the fan to heat the garage, the whole setup is passive. With the active systems going (solar panels, DC pumps, two loops of tubing with glycol, and a solar hot water collector outside) it'll store much more heat.

The walls are triple (two layers of dead air) with excellent light transmission, which will admit more sunlight when the sun is low. The roof is six-wall polycarbonate, 1" thick, with lower light transmission (preferable in high summer) but an R-value of 3.8. (The sheathing came from Sundance Supply).

The idea is to be able to grow something in winter (on the shelves by the tanks and maybe in the center bed, with a row cover). Hope it works.

Chip-skiff
04-27-2010, 03:10 PM
That's a lot higher tech than me. I'm more focused on cool weather crops and shoulder season extension.

I've seen some really positive results around here with the triple wall polycarbonate like that. One method used is to capture hot air at the top of the greenhouse on sunny days and blow it down into crushed rock beds under the growing beds. I'm not sure what their low temperature for the winter was, but I think it may be similar. They also use covers over the beds at night.

Dan

Saw that system (rock heatsink) on an English website, but when I calculated how much rock it would take, it put me off. The entire foundation (12' x 12') would have to be filled with rock about 4-5 feet deep. We do have plenty of rocks (our soil is colluvial with lots of buried slopewash) but transferring heat to rocks via airflow is not very efficient. And I imagine the bugs and mice would find it a lovely refuge.

Our lowest sustained temps here are about -40°F. A hot summer day might touch 90°F.

I talked to a couple specialists and they suggested water. Water is much better for storing heat and also for moving it. With 300 gallons in the wall tanks and 400 under the floor, there's enough capacity to make it through an extended cloudy spell. For every degree C that 700 gallons of water cools, 2,650,000 calories are released, or about 10,500 BTU. At night you can really feel the heat radiating from the wall tanks.

The underfloor loop (pictured above) will be pushed by a DC pump on a 1000ah battery, probably pulsing on and off every 10 minutes or so. Diffusing heat through the radiant tubing under the floor should keep the soil temps up (when the sun heats the beds and pavers and the floor is warmer, heat will be transferred to the tank). The air inside might dip a bit below freezing but with row covers, the plants should be fine.

A DC pump hooked to a solar panel will push a water/glycol mix through another loop when the sun's shining. I'm deciding whether to buy a solar hot water collector or build one.

I'll post another report when the tomatoes are ripe.

Meems
04-30-2010, 11:22 AM
can you tell me the name of the big black water containers and where they may be purchased?

Chip-skiff
06-06-2010, 11:55 PM
can you tell me the name of the big black water containers and where they may be purchased?

Didn't see this when you posted- sorry. The company is Aquadra Systems. Here's a link:

http://www.tank-depot.com/product.aspx?id=1176

Here's a recent photo:

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/TAx6joWZdCI/AAAAAAAAAmU/JBPtwPDUies/ghousegreens2.jpg

Took this a few days ago and the tomatoes are now twice this size. It's really worked out well.

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/TAx6hfLavFI/AAAAAAAAAmQ/KUauWvsGapw/ghousegreens.jpg

Chip-skiff
07-11-2010, 03:59 PM
The jungle-under-glass is a stunning success.

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/TDotvETdqFI/AAAAAAAAAp8/CWmYD7gVg2M/D2.jpg

Hungarian hot wax peppers backed by Siberian tomatoes, with miscellaneous tomatoes suspended above: in a small greenhouse, vertical space is precious.

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/TDottuU94UI/AAAAAAAAAp4/arDDbYhnG8E/D1.jpg

The Wall of Beans. The Wolf Goddess suggested pole beans and I was skeptical. But they only take up 5 sq. ft. of floorspace and are up to the roof. Very productive hothouse crop. Steamed and buttered one night, Salade Niçoise the next. Note the cucumber vines with yellow blossoms cohabiting with the beans.

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/TDoty1s6BXI/AAAAAAAAAqE/MODXGK0P2hA/D5.jpg

The Siberian tomato is an heirloom I grew ten years ago and saved seeds. See the red one lurking down under?

All the passive solar stuff and heat-activated vents are working perfectly. Virtually everyone who sees it asks me to build one for them. I'm thinking seriously about that.

SMARTINSEN
07-11-2010, 04:13 PM
Nice looking tomaters.

Milo Christensen
07-11-2010, 04:35 PM
I was unable to say anything when you originally posted this, but that is a fantastic project and I'm, quite frankly, jealous. I have this huge stump just outside my side door that no stump grinder is able to get to, being on the hill like it is. I really want to put in a 6' x 6' greenhouse on top of forms that I would build out around the stump and fill with rocks. Your project is inspiring me to start thinking about actually doing this, so thanks for posting and the updates, which I hope will continue.

Chip-skiff
07-11-2010, 04:50 PM
I really want to put in a 6' x 6' greenhouse on top of forms that I would build out around the stump and fill with rocks. Your project is inspiring me to start thinking about actually doing this, so thanks for posting and the updates, which I hope will continue.

Good on ya! The onliest problem with really small floorspace is that you need room for yourself, too. But if you want more incentives, take a look at them beans:

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/TDo77PrbFUI/AAAAAAAAArM/QRnZeigLVug/C5.jpg

Milo Christensen
07-11-2010, 05:10 PM
I planted an 8' row of pole beans the first year in the house, that is, before I discovered that the deer, being fed corn by my neighbor two houses down, also desired some considerable quantities of green beans, roses, purple coneflowers, wild geraniums, etc., etc., on their way to and from the corn.

StevenBauer
07-11-2010, 05:40 PM
I'm jealous, too. Now we're trying to figure out how we can fit something like that on our 50 x 100 foot city lot. How do you think 5' deep by 12' or 14' long would work out?


Steven

PeterSibley
07-11-2010, 06:19 PM
An excellent project , very impressive ! How would a long narrow one go as a passive solar house heater ,perhaps in places without room for a garden green house ?

ramillett
07-11-2010, 06:35 PM
Chip I built a green house about 10 years ago , I wished I'd used your type of water heating for the green house and tied it to our 2 tortoise houses . We depended on fans where more vents would have worked better . Adding the pet houses and the green house just about doubled our electric bill .

The other big mistake was to epoxy all the wood , now I need to replace , next time I'll use pressure treated .

http://i697.photobucket.com/albums/vv332/ramillett/millett/green3.jpg

I should have used the heat from the green house .

http://i697.photobucket.com/albums/vv332/ramillett/millett/P1010012.jpg

Blue enjoying the heat .

http://i697.photobucket.com/albums/vv332/ramillett/millett/P1010014.jpg

The small house could have been heated by 4 feet of tubing , not 800 watts .

http://i697.photobucket.com/albums/vv332/ramillett/millett/desert4.jpg

We don't get snow , so my wife grows tropical and carnivorous plants .

http://i697.photobucket.com/albums/vv332/ramillett/millett/P1010021_1.jpg

Chip-skiff
07-11-2010, 06:43 PM
I'm jealous, too. Now we're trying to figure out how we can fit something like that on our 50 x 100 foot city lot. How do you think 5' deep by 12' or 14' long would work out? -Steven

In Portland, Maine, you've got pretty different conditions, i.e. not as brutally cold at night and in winter, but with longer cloudy/stormy periods. Here (Wyoming) it's rare to have more than 2-3 days without sun.

There are two related considerations: thermal mass and usable space.

For thermal mass, the most efficient shape is the sphere, or for building purposes, the cube. So I built on a 12' x 12' floorplan, with a double-insulated foundation 4' deep. A 5' x 12' floorplan will lose lots of heat because the surface area is much greater in proportion to the internal volume. Unless it's attached to a structure: house, shed, barn, garage.

My first greenhouse, 6' x 12', was scabbed onto the east (sunrise) side of a cinderblock garage. Along the wall were two 2' x 5' stock tanks, painted black on the east side, left galvanized against the wall. The water (about 350 gallons) provided thermal mass. They were covered with plywood with plastic stapled underneath, to provide benchtops for plants and keep the moisture at bay.

The aspect depends on your local climate. In most places, sunrise is better for clear skies, and more crucial for dispelling nighttime chill, and south exposure is important for energy input, so if you're attaching a greenhouse to a structure, south and/or east light is preferable.

For growing space, a row of fully-grown tomatoes in containers is about 18" wide. For access, you need a 24" lane. The stock-tank heatsinks are 24" wide. So 5 ft. is a bit too narrow: too much space given to access and not enough for plants. 6 ft. wide would be a bare minimum for an efficient set-up.

I highly recommend wood framing, painted white, and polycarbonate cover. My material came from this outfit: http://www.sundancesupply.com/

The ordering process helps you out with proper sort of moldings and fasteners for the roof and wall sheathing you select. With your climate, you'd probably find the 16mm three-wall best for the roof and walls, since it balances solar input and nighttime heat loss. I used 25 mm six-wall stuff, with about 60% light transmission, for my roof, since we have an excess of summer sun and it's R 3.8 which helps minimize nighttime heat loss.

I hope I'm not avalanching you with details. But when it comes to building a greenhouse, that's where the devil lurks.

JBreeze
07-11-2010, 06:49 PM
Since this thread was posted, I've been thinking about a similar project, too....

Also on a small lot,. and the best south-facing location I have is the front of a shed, possibly to make a 3 season, passive room.

Triple wall polycarbonate seems expensive (but lightweight).....it appears that I could make a small addition to the shed using cast-off insulated glass panels with an R value of about 2 for the wall, and save the triple wall lexan stuff for the roof.

I've noticed a fair number of ads on craigs list for used insulated glass such as this:

http://images.craigslist.org/3k63o83pd5O25T05P0a7ba78416d76cd617f7.jpg

http://boston.craigslist.org/gbs/tls/1836845711.html

Probably comparable in price as lexan dbl. wall materials per sq. ft., but much more readily available, both in small quantities and local availability. Anyone think I'm making a serious mistake considering insulated glass for the side walls (above a 30" knee wall)?

Paul Pless
07-11-2010, 06:57 PM
I find it fascinating to read about greenhouses in climates ranging from Wyoming and MaineMe too; never needed or wanted one before moving to yankeeland. Now, a greenhouse hovers near the top of my wish list. . .

Katherine and I are constantly looking for free or cheap windows and have been collecting them towards the end of building a greenhouse out of recycled/reclaimed materials.

Milo Christensen
07-11-2010, 08:12 PM
Paul: Check out the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store in your area or come over to Lansing and we'll go to the local one. More windows just sitting outside than will ever get reused. I'm not sure what the prices are, but I'll bet they're dirt cheap.

Chip-skiff
07-11-2010, 09:06 PM
Nice to stir up some serious thought.

Two observations:

1. The problem with recycling large glass windows is a) how to frame them in an energy-efficient way and b) how to deal with the pressure and moisture variations in the trapped air. Commercial energy-efficient windows tend to have plastic frames and some sort of inert gas sealed between the panes. Weep holes are a partial solution, but moisture build-up is a serious problem.

2. The connection of house to greenhouse needs to be controlled for humidity and for bugs. Quite a few people who've built undivided sunrooms have found this out. If you want to use heat collected in a greenhouse to heat your living space, you should plan some way of screening or filtering the air, or storing the warmth in a heatsink/heat exchanger so there's no direct air movement between the two spaces.

JBreeze
07-11-2010, 09:18 PM
...........The problem with recycling large glass windows is a) how to frame them in an energy-efficient way and b) how to deal with the pressure and moisture variations in the trapped air. Commercial energy-efficient windows tend to have plastic frames and some sort of inert gas sealed between the panes. Weep holes are a partial solution, but moisture build-up is a serious problem.......

That's a good point....this summer I'm growing "full size" tomato plants in homemade "earth-box" type planters (one 5 gal bucket inside another). I've been adding over a gal of water per day per plant now that the plants are over 4' tall and the temps are ion the 80's. Some of that water stays with the plants, but most is probably lost through transpiration. I can see moisture build-up being a problem!

JBreeze
07-11-2010, 09:34 PM
PS - Here's a dumb question for Chip-Skiff:

If the veggies are totally grown in the hot-house, do the 'maters and beans self-pollinate? Do you have to help with an artist's brush or something?

(Serious lack of bees in my garden this summer, but the tomatoes seem to be doing OK - I see some other types of small insects going from flower to flower).

Chip-skiff
07-12-2010, 01:11 AM
Not sure about the beans, but they do.

The tomatoes want a bit of shaking, and they get the job done. For the peppers, I touch all the blossoms of each variety with a fingertip (the pollen is visible). Different fingers for different sorts. Not sure it's necessary, but why not have a bit of fun?

The cucumbers are parthenogenic (self-fertilizing). The seed catalogues have this sort of information.

Chip-skiff
08-15-2010, 07:14 PM
I promised to post an update when the tomatoes were ripe. They have been, spectacularly so, for a couple weeks, but I was off on a science trip to the Snake River in Teton Park, for GPS channel mapping.

These are Bellstar, a cooking/salsa variety which produces big fruit on relatively small plants.

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/TGh2wcQiVjI/AAAAAAAAAvY/Byr4saYb6UM/a25.jpg

A good type for containers and greenhouses— it doesn't sprawl, and has a robust flavor.

We've been picking beans, from about fourteen plants, for 5-6 weeks. The vines leapt up to the roofbeam and set an initial bounty, then shut down until I fertilized them. They've been producing steadily since, plenty for fresh eating and some for the freezer as well. We have the same type coming on outdoors, on poles between rows of potatoes.

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/TGh2rdvxkJI/AAAAAAAAAvM/a0GjZHEMs7g/a20.jpg

Note my antique English folding ruler.

Here's a green chile. The plants are as tall as I am, with huge leaves.

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/TGh2soZ-wJI/AAAAAAAAAvQ/T8sSK-mLc78/a23.jpg

These are mild-medium hotness, good for roasting and freezing. The Hungarian wax peppers are savagely hot— good for salsa cruda.

The hothouse cucumbers are doing well, in the bed opposite the beans, running up the same twine trellis.

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/TGh2uNy9NOI/AAAAAAAAAvU/b2_gAiVRObY/a24.jpg

Two varieties, Katrina and Socrates, from Johnny's Selected Seeds in Maine, are tender-skinned, seedless, and self-pollinating: perfect for hothouses.

We've also got a jungle of indeterminate tomato vines with yellow, orange, purple, and red grape saladette tomatoes.

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/TGbzmz4KujI/AAAAAAAAAu0/5UQCsOObMN0/a21.jpg

Like a green galaxy with tomato stars.

The self-regulating aspect has worked out extremely well. Since late April in a harsh, cold, windy climate with scorching summer sun, the greenhouse has maintained excellent growing conditions with no electricity or gas used for either heating or ventilating. I ran a cable in to a box, but haven't even hooked up an outlet so far. The next step is to build the active heating system for the coming winter.

I'll post an update as that develops.

BarnacleGrim
08-15-2010, 07:58 PM
Looking great, Chip-skiff. Very cosy with the critters.

A greenhouse is on my wishlist as well, but so far down it may well never get done. A separate bowshed, perhaps.

I actually had an idea of adding a largish conservatory to the house, but I had other priorities. A small one on the south side could be doable, but no access from inside the house without going through a bedroom.

Mrleft8
08-15-2010, 08:05 PM
Very, very nice!

Chip-skiff
10-21-2011, 04:55 PM
Just got the active solar heat system finished and charged, and it works very well. The brass thing on the red tubing is the DC solar pump that circulates a 50% glycol collector loop (if you go back and look at the earlier posts there are photos of the collector, greenhouse, etc.)

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-cvPRXQa6odM/TqHfEnYlyvI/AAAAAAAABoQ/xABjaS73Otk/s499/gh1.jpg

The dark plate with the lightswitch is for the AC circulation pump for the radiant loop in the floor. The silver & black thingies are wireless transmitters for a temperature unit hooked to sensors.

The incoming line from the collector, covered with black foam insulation, goes through a pressure/temp gauge—

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-A07qKxM2NQE/TqHfGpa5wrI/AAAAAAAABoY/QDojf1mOGbw/s412/gh2.jpg

The collector puts out fluid at 100-120°F, which goes through PEX coils in a 400 gal. stock tank under the floor. The tank has foamboard underneath and on top, with two layers of reflective bubble-wrap around the outside: it loses about 2°F in 24 hours. The uninsulated tubing is the return from the heatsink to the collector.

Here's the temp readout:

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-baIxhF_M8Jw/TqHfICXeQgI/AAAAAAAABog/ruGKLfwTkkc/s300/gh3.jpg

The upper number is the air temp inside. The lower display cycles among the outdoor temp, the water in the passive heatsinks, and the water in the big tank under the floor. Last time I looked, the floor tank registered 87°. Pumping the floor loop heats the sand floor, which is about 3 ft. deep on top of reflective bubblewrap and foamboard, inside a foam-insulated foundation, making it an effective thermal mass. That and the passive heatsinks keep the interior above 50° even with the outside temp well below freezing.

I took a parasol heater apart and hung the 500 watt elements from the roof, for dispersed radiant heat on nights that are really cold, like 0°F and below. The radiant heat warms the foliage.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-AgggXTKXfjU/TqHfKGzaRgI/AAAAAAAABoo/X8pODUou4qY/s409/gh8.jpg

Lots of work putting it together, but I'm pleased with the result:

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-61YpGhJFxpE/TqHfN9LrzRI/AAAAAAAABow/R8ShB-O57eU/s554/gh4.jpg

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-NiBTtyqHchQ/TqHfWbjM8LI/AAAAAAAABpI/aulo8acOvW4/s407/gh7.jpg

Here at nearly 8000 ft., I can't grow tomatoes or cukes outdoors even in summer. And we've got loads of tomatoes, cukes, hot wax peppers, mini-eggplant, pole beans, strawberries, lettuce, etc. all doing beautifully inside.

Mrleft8
10-21-2011, 05:02 PM
Beautiful!
Here at 100' we didn't get tomatoes or cukes at all this year.
You don't have slugs in there either I'll bet....
Your friends in the PUB will thank you all winter long!
(OMG! Did I just say the "W" word?! I'm so sorry!....I didn't mean it!....)

B_B
10-21-2011, 05:13 PM
Thanks for the update, and for bringing this thread back to the top.

Chip-skiff
10-21-2011, 05:35 PM
Oops— I didn't post a pic of the solar hot water collector. Here 'tis, with the scaffolding still in place:

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-Epup_ntrU3U/TqH1qhs5JpI/AAAAAAAABpU/4w6tunvo8Y8/s750/gh9.jpg

Got it salvage, for cheap, hauled it home and cleaned it up. Works fine.

Bobby of Tulsa
10-21-2011, 05:38 PM
Looking good, you are very ambitious. Be well my friend.:)

Chip-skiff
10-21-2011, 07:04 PM
If I put something like that up, the Zoning Police would haul me away forever.;)

Not much zoning pressure in rural Wyoming. On the other hand, some oil, gas, pipeline, or power transmission company can bulldoze a road into our land and do whatever the hell they want. That is, property rights seem to increase towards the high end. So I keep my fingers crossed, and hope for the best.

(Hey, Bobster– I'm sending you a virtual ripe tomato.)

Mrleft8
10-21-2011, 07:15 PM
Not to be nosy or anything, but approximately what do you have into that set up?

Chip-skiff
10-21-2011, 09:33 PM
Not to be nosy or anything, but approximately what do you have into that set up?

Don't know. I kept the receipts but haven't added them up. I hired an excavator to level the site and dig out the foundation, about $600. The biggest single cost was the polycarbonate sheathing, which was about $3500, I think. We borrowed a mixer and poured the footers with buckets and sweat. Did the backfilling by hand. The lumber for the frame was about half salvaged. I hired a contractor mate and his power tools to help frame it, about $750.00. Other than that I did the work myself. So there was a steady outward trickle for paint, brushes, pumps, PEX tubing, cable, boxes, pavers, etc. etc. And uncounted hours.

All told, I reckon it cost about a third of what it would if I'd had someone else do it.

The best part was to have a design goal, to build a small greenhouse that would collect and store enough energy, self-ventilate, and otherwise maintain good growing conditions in our savage climate, yearround. And to work out how to accomplish that, in my own imperfect, haphazard way.

Paul Pless
10-22-2011, 06:27 AM
A greenhouse is on my wishlist as well, but so far down it may well never get done. Same here. Funny, I never wanted one when I lived in the Heart of Dixie.;)

Mrleft8
10-22-2011, 08:15 AM
Certainly seems very cost efficient, and an excellent investment.

pipefitter
10-22-2011, 01:58 PM
It turned out very nice. If I lived up North, the cost wouldn't matter. Just to be able to do Spring/Summer chores and to avoid being cabin bound would be worth it's weight in gold, I would think.

Chip-skiff
10-22-2011, 09:22 PM
It turned out very nice. If I lived up North, the cost wouldn't matter. Just to be able to do Spring/Summer chores and to avoid being cabin bound would be worth it's weight in gold, I would think.

I've not kept track of produce prices, since we don't buy hardly any these days, but I'd guess we save $40-60 per month. The cost might be paid off in my lifetime, which fresh vegs are said to extend— not a bad way to consider it.

The real kick of pleasure, though, is to go into the greenhouse on a crackling, frosty morning, and it's warm and moist. I wipe the mist off my spectacles to go over and pick a small, juicy, ripe tomato and eat it right there. That's worth millions.

LeeG
10-23-2011, 12:57 AM
thx for the thread

Concordia...41
10-23-2011, 05:51 AM
thx for the thread

Agreed. I missed this the first time, but what an amazing project! Congratulations on your hard work and the resulting good fortune!

-M

Chip-skiff
10-24-2011, 12:41 AM
Thanks— stop by and have a tomato sometime.

Still learning to run it. In good sun, the solar collector adds about 25°F to the fluid in the closed loop, i.e. 95° fluid returns at 120°. Passing through the coils, the fluid (1/2 glycol, 1/2 distilled water) gives up most of that and comes out a few degrees warmer than the water in the heatsink (400 gallons of plain water). Since the warmer the water in the heatsink gets, the warmer the return water to the collector is, with 20-25° degrees added each time around, things could get out of hand. But I could cover part of the collector pretty easily. So it's not like a runaway nuclear reactor.

I've been storing heat, with the floor circulation pump off, and when the sun set today the heatsink water registered 95°. During the night, the circulation pump transfers 5-10° to the thermal mass of the floor— I've got a soil thermometer poked in the center bed. It registered 55° before I started pumping and I've had it up to 65°. Most of the plants are in containers, so the floor temp can be a bit warmer than roots like. But not too much. With the pump shut off and a nice sunny day, the floor temp was about 60°.

Outdoors it's 27° and falling. Probably about 20° by dawn. I'm guessing that the floor will be about 65° tomorrow morning and the air temp inside about 50°. That is, the thing works.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-NwGsr_fgRig/TqHfT-XaXNI/AAAAAAAABpA/b_zjX4VDbZo/s507/gh6.jpg

Fun with applied physics. . .

AussieBarney
10-24-2011, 01:58 AM
I'm not trying to be horrid or anything, but, I could not imagine living in a climate that would require anything like that to grow veges in winter. It is a wonderfully imaginative project to design and build. Here where I live you just wack up a simple poly tunnel and grow.

skuthorp
10-24-2011, 05:09 AM
Yes, down by the sea here we don't even get frosts and a simple poly clad structure with shelves made from salvaged bed frames suffices. Keeps the wallabies and rabbits out too. Second planting of beans, lettuce and tomatoes today. Also Pumpkin and more Zucchini seedlings. Harvested red cauliflower and broccolini for dinner tonight.

Chip-skiff
10-24-2011, 10:06 PM
Actually, the PEX coils (about 100-120 ft.) in the big heatsink transfer most of the collected heat. The return line registers about 3° higher than the water in the tank, so 22° of the 25° gain is being transferred. And having a single length of tubing is pretty well leakproof and trouble free, and also cheap and easy.

Build your own greenhouse, and we'll drag race. . .

Chip-skiff
10-28-2011, 12:04 AM
No frosts? Lucky you. We tend to have sunny days and extremely cold nights— the wide temperature range is pretty hard on plants.

I planted and tended a garden in NZ, South Island so it did frost a few times each winter. The big problem was the constant damp. But once things got going, they grew like mad, in the volcanic soil around Lyttelton Harbour, which is fertile where it hasn't been sheep-blasted.

In any event, the active/passive heating system got its first test, with a two day snowstorm followed by a clear night at 3°F /-15°C. Looks pretty well frozen, right?

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-XvLhdfJ1Cbg/Tqo0k45bmjI/AAAAAAAABrQ/atDbO4Ges_8/s650/gh10.jpg

Snow on the roof, thick frost on the solar collector. But inside it was nice, considering—

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-psuSlHMEXYw/Tqo0mNwV5dI/AAAAAAAABrY/svApuBhwEFc/s315/gh11.jpg

48°F inside and 78° water in the heatsink (after being circulated through the floor for two days without any additional solar heat). I used two of the three ceiling-mounted radiant heat elements (500 watts each) during the coldest part of the night, which put the air temp into the 50s.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-G_5KZPdqaCw/Tqo0p0Qt5tI/AAAAAAAABrg/Ak0jf7uNves/s481/gh12.jpg

The strawberries are just revving up, a new crop of lettuce is coming on, and I reckon we'll get another 2-3 weeks of pole beans and ripe tomatoes. I might start some Siberian tomatoes (heirloom variety suited to windowsill growing) and try a winter crop.

Chip-skiff
11-17-2011, 12:34 AM
Mid-November and the tomatoes are loving it!

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-a_o19p_p9s8/TsSab7StBLI/AAAAAAAABvc/U6YynfhHnAk/s468/salsa%2520pick.jpg

Just picked a bunch today for salsa, with a handful of hot Hungarian wax peppers, cilantro, and parsley. The fist-size ones are Johnny's 361, a hybrid sauce tomato. The medium ones are Juliet and the smallest are Siberian and Roma types.

Feeling madly optimistic, I started a container of basil and it's looking wonderful. Also Siberian tomatoes for a winter crop, with a couple cucumbers as well. The combination of solar heat storage, both passive and active, in tanks of water and radiant ceiling heat (I added a thermostat) is working so far. Some plants looked light-starved, so I wired in a few full-spectrum bulbs on a timer.

Time to relax and enjoy. No more tinkering for a month or so. I'm happy.

Bobby of Tulsa
11-17-2011, 06:33 AM
Very good, Seems like all that work is paying off.

Mrleft8
11-17-2011, 08:54 AM
I hate you. :D

I couldn't even get tomatoes like that outside this "summer".....

Concordia...41
11-17-2011, 08:56 AM
I couldn't even get tomatoes like that outside this "summer".....

Well..... :p:p

Mrleft8
11-17-2011, 09:03 AM
Well..... :p:p
You do know that tomatoes grow on vines....Not in a styrofoam box in the vegetable section of the St. Frozenstine Wal~Mart....Right Boss? ;)

Concordia...41
11-17-2011, 11:07 AM
You do know that tomatoes grow on vines....Not in a styrofoam box in the vegetable section of the St. Frozenstine Wal~Mart....Right Boss? ;)

Yes dear. I know tomatoes grow - I'd say more of a plant than a vine - but however they grow, they grow better where it's WARM:d

Hence, this whole elaborate to-die-for (if I lived some place it snowed) greenhouse :ycool:

switters
11-17-2011, 11:33 AM
nicely done! when will the salsa be ready?|;)

Chip-skiff
11-17-2011, 11:50 PM
Made it yesterday. Pretty good, I reckon. It's in a big stainless bowl in the fridge, 'til I decide whether to add more hot peppers. Seems like it takes a couple days for the full flavor to develop.

The Wolf Goddess is going to visit her Alpha Mom, and wants to take tomatoes. So I'm nearly wiped out of ripe ones for now.

Chip-skiff
11-30-2011, 02:11 PM
Last day of November, and even with some sub-zero nights and snowy days, the wee jungle is thriving.

The flat-plate collector is yielding 120°-130°F for around six hours per day. The pressure in the closed loop seldom goes above 10 psi— pretty safe working conditions.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-hoDFJMmSa3k/TtZ4jfbngcI/AAAAAAAABxQ/Ez35lG9EfDI/s283/NOV11-7.jpg

The collector is angled for maximum efficiency at the lowest sun angle, which occurs in a few weeks. On sunny days when the nighttime lows are not too severe (mid-20s or above) I let the passive heatsinks and the electric radiants keep things nice, and bank the day's heat in the big subfloor tank. Right now there's 400 gallons of water at 96°, and it should be at least 2-3° warmer by day's end. With the floor circulation off, the soil temp is 55°. The forecast is for snow tonight, then high winds and more snow 'til Friday, so I'll turn on the AC circulation pump and send that nice, warm water into the floor, which has about 330 cu. ft. of compact sand, soil, and pavers. With the roots kept warm and the thermal mass of the floor radiating heat, the plants seem to be under no stress whatsoever.

Didn't like leaving the ceiling radiant heaters on all night, so I added a waterproof thermostat, which keeps the air temp above 45° and saves quite a lot of power. The plants were looking a bit light-hungry, so I also added four 55 watt full-spectrum spring lamps.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-ooHM_vZIgU0/TtJ7yb-__sI/AAAAAAAABwo/vVw_mttGM5c/s274/NOV11-7.jpg

They're on a timer, to go on a couple hours before sunrise, then again for three hours after sunset. The only part I'm not keen on is having what looks like a big lightbulb out back. There are no street lamps nearby and no yard lights except when the weird neighbors spend the weekend, so I'm not used to it.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-RQUKRDOxO-c/TtZ4pmzmjfI/AAAAAAAABxg/epw5tlAHPVE/s640/NOV11-9.jpg

The white dot on the horizon is not the moon, but only a reflection on the lens. After a week of supplementary light, the plants are definitely greener and also flowering.

This is a mini-eggplant that already produced a nice yield:

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-MuH05nAgdy4/TtJ7srkjXmI/AAAAAAAABwU/ptw-Oz0_g_g/s408/NOV11-4.jpg

And the basil is sprouting like mad.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-z8tAlDMR65Q/TtJ7niX2rKI/AAAAAAAABwE/AYL7sdZiVls/s450/NOV11-2.jpg

Also tomato and cuke seedlings for a midwinter crop. It really is fun learning to run this thing, and having the big solar electric system done, I don't feel so bad about using the electric radiant heaters or the grow lights, since we're generating the power.

switters
11-30-2011, 03:09 PM
looking at single digits tomorrow night, but it looks like it shouldn't be a problem for you. You have me thinking on how to keep my shop warm in the winter in the same manner rather than wood stove (lots of wood, slow to warm) or electricity (kids broke my good baseboard heater) or kerosene, like a kick in the wallet.

cool project.

Chip-skiff
11-30-2011, 07:10 PM
From the pics you posted of your shop, the floor's a concrete slab, so radiant floor heat isn't a possibility. But you could score a couple used flat-plate water collectors (lots on CraigsList) and set a big livestock water tank under your workbench— no insulation, but a top cover is necessary. The tank is the radiator. Since you get freezing temps there, you'd need to do a closed loop with a glycol solution and PEX coils in the tank. I'd use a DC pump hooked to a PV panel, so it'll pump even when your line power is out. I used a Laing EcoCirc D5 090 B pump, with a check valve:

http://www.altestore.com/store/i/multimedia/images/strong_090B.png/x345/y250/
The check valve makes it easier to charge the closed loop. (Note: one reason for doing a closed loop is that pressure head isn't an issue, so a very small pump can handle the circulation.)

I'd also build some sort of hot air collection thingie for daytime space heating. This is my next project, to help heat the house, and I'll add a 10 watt PV panel and a DC computer fan to boost the airflow.


http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/MaineSolar/Window Col1.png

The hot-air collector should give you warmth on sunny days and the hot water system will keep the shop from freezing at night.

Mrleft8
11-30-2011, 08:24 PM
It really is fascinating... And an indication that the global food shortage.... Umm....... The fears of a global food shortage are perhaps more of a lack of foresight than an inevitability...
I certainly am extremely impressed with your project Chip!

Chip-skiff
12-01-2011, 12:34 AM
Thanks for the encouragement. I've always had to fix up places built by others— the greenhouse is the first structure I've been able to build from scratch. It'd be fun to build a house on similar principles, but I don't think I'll have the chance.

switters
12-08-2011, 12:42 PM
thanks for the sketch, lots of head scratching this winter to come up with a new heating plan and this helps a great deal.

Chip-skiff
12-08-2011, 10:06 PM
We have to get together for a sail next summer. Good time to compare notes.

Chip-skiff
01-17-2012, 01:04 AM
Might as well post an update. In December there were nights around -20°F and the breaker panel didn't have enough capacity to use a big electric heater , so I bought a little propane heater and ran the hose in through a port I built to pass a water hose inside.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-yQoecrmdQ6M/TwjG0kovjWI/AAAAAAAAB00/gXvif87sL-I/s466/g12-1.jpg

Good thing I did: the temps went down to around -30°F. The multi-wall polycarbonate sheathing insulates well enough that the low setting kept the air temp around 40°F all night. So we made pesto and fresh salsa (with our own hot peppers) for Christmas.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-0YSdwWh5FDM/TwjG3SftVWI/AAAAAAAAB08/hXOKH72Qro0/s450/g12-2.jpg

The cukes and beans were pretty worn out— they'd been bearing for six months— so I took them out and cleared the center bed. Also planted tomatoes in a flat, all Russian and Eastern European heirlooms with names like Kotlas and Stupich. The old tomatoes are still bearing and the new ones are about 6-8 inches high. Took this on a planting day.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-4nr_C33Enko/TwjHDcEYztI/AAAAAAAAB1M/SCkAQHc6Xq8/s600/g12-4.jpg

The black pot foreground is a Katrina cucumber that was looking sad, so I started a couple of a different variety (Socrates) to replace it. The sage-green plants lower right are mini-eggplant, blooming like crazy and starting to set a second batch of fruit. Aphids attacked so I brushed off with a natural bristle paintbrush left over from boatbuilding, and then carpet-bombed 'em with ladybugs.

The shelves along the passive heatsinks stay a bit warmer so I keep the tender stuff there: (front to back) chervil, tomato seedlings, basil, and flat-leaf parsley.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-HF4TMzYDoTA/TwjG92ff5AI/AAAAAAAAB1E/RVq0sq0vQyg/s466/g12-3.jpg

I stockpile containers with soil for the next round of planting.

With the tangle of beans and cukes gone, there's more light. I planted the center bed with salad and cooking stuff: chives, arugula/rocquette, baby lettuce mix, spinach, Japanese radish, purple scallions, and tetragonia (NZ spinach).

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-aKZbH3DZoKI/TxRgGo3icnI/AAAAAAAAB2g/020qb869c5U/s640/g12-9.jpg

The red oakleaf lettuce lower right has been picked for a couple weeks. Leaf lettuce regrows if you don't hit it too hard. The strawberries (Seascape, from Johnny's Select Seeds) are doing well in hanging pots.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-3tdIKM_zBwQ/TxRo01lxPBI/AAAAAAAAB2s/HCUjgi5G700/s550/g12-10.jpg

Most of the bare root plants I ordered died, but I saved three and two of those threw out long runners this fall. I clipped the leaf clusters and planted them, so now I have nine pots growing, with the three oldest bearing nicely and the others starting to flower.

Summed up, the passive heat storage (thermal mass of the insulated foundation and floor, plus four 75-gallon water tanks) will keep it above freezing with nights about -10°F. The three radiant heaters on the ceiling (3 x 500 watts) on a thermostat handle things down to zero. The active solar heat (flat-plate collector, pump, 400 gallon heatsink under the floor) keeps the soil temps about 55°F and radiates enough heat that the radiants don't come on that much until it gets really cold. Below -10° I light the propane heater, in part because at that temperature a power failure (no radiants, no floor pump) could cause serious hurt.

I enjoyed designing and building it, and learning to run it is likewise absorbing. Nice to have fresh vegs right out back, all year round.

Thanks for the comments—

Chip

PeterSibley
01-17-2012, 02:26 AM
http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/MaineSolar/Window Col1.png

I plan something very similar to the above but feeding the hot air into a "cupboard" with nylon mesh shelving as a fruit drier .The hot air collection box has many uses !

Jefe
01-21-2012, 11:27 AM
Great thread Chip - really enjoying this one.

Chip-skiff
01-21-2012, 02:03 PM
Great thread Chip - really enjoying this one.

Glad to hear it. I'm in the greenhouse now- installed a wireless router in the house and it has enough range to let me use a laptop. Screen's pretty glary, though. But I've got one of those folding wooden rockers like they make in Maine and Canada, steam-bent maple fastened with square-drive deck screws. Got it in a junk shop years ago. There's no makers mark on it, but it's at least 50 years old, I reckon.

Cloudy, blustery day. It's 66.7 degrees out here and 59 degrees in the house. Just got done pruning the tomato vines, to let a bit more light in. Ate a couple ripe Sun Gold cherry toms. I'm tempted to stay right here, but I'd better walk the doggo and then work on the hot air collector.

PAlien
01-21-2012, 05:12 PM
I've been following since you started this thread. I suppose it's past time to let you know how much I've enjoyed your updates, and the knowledge you are sharing here. It is greatly appreciated, thank you.

Chip-skiff
01-21-2012, 06:28 PM
I've been following since you started this thread. I suppose it's past time to let you know how much I've enjoyed your updates, and the knowledge you are sharing here. It is greatly appreciated, thank you.

I appreciate the kind words. If you build your own greenhouse, rather than updates you could be enjoying ripe tomatoes.

Chip-skiff
01-29-2012, 05:54 PM
Finished building the solar hot air siphon thingie. My scrap bins yielded everything I needed except some reflective insulation.

Here's the side that goes in through the window. The warm air exits through the obvious openings.

The cold air intake is out of sight beneath.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-nCKMQ1FOVtY/TyXLVu1BiII/AAAAAAAAB5A/Y-VV5RIMcHo/s463/solarheater2.jpg

Here's the business end. If you scroll back to the sketch you'll know what's what. I painted a leftover scrap of steel roofing black for the heat-collecting part. The face is 2-wall polycarbonate that was used as padding in the crate for the sheathing I ordered for the greenhouse. Very useful stuff to have on hand.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-XkiKE6gBwOk/TyXLSzorJ8I/AAAAAAAAB44/hn3_LWDv7lM/s576/solarheater.jpg

Ruby isn't sure what it is. I'll get it mounted through the window tomorrow. The frame is vinyl and has several odd angles, thin edges, etc. It'll require some serious cussing, I reckon.

PAlien
01-29-2012, 06:34 PM
Looks great, I'll be curious to see how it works for you. If I had better southern exposure I would be building one myself.

Have you seen the variation with screening as the collector?

Chip-skiff
01-29-2012, 08:13 PM
Have you seen the variation with screening as the collector?

No. I'm curious about it. Do you have a link to a website?

StevenBauer
01-29-2012, 08:56 PM
I like the collector, Chip. I have a double glazed panel from a sliding glass door and plan on something similar. I was goin to mount it to the exterior of the house with a small section of insulated vent pipe top and bottom. Do you think convection would be enough? I was thinking a small solar powered fan

Chip-skiff
01-29-2012, 09:30 PM
I like the collector, Chip. I have a double glazed panel from a sliding glass door and plan on something similar. I was goin to mount it to the exterior of the house with a small section of insulated vent pipe top and bottom. Do you think convection would be enough? I was thinking a small solar powered fan

Glass is nice but heavy. I selected thin/lightweight stock and the polycarbonate weighs 1/3 or less what glass does. And the thing is still pretty heavy and bulky for one person to move.

This one mounts through a window, so I didn't have to cut any holes in the house. If it works well, I might build a larger one with permanent ductwork and fans.

I've got two solar panels left from other projects, and a 6" 12v fan from Radio Shack. I'll try it without a fan first and see how warm the air is coming out. If it's really hot, then a fan would be good.

Steve McMahon
01-29-2012, 09:47 PM
I too would like to add my thanks to chip-skiff for this thread. We had chatted earlier about my attempts to grow stuff in my south facing office / greenhouse and the problem I had with lettuce bolting in normal potting soil. I was able to find some 00 / .01 / 00 potting soil and just planted some lettuce to try it.
My hope is to have this stuff worked out before I build our next house that includes a small year round greenhouse. I grew up on a farm, but never learned about greenhouse stuff. We just put seeds in the ground in the spring and fertalized and harvested.

Chip-skiff
01-30-2012, 05:45 PM
I too would like to add my thanks to chip-skiff for this thread. . .
My hope is to have this stuff worked out before I build our next house that includes a small year round greenhouse.

Thanks, Steve. I'd love to build from scratch and use what I've learned about sunlight and applied physics. In our climate it wouldn't be that hard to build a house that would collect and store most of the energy needed. But instead, I'm always fixing and retrofitting.

Speaking of which, here's the solar hot-air siphon space heater installed—

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-2ZjuyABZFH4/TycZPqZydfI/AAAAAAAAB5M/oKdd9fGItDs/s649/solarheater3.jpg

Looks okay, if you don't inspect too closely. It had to be mounted high enough that I can lift the window-well cover (more greenhouse scrap). I cut angle foam blocks to build up the angled and channeled windowframe so the weight wouldn't rest on the thin edges, then cut more foam to seal up the edges.

Here's the inside view—

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-vg2dcPhZcWI/TycZR8gh3SI/AAAAAAAAB5U/Kcxh-P5NZJQ/s537/solarheater4.jpg

Not exactly decor, but neither is it hideous. The warm current of air was encouraging. I think I'll leave the fan and solar panel off for now. Tomorrow I'll shut the bedroom door and see what the temperature increase is by sunset. I'm curious as to whether it makes sense to build a large version and install some ducts.

Bobby of Tulsa
01-30-2012, 05:48 PM
Ok, if you are just going to leave stuff outside send it to me.:)

Chip-skiff
01-30-2012, 08:05 PM
Ok, if you are just going to leave stuff outside send it to me.:)

You mean the coal stove? It's an old railway stove— you can tell by the bolt holes in the feet. There's an iron flowerpot upside-down on top where the pipe plugs in. No place to set a pot of coffee. Strictly for space heating.

Bobby of Tulsa
01-30-2012, 08:21 PM
I would almost drive up there and haul it off for you, almost.

PAlien
01-30-2012, 08:24 PM
No. I'm curious about it. Do you have a link to a website?

Here's a good starting point. I'm sure you've seen these guys, they are a great resource.

http://www.n3fjp.com/solar/comparisonhotair/comparisonhotair.htm

And, from that page is this link:

http://www.builditsolar.com/Experimental/AirColTesting/Index.htm

Chip-skiff
01-30-2012, 09:49 PM
Thanks for the links. I'm thinking about the reason why screen would be better than a piece of roofing steel— less surface area but more contact area, and more turbulent air circulation.

Hmmmmm. I'll probably build another one before too long.


I would almost drive up there and haul it off for you, almost.

This one's from a passenger coach. They didn't want passengers trying to cook or boil water, so they got stoves with a rounded sloping top not much larger than the stovepipe. Caboose or crew car heating stoves are nicer, with a flat top and one or two plates. Monkey stoves (two-plate laundry stoves used for heating wash boilers) are also nice for heating a small cabin and one-pot cooking. Some of them have double-wall fireboxes (a water jacket) with pipe threads on the back, for heating water. But they tended to rust out so there's not many around.

Chip-skiff
02-07-2012, 11:10 PM
https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-2ZjuyABZFH4/TycZPqZydfI/AAAAAAAAB5M/oKdd9fGItDs/s649/solarheater3.jpg

Finally got a perfectly clear day for a test. The outside temp at sunrise was about 20°F. The temp in the bedroom (135 sq. ft.) was 52°F. With the doors shut, by 1:00 pm the temp was 60.6°F, an 8.6° gain. Not bad for a simple box with sun-driven circulation. I'll build an add-on panel with a couple small DC fans, and hang a 10 W PV panel outside.

The screen collector is intriguing. Since there are two identical windows, I'll probably build a screen collector and do comparisons next winter. No hurry.

Big storm blew through, with subzero nights after.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-klp-_ao4lHE/Ty2CccrFROI/AAAAAAAAB6A/CfqmUYitWFk/s720/snowgh1.jpg

But inside there's an endless summer.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-coVJp2t9GZs/Ty8bDLrwSgI/AAAAAAAAB6U/TvFAGQjtwok/s628/FebToms.jpg

Stuck the newspaper in to prove it's not an old photo. Cut a container of basil this afternoon to make roasted-garlic/pecan pesto and added about 1/3 fresh chervil which adds an interesting note.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-BA8STvd3Uzs/TxNPCUDEBJI/AAAAAAAAB2M/36lwSazhe1o/s645/Rubita.jpg

Ruby (the dear dog) loves pesto.

Jefe
02-08-2012, 10:15 AM
Hey Chip,

Do you have a control to compare to? Just wondering how much of the heat gain is from the collector vs. sun on that side of the house...

Chip-skiff
02-08-2012, 02:14 PM
Do you have a control to compare to? Just wondering how much of the heat gain is from the collector vs. sun on that side of the house.

I'll try it again with the blinds closed on the next day there's no cloud cover.

My guess is that the combined effect of sun on the outside of the house and through the windows would be a gain of 1-2 degrees. But the collector warms the air when it's cold outdoors and the room is losing more heat through wall and windows than it's gaining.

Chip-skiff
02-09-2012, 06:05 PM
Since the airflow with the passive thermosiphon setup was gentle, to say the least, I added a pair of 12 volt DC cooling fans from Radio Shack (about 5 watts max) wired in parallel, and hung a 10 watt panel (used for charging batteries during science fieldwork) on the wall outside.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-QSf3KDe3Ul4/TzRNuM5GrAI/AAAAAAAAB7E/le8fa_FLmWM/s666/sunbox.jpg

To measure the airflow, I taped a sheet of toilet tissue on the outlet. With the passive thermosiphon it deflected maybe 10°. With the fans it deflects 45-60°, and the temperature of the air output is still pleasantly warm, i.e. the design is better at air-heating than air-moving.

After tilting the PV panel, which boosts the fan speed (sounds like a small aircraft taking off on a short strip) I mounted it flat which keeps the fan noise tolerable. On the next clear day, I'll take another set of temp readings.

Chip-skiff
02-09-2012, 06:23 PM
Might as well post a few pics of the greenhouse.

I took out the old beans, cukes, and tomatoes (which had quit producing) in December and replanted. Aound the outside are tomatoes and mini-eggplant.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-38JcL3lR14U/TzRNgQyvk6I/AAAAAAAAB6s/DbGLsS72JrY/s720/g12-11.jpg

In the center bed, the black pots hold two cukes and one melon (saved seeds from a delicious melon we got at a farmer's market). The plastic containers on the near side hold chives and baby rocquette.

Here are some of the new crop of tomatoes, all Russian and east European heirlooms.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-dUTI74a0648/TzRNlF92JiI/AAAAAAAAB60/0pqxYt_P0IQ/s649/g12-12.jpg

Here's the other half of the middle bed.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/--44Jo9UxNJ0/TzRNqlppYiI/AAAAAAAAB68/BlzbV9ZUF5U/s720/g12-13.jpg

In the green pot is a Seascape strawberry. At the top is a baby lettuce mix, then New Zealand spinach, then a hybrid spinach (nearly big enough to clip), with Japanese radishes and purple scallions (hard to see) along the edge and a red oakleaf lettuce on the right, that I've been clipping for three weeks.

Right now we can have a nice salad every 2-3 days. Pretty soon we'll be able to have salad every day.

The solar heat, both passive and active, and the radiants keep things above 40°F until the outside temps go below -5°F. I've used the little propane heater five nights so far this winter, with temps down to about -30°F.

Since we live a good way from town and only shop once a week, we had trouble keeping enough produce on hand without things going bad. So it's nice to have fresh vegs on hand all the time.

Chip-skiff
02-10-2012, 04:30 PM
Today's pick— top basket, Siberia, Black Prince, and Gold Nugget.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-6W0PSvhCxwc/TzWEV2txP5I/AAAAAAAAB7Q/VmXp6fnbStg/s549/gh12-14.jpg

Bottom, Johnnys 361 and Moskvich.

Think I'll have a BLT while I look at the new issue of WB.

Bobby of Tulsa
02-10-2012, 04:41 PM
Mr.Skiff, you are such a..... Good gardener.:)

switters
02-10-2012, 05:12 PM
Well done, how did you get your copy before I did up in the wilds of Wyoming while here in civilized (sometimes) Fort Fun the WBJ is absent from my mailbox?

Just started snowing too, going to be a fun ride tonight.

Chip-skiff
02-10-2012, 05:38 PM
Well done, how did you get your copy before I did up in the wilds of Wyoming while here in civilized (sometimes) Fort Fun the WBJ is absent from my mailbox?

I told the mailman I'd shoot him if he didn't buck up.

PAlien
02-10-2012, 06:49 PM
Still loving this thread, thank you again Chip. Are you familiar with the work at CRMPI? Seems like it would be right up your alley.

http://ecosystems-design.com/CRMPI%20Greenhouses.html

MiddleAgesMan
02-10-2012, 08:18 PM
Thanks for this amazing thread, Chip. I want to save the whole thing so my son can get busy doing something similar down here. I've saved stuff from forums in the past but I'm getting old and don't recall how I did it. If anyone wants to show me the way that would be hunky dory.

Regardless, Mr. Chip, please carry on.

MiddleAgesMan
02-10-2012, 08:45 PM
Not sure about the beans, but they do.

The tomatoes want a bit of shaking, and they get the job done. For the peppers, I touch all the blossoms of each variety with a fingertip (the pollen is visible). Different fingers for different sorts. Not sure it's necessary, but why not have a bit of fun?

The cucumbers are parthenogenic (self-fertilizing). The seed catalogues have this sort of information.

I've never tried to grow beans so I can't comment on them, but I do want to add what I've learned about tomatoes and cukes.

Cukes have male and female flowers that have to cross pollenate to produce fruit. It's pretty easy to see which flowers are male and which are female; male flowers have slender stems and female flowers have bulges--miniature cukes just below the bloom. If there are no bugs or breezes you need to move pollen from the male flowers to the female ones using a small artist's brush.

Tomatoes (and bell peppers) have flowers that have both male and female parts within the same flower. They will self-pollinate with a little shaking or wind.

Chip-skiff
02-10-2012, 11:18 PM
Cukes have male and female flowers that have to cross pollenate to produce fruit. It's pretty easy to see which flowers are male and which are female; male flowers have slender stems and female flowers have bulges--miniature cukes just below the bloom. If there are no bugs or breezes you need to move pollen from the male flowers to the female ones using a small artist's brush.

True in the main, but the variety I like best (Socrates from Johnny's) is parthenogenic. The blossoms develop into fruits with no help whatsoever.

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_XAqLuU8H28k/TGh2uNy9NOI/AAAAAAAAAvU/b2_gAiVRObY/a24.jpg

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-NiBTtyqHchQ/TqHfWbjM8LI/AAAAAAAABpI/aulo8acOvW4/s407/gh7.jpg

Chip-skiff
02-21-2012, 02:31 PM
Shot this today, with a ground blizzard howling outside: the wind is scouring up loose snow and carrying it in a cloud. All the highways are closed. Inside, the greens I planted a couple weeks ago are now mature enough that we can have salad every day, and sometimes twice.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-W6hH-gfKkUU/T0PnEK1Sp6I/AAAAAAAACAI/Ax33nV40_q4/s720/g12-15.jpg

Top to bottom, L to R: chives, rocquette (arugula), cucumbers and a melon with mache (corn salad) in a circle around the pot. Near bed: carrots (not up yet), leaf-lettuce mix, New Zealand spinach, spinach, Japanese radish (Shunkyo), purple scallions, and red oakleaf lettuce. I've also got radishes sprouting around the new bunch of tomato plants, which are beginning to flower.

With a decent-size south or east window, you could grow enough in containers for one or two people. You need enough containers to be starting new batches of the short-cycle crops such as radishes and corn salad as the first bunch matures . Lettuce, spinach, arugula and other plants that are harvested by clipping leaves will regrow and give a longer harvest period.

Here's a container of basil just sprouting, on a heat mat with insulation underneath. There's a clear dome cover and a grow light, all of which speed up the process.
https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-ToM_ZvYGc08/T0PnJLMm5PI/AAAAAAAACAQ/XTs77-GR-Xs/s720/g12-16.jpg

With basil, I usually thin it and use the whole baby plants in salad. When it gets about 2 inches high, I thin again and use the leaves. The last cutting is at about 4 inches high. If I let it go too long, the aphids get into it— basil is a magnet for aphids, which are a constant problem.

Hope this inspires some cultivation, or at least lightens the deep-winter blues.

Chip-skiff
03-04-2012, 03:31 PM
While I was in Seattle, it snew and blew like mad. A big slab slid off the greenhouse roof and tore the PEX tubing from the outlet fitting on the collector, so there was no active heating. I spotted it when I got back— an easy fix. Then I recharged the system with 50% glycol and did a better job than at first— it shows 10 psi cold.

While I had the ladder up, I decided to switch the PV panel that drives the active heat pump to the west side of the flat-plate collector. Where it was, it was getting full sun first thing in the morning, while there was still frost on the flat-plate collector glass, so it was pumping warm fluid through the cold collector. On the west side, there's just enough morning shadow to keep the pump from starting until the big collector has 30-40 minutes of sun and is well warmed up.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-jSIuPcm7Zdw/T1PIvI5ecKI/AAAAAAAACCA/VBjGtzdHWEc/s750/collector7.jpg

It also keeps the pump running a bit later in the afternoon, when the collector is warm. Further minor adjustments will follow, no doubt.

The solar hot air collector is working well: on a sunny day it blows a nice stream of 70°+ air into the cold part of the house. When it's dark and cold, not much air circulates through it, so we're not losing much more heat than through the window glazing.

Chip-skiff
03-07-2012, 04:29 PM
Took a few snaps this morning. Saw a couple of these flying buggers, which are new to me. Can anyone ID this?

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-_jqcmMOfCps/T1exlSMsOfI/AAAAAAAACDI/SFXHE2ZnHb4/s600/g12-17.jpg

If it eats smaller bugs, fine. If it has larvae that eat plants. . .

Here's the center bed. Above the divide, chives and rocket/arugula, now getting a bit rank. In the pots, cuke, melon, cuke. It's been a bt chilly for them and they're growing slowly. Around them are Mache (corn salad) and a couple NZ spinach in left pot, that'll be picked before long. These interplantings use the limited space in an efficient way.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-WcGuIBo0Dsw/T1exrBlgb5I/AAAAAAAACDQ/OrdUIG2vTes/s700/g12-18.jpg

Bottom half: carrots (just up, ready to be thinned), spinach and Japanese radish, baby lettuce mix, NZ spinach, purple scallions (bottom edge) and red oakleaf lettuce. The aphids are starting to get into the baby lettuce and spinach. They don't like the red lettuce much. Just harvested bags of rocket, spinach, and lettuce. The radish leaves are also good in salad.

The strawberries (Seascape from Johnny's) are starting to produce 2-3 handfuls per week. Some of them are strangely shaped, but taste fine. Hanging pots are good for space-saving.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-g6nNgGF65Rg/T1exvD0XnYI/AAAAAAAACDY/M7QwOZA8ejA/s650/g12-19.jpg

The basil is really taking off. It was started under a clear dome on a heat mat. The heat mat is now off, but I've got a grow-light just above.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-40vZBIETgiU/T1exzK0x85I/AAAAAAAACDg/DsVYVDJJjOM/s650/g12-20.jpg

I'll thin it out this afternoon and we'll eat the sprouts in panzanella (an Italian bread salad). The old tomatoes have slowed down, but they've been bearing since last June or July. The new ones, all different varieties, are blooming.

This is what it's been like outside—

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-VAm9LRQKems/T0SJQ7xyRlI/AAAAAAAACAk/zwY8MfIDA0A/s720/bliz1.jpg

JBreeze
03-08-2012, 10:41 AM
I'm about to build a glass "alcove" onto a shed .... the footprint will only be 16 sq. ft., and the glazing will be about 60 sq. ft. The intended use is a "season extender" so I can have veggies from April through late November.

Got a good deal on some surplus, new, double-pane glass panels - $100 delivered today. Less $$ than the equivalent R value polycarb and it might look a little nicer, too. Woo-hoo!

Thanks for the inspiration provided by this thread to finally get off the seat and actually do it!

Mrleft8
03-08-2012, 10:59 AM
https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-_jqcmMOfCps/T1exlSMsOfI/AAAAAAAACDI/SFXHE2ZnHb4/s600/g12-17.jpg
It's a bug.
Chuck's only been gone a year now Chip..... You didn't really think that the surveillance would stop that quickly did you? :D

Chip-skiff
03-08-2012, 05:20 PM
I'm about to build a glass "alcove" onto a shed .... the footprint will only be 16 sq. ft., and the glazing will be about 60 sq. ft. The intended use is a "season extender" so I can have veggies from April through late November.

Got a good deal on some surplus, new, double-pane glass panels - $100 delivered today. Less $$ than the equivalent R value polycarb and it might look a little nicer, too. Woo-hoo!

Thanks for the inspiration provided by this thread to finally get off the seat and actually do it!

Cool! Post some pics.

A couple people asked me about using salvage double-pane windows like that. I'd probably use them for the walls and stick with polycarbonate for the roof, since it's stronger with a snowload and won't shatter with hailstorms. Although you might not have such worries in R.I.

p.s. Gee, Lefty. Thanks for the advice.

Chip-skiff
03-25-2012, 04:49 PM
Seems we're over the thermal hump. During winter the heat loss was slightly greater than the collection and storage of solar heat, so I needed small electric radiant heaters to warm the foliage and an occasional boost from a tiny propane heater on subzero nights— I used the propane heat maybe seven times. Typically, in sunny weather I'd shut off the floor circulation and let the heat build up in the big water tank under the floor (highest it got was around 100°F). I'd turn on the floor circulation for cold nights, which would transfer about 10°F out of the tank into the thermal mass of the floor, which I kept at 45-50°F.

Since the days warmed to 60-70° with nights 20-30°, I've been running the floor circulation continuously. That raised the floor temp to 60° or above, with the tank temps 80s and 90s. The warmer floor means that the radiant heaters (on a thermostat) turn on very seldom. And the plants that love heat have taken off. The cucumbers (top right) are growing an inch per day.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-9ViskeYJZIg/T2-La9v5b-I/AAAAAAAACEA/MKlUaVbAEnQ/s750/g12-21.jpg

Top bed: strawberries started from runners and two cucumbers in pots. Bottom: carrot sprouts above Japanese radish, then mixed baby lettuce and NZ spinach, then red oakleaf lettuce. Scallions along the lower edge.

Here's another shot showing the salad stuff I planted around the cukes: Mache (corn salad) in the left pot and NZ spinach in the right. Chives in the nearest container.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-yVd-Skchjcg/T2-LiOGjoNI/AAAAAAAACEI/E4DScPDeZn8/s750/g12-22.jpg

The old (bearing for 9-10 months) tomatoes are still giving us good fruit, with the Sun Gold (orange, below) and Moskvich (medium size red) varieties lasting the longest.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-0hZje2L9MBs/T2-LoF0o1_I/AAAAAAAACEQ/MInK6khkeSo/s640/g12-23.jpg

These tomatoes are very sweet and rich-tasting. Hard to resist plucking a few when I'm working out there.

The new batch of Russian and East Europe heirlooms are blooming like mad. This is either a Kotlas or a Stupice (the label fell off the pot).

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-6AYjckTvUg4/T2-LssTNcrI/AAAAAAAACEY/C3WgaANSAQU/s640/g12-24.jpg

And after two tasty thinnings, the new box of basil is just about ready to be cut.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-SHmiv-AzPbY/T2-LwmCXI3I/AAAAAAAACEg/OGCHZjDCtOE/s749/g12-25.jpg

I'm wondering when I'll have to cover the solar collector. Despite the early warmth (budbreak on the aspens was more than twenty days earlier than the recent average) we could still have a cold spell or two. Next month, for sure.

Paul Girouard
03-25-2012, 05:35 PM
I hate you, you bastid!! :d


Nice work!!

Steve McMahon
03-25-2012, 08:12 PM
I hate you, you bastid!! :d


Nice work!!

+1
I've been learning hard lessons on indoor growing and wish I had your skill. I'm working on it.

Chip-skiff
03-26-2012, 12:31 AM
+1
I've been learning hard lessons on indoor growing and wish I had your skill. I'm working on it.

The good part is that even the mistakes are usually edible.

Chip-skiff
03-26-2012, 01:30 PM
One more shot, of some radishes–

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-0iUKNezwG-U/T2-MAi0Rv3I/AAAAAAAACE4/BxUJyCXSV88/s400/g12-28.jpg

The long ones are Japanese Shunkyo. The others are a mix from Johnny's called Easter Egg. They're great for indoor growing, since they're edible in about three weeks. Besides the ones in the bed, I also plant them in pots around tomatoes, since they're ready to pick before the tomato plant starts flowering.

Chip-skiff
04-02-2012, 07:21 PM
I've been buying ladybugs to eat aphids. They seem to eat a couple good meals and then fly away. I've been hoping they'd lay eggs, since the larvae (little critters that look like six-legged Gila monsters) eat a lot more aphids than the adults, plus they can't fly. Anyhow, I got my wish. There was a herd of the little buggers molting on the edge of the bed—

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-uS3zPcuO6Zg/T3NOxCuPJQI/AAAAAAAACFg/muu09GLAC64/s699/babyladybugs1.jpg

The one far right has just emerged from its shell. They do this a couple times and then pupate and become adult ladybugs. They are sometimes called Aphid Lions and they've gobbled up most of the aphids that were attached like tiny greenish vampires to my plants. Aphids are the only problem pest in the greenhouse so far.

Here's an adult and three larvae, one of them just hatched and tiny–

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-cTOmEDr1EPw/T3NO1HajtII/AAAAAAAACFo/BLuWgVDbhcI/s599/babyladybugs2.jpg

The larvae get about 2-3 times bigger than the other two shown here.

This is the first batch of basil I've gotten to maturity without having to spray for aphids (with Safer's Soap, pretty benign but it kills aphids).

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-8MU-vJ-5kvw/T3oZzM9qv9I/AAAAAAAACGs/Tye57FsdBZU/s650/gh12-29.jpg

I already thinned this container once. This time I select-cut the tall plants, leaving the medium and small ones which should yield one or two more harvests. Pesto tonight.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-izY0nekaocU/T3oZ2yIxELI/AAAAAAAACG0/lFDUNV3gih0/s649/gh12-30.jpg

Since I got the floor temp up to 60°, the cukes have been growing really fast and are starting to blossom.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-p_hX0ViHsRE/T3oZ8nuz2aI/AAAAAAAACG8/xHwpCqUn60I/s576/gh12-31.jpg

The chives are in good nick and the NZ spinach I planted around the cuke on the right is ready to eat. In fact, that sounds like an excellent idea.

Mrleft8
04-03-2012, 08:12 AM
I am so jealous.

LeeG
04-03-2012, 08:37 AM
love the photo of the dog on the road

MiddleAgesMan
04-03-2012, 06:03 PM
True in the main, but the variety I like best (Socrates from Johnny's) is parthenogenic. The blossoms develop into fruits with no help whatsoever.

I'm playing with ordinary cukes from seeds purchased at Ace Hardware. Mine are starting to flower (they've been outside about 3 weeks) and so far I have nothing but male flowers. I have five plants total.

I've forgotten if ordinary cukes have both male and female flowers. If all five of my plants have only male flowers does that mean I'm out of luck this year?

Chip-skiff
05-06-2012, 06:01 PM
I'm playing with ordinary cukes from seeds purchased at Ace Hardware. Mine are starting to flower (they've been outside about 3 weeks) and so far I have nothing but male flowers. I have five plants total.

I've forgotten if ordinary cukes have both male and female flowers. If all five of my plants have only male flowers does that mean I'm out of luck this year?

Wish I knew. But by now, you know how things turned out. I ought to have said that the variety I plant is parthenocarpic (i.e. it produces seed by self-fertilization).

Chip-skiff
05-06-2012, 06:19 PM
About time for a bit of lush greenery in the midst of this windblasted desolation.

The nights are around freezing, some a bit above, some below. But we're over the thermal hump. The solar heating system, with the flat panel tilted at a midwinter angle, is keeping the floor tank in the 90s (F). Air temps inside are regularly in the 90s, and the floor temps in the low 60s. Almost time to rig the shade cloths.

Fancy salad greens, Bull's Blood beets and Claytonia-

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-8O0nt4p5Qng/T6b9U8ZYg4I/AAAAAAAACQA/rSjTmvnQ6nU/s600/gh12-40.jpg

I've eaten the wild relative of the rightmost plant— Claytonia lanceolata, or Spring Beauty. I've got a new batch of basil, but it looks just like the last one.

The cukes (Socrates from Johnny's Seeds) are producing tender, thin-skinned beauts. Last year I used fat, furry twine, this year, sisal. Which is too slick and the vines keep sliding down with the weight of the fruit. So I've been cutting short pieces and knotting them, to give some purchase for the velcro plant ties.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-IRPPOSlmJQU/T6b9X3oOaPI/AAAAAAAACQI/qxG5lZh71Ls/s562/gh12-41.jpg

Here's the center bed. The mixed lettuce (lower right) is bolting, so I pull the plants and pluck the leaves. The red scallions (bottom right) are mature. On the left are garlic starts in cells, carrots, then across the divider, pole beans, Avignon radishes (below), and a new planting of mixed lettuce and spinach (which is already bolting with the heat).

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-UvdRRrQFLEk/T6b9eFweXJI/AAAAAAAACQQ/oDq9RwBnkDw/s649/gh12-42.jpg

The radishes are 2-3 weeks from planting. The carrot about 6 weeks.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-dQCMuRgPJvk/T6a_LR0CqVI/AAAAAAAACPM/metXTzlMxUU/s541/carrot.jpg

The radishes (a French variety called Avignon) are delicious and the young tops are an excellent salad green. But I like carrots and resolve to be patient.

Next: tomatoes!

Chip-skiff
05-06-2012, 06:40 PM
Stock cucumber plants develop both male and female flowers. The male flowers shed pollen, and then fall off. If the female flower is successfully pollinated, you get fruit.

Interesting. My plants have all female flowers, of which only about half develop into fruit.

Okay— tomatoes. The first one is a Russian heirloom, Moskvich, that is almost a year old. It's incredibly vigorous, and I prune it brutally, or it would completely fill the greenhouse with foliage. It was producing small fruit and as the temps rose, it started setting big ones.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-AscOwUUWkPY/T6b9juu9KaI/AAAAAAAACQY/XcjCcoP0OXg/s576/gh12-43.jpg

Most tomatoes lose their oomph after a couple sets of fruit, but these are becoming tomato trees, with the mainstems more than an inch thick. They taste really good, too.

This another Russian heirloom, but I'm not sure what it's called. I started a bunch of plants without labelling the cells.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-E9PqN9KZazo/T6b9oIa2VHI/AAAAAAAACQg/i4DKg-SDFL0/s576/gh12-44.jpg

These are mystery tomatoes. They were volunteer sprouts in the pots and I transplanted them. The foliage is a weird yellowish green, but they bear early and heavily, and have great taste.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-SL8NgninEeE/T4mmKRd6r-I/AAAAAAAACKs/KvjvCz7OAYQ/s588/gh12-38.jpg

I'll save seeds (which are really tiny and hard to collect and store). Wonder if it's a hybrid from my plants of last year?

The outdoor planter of chives survived the -35° nights, and is looking good.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-1K39lV6kqoU/T6b9upLqtkI/AAAAAAAACQo/RSDyuQXIZi4/s649/gh12-45.jpg

That's a decent review. I'll post some stuff on composting in a bit.

Cheers!

Chip-skiff
05-06-2012, 06:56 PM
I usually help the bees with my paint brush, to make sure all the female flowers get a good dose of pollen.

You devil, you.

Chip-skiff
05-07-2012, 10:26 AM
Some notes on composting. I spent half of yesterday screening compost and shifting it from one bin to another, so my back's a bit crook today.

Here's the whole setup—

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-kvmvG7UbrAc/T6a_RokCrXI/AAAAAAAACPU/Fm-HyfpB6Rc/s576/compost1.jpg

The round, black bin (a piece of crap called a Bio Orb) is for coarse stuff such as clippings, leaves, fine prunings, etc. It does decompose things a bit, in warm weather, but the plastic's thin and it's hard to roll (the easiest way to turn the compost).

The green rolling bin is great. It receives partly decomposed stuff from the black bin, plus our daily kitchen compost bucket (coffee grounds, vegetable scraps, etc.) It's nice, thick plastic, made in Canada, rolls easily, and like most items I like, is no longer available. (If you know where I can get another, please advise.)

The square, black bin is the final stage. It takes regular work with a composting tool, to aerate and stir the waste, which is kept fairly wet. I let it dry out for a few days before unloading, through the sliding hatch. I shovel the stuff out onto a plywood sheet and dump it onto a coarse screen. The leftover part goes back to the bin for further digestion.

The result is nice, even-textured compost. This batch had some chicken poop added early on, to boost the nitrogen and phosphorus content, so it's rich. We get our eggs from a neighbour, partly in trade for tomatoes, and she also bags up chicken manure for me. It's rich and doesn't have weed seeds, like cow or horse poop.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-QcLTxh5x2DY/T6b9MoX-sOI/AAAAAAAACPw/H3P5l1usrSI/s650/compost4.jpg

When I first started gardening at this house, I bought some commercial mushroom compost and sheep/peat mixture, but now I can produce enough compost for both the greenhouse and the outdoor garden. The only hang-up is that it's all frozen solid for half the year, so I have to stockpile compost in the fall for winter and spring growing in the greenhouse. I'll probably get some thingie, like a worm composter, that can work during the winter, but space is limited in the greenhouse, so it has to be compact.

Today, we're getting a spring snowstorm. Big, wet flakes.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-o5J4mfL6uYQ/T6fhoAHy2HI/AAAAAAAACQ8/g2ygboZxGTM/s750/maysnow2.jpg

These spring storms really help the snowpack and soil moisture, but they do set back the outdoor work.

MiddleAgesMan
05-07-2012, 03:14 PM
Since I last commented above I've been seeing at least 10 male cuke flowers for every female one. But during the past two or three days the ratio is even worse--lots and lots of male flowers and almost no females. That leads me to believe my cukes are nearing the end. I will have to find some of those parthen-whatever cukes you are having so much success with.

My radishes have been a dismal failure--two seasons in a row. I think I over-watered the sprouts this year. I would love to be harvesting the beauties you are getting.

Chip-skiff
05-07-2012, 03:32 PM
Since I last commented above I've been seeing at least 10 male cuke flowers for every female one. But during the past two or three days the ratio is even worse--lots and lots of male flowers and almost no females. That leads me to believe my cukes are nearing the end. I will have to find some of those parthen-whatever cukes you are having so much success with.

My radishes have been a dismal failure--two seasons in a row. I think I over-watered the sprouts this year. I would love to be harvesting the beauties you are getting.

I got the cuke seeds, a variety called Socrates, from http://www.johnnyseeds.com (http://johnnyseeds.com). But they're a hybrid developed for growing indoors, I think. I do like Johnny's for cool-climate varieties, plus they're an employee-owned company. I also get some seed from Seeds Trust/High Altitude Gardens.

I keep seeds wet 'til they sprout, then water every 2-3 days, depending on the amount of sun and humidity. (If they look moist, don't water. Root crops need a bit of dryness to get up to size.) Radishes can be grown by a window in a deepish container, like the ones with salad beets and Claytonia, above. A bit of sand for good drainage helps minimise the chance of over-watering (if the tray underneath overflows, then you're using too much water). With 2-3 containers, you can start them at ten-day intervals and have radishes nearly all the time. You can also interplant radishes with spinach, arugula, corn salad, etc., harvesting the radishes first and the baby salad greens a week or two later.

Chip-skiff
07-08-2012, 08:56 PM
I've been derelict, but there aren't a lot of stunning new developments. I'm growing the same stuff I grew last year. Had an infestation of spider mites, which began in the strawberries and spread to the pole beans and cukes. Safer's Soap seems to kill 'em off nicely. But I had to pull the beans and start over.

Here's a tomato plant that deserves recognition:

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-kHvVGiYsCdA/T_di6v8Wv8I/AAAAAAAACao/80So151Uk64/s564/gh12-53.jpg

It's a Johnny's #361, a cooking and salsa tomato from Johnny's Selected Seeds, in Maine. It produced really well the first season, so I pruned it back and wintered it out, then fed it on compost and bone meal this spring, whence it started producing more and larger fruit than last year.

This is the third picking this season: 5 lbs. 6 oz.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-6NaPVVT3Dys/T_di9oFl8FI/AAAAAAAACaw/JOnJU_WAdx4/s550/gh12-54.jpg

I've been cultivating two varieties of second-year tomatoes and the well-developed root systems really give a wonderful crop of extra-large fruit. This plant has so far produced about 15 lbs. And the taste is brilliant.

Paul Girouard
07-08-2012, 09:01 PM
Are you back at your place? Maybe it wasn't you who posted on a different thread about being evacuated for wild fire??

Paul Girouard
07-08-2012, 09:08 PM
Here's a tomato plant that deserves recognition:

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-kHvVGiYsCdA/T_di6v8Wv8I/AAAAAAAACao/80So151Uk64/s564/gh12-53.jpg

It produced really well the first season, so I pruned it back and wintered it out, then fed it on compost and bone meal this spring, whence it started producing more and larger fruit than last year.

This is the third picking this season: 5 lbs. 6 oz.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-6NaPVVT3Dys/T_di9oFl8FI/AAAAAAAACaw/JOnJU_WAdx4/s550/gh12-54.jpg

I've been cultivating two varieties of second-year tomatoes and the well-developed root systems really give a wonderful crop of extra-large fruit. This plant has so far produced about 15 lbs. And the taste is brilliant.

I never heard of wintering over a tomato plant, nice work!!

Chip-skiff
07-08-2012, 09:09 PM
Are you back at your place? Maybe it wasn't you who posted on a different thread about being evacuated for wild fire??

They lifted the evac on July 4. The fire's pretty well out now. While we were gone, a stubborn old cowboy neighbor, who refused to leave his house, came over and watered for me. He's addicted to ripe tomatoes and green beans.

Paul Girouard
07-08-2012, 09:48 PM
They lifted the evac on July 4. The fire's pretty well out now. While we were gone, a stubborn old cowboy neighbor, who refused to leave his house, came over and watered for me. He's addicted to ripe tomatoes and green beans.

How close did it get to your place? Hopefully no damage , glad to hear they got that one under control!

Bobby of Tulsa
07-09-2012, 02:41 AM
Looks like you are getting things all worked out in the green house. I really think I would have to have an A/C in one around here or just plan on one or two servings of steamed veggies.:)

Chip-skiff
07-10-2012, 06:55 PM
Looks like you are getting things all worked out in the green house. I really think I would have to have an A/C in one around here or just plan on one or two servings of steamed veggies.:)

It has passive ventilation and shade cloths on the roof and west walls— I need to get bigger ones. On a hot day it gets up to 100°F, which doesn't bother the tomatoes. But I stay out 'til the sun goes down. I think commercial greenhouses use misters and big fans.

Bobby of Tulsa
07-10-2012, 06:58 PM
You do really good work there Cowboy.:)

PeterSibley
07-11-2012, 02:25 AM
I'm playing with ordinary cukes from seeds purchased at Ace Hardware. Mine are starting to flower (they've been outside about 3 weeks) and so far I have nothing but male flowers. I have five plants total.

I've forgotten if ordinary cukes have both male and female flowers. If all five of my plants have only male flowers does that mean I'm out of luck this year?

Ordinary open pollinated Qs have male and female flowers, so you may be out of luck .

Chip, wonderful work, a really excellent setup . Y>

I can't even conceive of weather that cold , I grow outside right through winter here , summer and it's massive rainfall is more my problem. I think I'll be having a few open sided "greenhouses" this year but just to keep the rain off !

Chip-skiff
07-11-2012, 12:10 PM
I can't even conceive of weather that cold , I grow outside right through winter here , summer and it's massive rainfall is more my problem. I think I'll be having a few open sided "greenhouses" this year but just to keep the rain off!

The general problem here is the wide range of conditions: Annual temps from -40°F / -40°C to 95°F / 35°C. Daily ranges are frequently 50°F, e.g. freezing to 80s. We also have battering, gusty winds and bright, hot sun.

When we lived on Lyttelton Harbour in NZ, the heavy rain was at times a problem— I dug drainage ditches and covered some things so they wouldn't wash out or rot. Of course once it warmed up, everything grew beautifully: volcanic soil.

In Sitka, Alaska, years ago, I talked to people who'd built greenhouses to keep the rain off, with big side vents or removable sides for ventilation. SE Alaska is rainy, foggy, misty, and generally bloody wet. The other problem, in less-populous parts, is brown bears, that can wipe out a garden in one or two foraging sessions. Rather dangerous to shoo the buggers off.

Chip-skiff
07-29-2012, 04:24 PM
The temps this summer have been unusually high and the greenhouse was getting too hot in the afternoon, so I ditched the black shadecloths and ordered larger ones made of Aluminet (which is reflective mesh) from TekSupply.com. They cover the west slope of the roof and the west wall.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-v8d2VQs3Hvw/UBWhcrMasaI/AAAAAAAACi8/fk3twX8Ayr0/s800/aluminet2.jpg

That lowered the temps by 8-10°. The two 7.5' x 5' panels cost $150, which was a bite, but I should be able to get by without installing a fan or mister. Plus they don't use any power, so the ventilation and cooling setup remains 100% passive and automatic. But I won't be putting any lettuce or spinach inside 'til fall.

The first planting of pole beans and cukes got infested by spider mites, which stunted them badly. Nevertheless, we did get quite 12-14 nice cukes and a few beans, but I pulled them out and replanted. The new plants look wonderful: leaves 2-3 times bigger and very healthy.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-fGVoDUpITdE/UBV01zktdVI/AAAAAAAAChk/wsPR_tumy5A/s685/gh12-55.jpg

The pots with soil are for the next bunch of tomato and pepper transplants. I composted a few of the older tomatoes that were no longer producing, to make room. A friend, Shane Smith, who wrote The Greenhouse Gardener's Companion, says that to be a good gardener, you have to be ruthless. The cherry tomatoes are at their peak right now, mainly small orange ones (Sun Gold pictured) that are very sweet and larger red ones (Sakura and some Russian thing) that are also delightful in salads.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-O2veSVgFP6Q/UBV0553hkOI/AAAAAAAAChs/2B8PYjHuusU/s661/gh12-56.jpg

One Russian heirloom roma-type (Peasant) is going nuts, throwing out multiple stems and blooming like crazy. I'll need to prune it a bit to get good fruit, I think.

This is a Romanian pepper called Antohi, that ripens deep red. These are the biggest of this type I've ever grown, but the aphids have been hard to fend off. I've used a bristle brush, fine spray with the hose, and finally took both plants into the garage and doused them with Safer Soap, rinsing it off the next morning before putting them back in the greenhouse— the soap causes leaves to burn if the sun hits them. But it's hell on aphids.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-iQGJvsJLK70/UBV1DOhcDcI/AAAAAAAACh8/fQF8wO5QLBQ/s599/gh12-58.jpg

Just transplanted three other pepper varieties to large pots.

The strawberries in the hanging pots (Seascape) were getting old, with bronzy leaves and ever-smaller berries. So I stripped off the old foliage and re-potted them in small containers, to see if they'll regenerate (strawberries seem to thrive on disturbance).

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-O-Yls9HEK1Y/UBV08lJ9QTI/AAAAAAAACh0/Pr_BFykWTUc/s549/gh12-57.jpg

The little one in the windowbox is a Fort Laramie, from a runner clipped from a plant outside. All the others I put in the box died. I'm not sure how they'll do in the greenhouse, but the berries taste better than the Seascape. There's also a Charentais melon vine twining between the pots. One melon so far, not large but quite good. I put a couple of them outdoors, but it might be too harsh.

The other stuff, like basil, is a repeat of the earlier crops. Looks about the same this time as last.

PeterSibley
07-29-2012, 06:09 PM
This is all quite remarkable Chip, as someone who gardens outside with zero experience of greenhouses I continue to read your posts with great interest. I doubt I'll ever put it into practice but it's cool as hell ! Y>

Chip-skiff
07-29-2012, 07:21 PM
This is all quite remarkable Chip, as someone who gardens outside with zero experience of greenhouses I continue to read your posts with great interest. I doubt I'll ever put it into practice but it's cool as hell ! Y>

Thank, Peter. As someone with little experience of metalworking and other arcane arts, I'm likewise fascinated with your posts on how to do such things.

In this case, the whole greenhouse thing was forced on me by the infernal weather hereabouts, along with a love of ripe tomatoes (and a long drive to town). I love minor puzzles that can be worked out, to one's benefit.

Paul Girouard
07-29-2012, 07:24 PM
How do you keep things from bolting? Around here it doesn't get very hot , but after June every things wants to bolt to seed!

Chip-skiff
07-29-2012, 09:09 PM
I don't plant spinach, arugula, or anything that bolts in the greenhouse during the warmer months. I always though bolting was due to heat, but it might also be photo-periodic (hours of daylight). Interesting question.

Paul Girouard
07-29-2012, 09:22 PM
Thanks , it must be heat as things don't bolt before mid to late July which is past out longest days of summer. My second and third plantings seem to be more likely to bolt, maybe 70 to 75 F or so is what does it.

I did just plant some radish and lettuce seed Saturday , it'll be interesting to see what I get out of them. The last planting of those the lettuce did OK, not great , the radishes did poorly , most just ran on into lots of leaf , little below ground growth.

But it beats not trying any thing.

Fall is on it's way!

ETA : We still are getting 14 or 15 hours of day light , maybe that enough for the "photo-periodic" effect you mentioned.

PeterSibley
08-04-2012, 06:24 AM
Hi Chip,
I just came across an old photo of my only greenhouse , a little bigger but still passive solar but in a slightly warmer climate . Those are cucumbers in little green rows , trellises yet to be erected .

Peter

http://pic40.picturetrail.com/VOL282/9443996/17245530/403568451.jpg

Chip-skiff
01-09-2013, 02:30 PM
Good Heavens, Sibbo! That's enormous. Do you grow for the market?

In our exciting climate, such temporary structures often last only days before the wind dismantles them. Even those fancy kit hothouses with aluminum frames don't last for more than a few years.

Since I've not updated the updates since August of so, I'll post a few pics.

Fall was quite warm and dry. Around the solstice we got storms and cold spells, with cloudy skies by day and extremely cold nights. I used the propane heater nearly every night for about ten days (last winter I only used it seven times in all). The oldest tomato plants are looking a bit scruffy, but still bearing good fruit.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-Xqfqnw4M9V8/UO20m_tfh9I/AAAAAAAADV4/Cr5bNZhfIhA/s632/gh13-1.jpg

This is a Russian heirloom called Peasant, that resembles Italian San Marzano types. This plant has been bearing like this since July (and yes I'm saving seeds.)

In the center bed (from bottom up) I've got D'Avignon radish, mixed baby lettuce, arugula/rocket, and spinach. In the LH pot are pole beans that have bee slow coming up— might be a bit chilly for them at night. Also five strawberries (Fort Laramie) that I lifted from the outside bed before it froze hard. I've got ten more plants in hanging pots that are just beginning to bear— very good-tasting fruit. The rightmost pot holds a cucumber, that's going pretty slow right now. Despite the cold, the soil temperature is 60°F (that being the temperature of the thermal mass which is insulated underneath and on all sides.) That, along with big water tanks on the wall and electric radiant tubes above, are good down to about 15°F. The propane heater is a little portable thing with a 20-lb. tank outside.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-sKwYhfvxB1A/UO20raR5p_I/AAAAAAAADWA/_1UCwNoPIUQ/s700/gh13-2.jpg)

The cukes and beans get trellised on twine. It's nice to be able to move the pots a bit. Just spent an hour picking tomatoes and pruning, in my shirtsleeves. Freezing outdoors and 80°F inside. In winter pruning the tall plants like vine tomatoes is important to allow light to reach the plants farther from the sunny side, which put on lots of foliage in proportion to fruit.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-QvctVNeRxcs/UO20wNf7N0I/AAAAAAAADWI/99vrBiurkPI/s700/gh13-3.jpg

There are herbs (sage, marjoram, parsley, thyme and chives) up on shelves by the heatsinks with a planter of basil on a heat mat, looking great. Some peppers/capsicum in pots are yellowish and wan: too chilly. I had great crops in summer and fall, of green, sweet red, and hot yellow peppers, but the aphids chewed hell out of the leaves.

I've been fighting the aphids and spider mites with ladybugs (first line defense) and also soap spray. When you have conditions that favor your plants, they also favor bugs, dammit!

switters
01-09-2013, 04:46 PM
I wonder how a house gekko would do in a green house. Get ready for Saturday night, 1F.

I'm envious, it is time for me to break out the frozen chopped red and orange peppers I bought and prepped this summer when they were 3 for a dollar instead of one for three dollars. the flavor is still there but I miss the texture.

Mrleft8
01-09-2013, 05:47 PM
Sigh.....................

Chip-skiff
01-09-2013, 07:40 PM
Sigh.....................

I've got a nice cotton twine hammock, but there's not room to hang it up. But I do have a folding wood rocking chair out there. When the house seems chilly, I can go out and warm up.

PeterSibley
01-10-2013, 02:47 AM
Good Heavens, Sibbo! That's enormous. Do you grow for the market?



I did at that stage, years of applied peasantry, fun too!

Chip, I'm very impressed with your greenhouse and your production, you really are very skilled !


but you know that !Y>

Chip-skiff
01-10-2013, 10:34 PM
Oooh! Thanks. And I really like your hair.

(Had to throw that in, mate. Compliments embarrass me. Sincerity makes it worse.)

Did you ever finish the bushfire shelter we discussed at considerable length?

PeterSibley
01-11-2013, 04:57 PM
No bush fire shelter, I'm still mumbling about it .

Chip-skiff
01-27-2013, 01:45 PM
I mumbled about building a greenhouse for several years. Then I paid a man to come dig a hole. Once you've got a hole, there's a need to fill it. . .

Anyhow, here are a few recent developments.

The mixed baby lettuce is glorious, just entering its prime—

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-aESWBS2I3Dk/UQVgPaZ2LbI/AAAAAAAADcA/qcK_X5B-3NM/s733/gh13-6.jpg

I've got a seed mix of varieties that do well being picked, leaf by leaf, rather than harvested by the head. There's a volunteer New Zealand Spinach at bottom, nice green for cooking. This bed is sufficient for us to have salad nearly every night, and there's arugula/rocket and spinach nearly ready to pick.

These are D'Avignon radishes, which do well in the hothouse. The young greens are nice in salads and the bulbs are large with a white tip. I planted them deeper than most sorts and they still grow up above ground:

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-Nr1wwD3CbJA/UQVgUu3iQFI/AAAAAAAADcQ/_9uEYjcddOo/s719/gh13-7.jpg

The soil has been through several years of composting and there are quite a few volunteer plants, most of which I pull. But lately I've been transplanting some of the cuke/melon sort and also pepper/capsicum and especially tomatoes. We've not bought a tomato from the grocery in three years, so I think the volunteers are from plants I've grown. This one's interesting:

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-YSsZpqw1PWc/UQVgWoXlYlI/AAAAAAAADcY/LtElTWXgV9I/s550/gh13-9.jpg

The flowers are big and the petals stay on and keep their color as the fruit forms. None of the varieties I've grown looks like this, so it must be a cross or a throwback. The stems are quite thick and robust— wonder how big the fruit might be? Here's another on the same plant.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-E1NvcKXpm-Y/UQVgYHSDTaI/AAAAAAAADcg/W0JP9HcJ_5k/s519/gh13-10.jpg

I've got three volunteer plants setting fruit and four small ones in cells for eventual transplanting. If I couldn't get commercial seed, I suppose I might make do with volunteer plants from the compost, at least for tomatoes. The peppers and the squash/cuke/melon sprouts haven't done as well.

If you peer at the lettuce above you can see aphids. I order ladybugs through the mail and put them in at intervals. One problem is that they don't necessarily like to hunt where there the aphids are worst. So I've started picking them up, one-by-one, and relocating them. There were aphids on the newest leaves on this strawberry (in a hanging pot) so I put a ladybug in when I first started work.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-M-FSTscCMxo/UQVgbH2rOlI/AAAAAAAADco/ehvD3HdgCbU/s499/gh13-11.jpg

After a half-hour I checked and the ladybug had eaten most of the aphids (on the folded leaves to the left and down) and was climbing up a stem. It'll probably fly off and return to the lettuce. The strawberry is the Fort Laramie variety, which produces good-tasting fruit and does well outdoors in cold areas. Not sure how they'll do in hanging pots, inside.

I guess there are worse things to be than a ladybug herder.

CWSmith
01-27-2013, 01:50 PM
I'd love to know if anyone has a green house in a northern climate and what you spend to heat? Can you get enough passive heating to make it affordable?

Chip-skiff
01-27-2013, 02:02 PM
I'd love to know if anyone has a green house in a northern climate and what you spend to heat? Can you get enough passive heating to make it affordable?

Our greenhouse is quite small (12' x 12') and sits near 8000 ft. in the central Rockies, where ithe climate is cold and windy much of the year. The heat is a combination of passive (black watertanks facing south, dark flooring) and active (a flate-plate collector coupled to a 400 gal. heatsink under the floor, with radiant tubing under the floor— a thermal mass of packed sand that insulated underneath and on all sides). There are three 500 watt radiant tubes on the ceiling to warm the foliage, on a hanging thermostat. I also have a small portable propane heater, but used it only 7-8 nights last winter. This winter I've used it about 15 times.

We put in a 4 kw PV power system that generates a bit more than we consume, so all the electricity is solar. Page back through this thread for details.

Chip-skiff
01-27-2013, 07:50 PM
No #%@#! chickens on this thread.

Chip-skiff
03-16-2013, 12:17 PM
After composting for several years, I see quite a few volunteer sprouts in the pots and beds, most of which I weed out. But I've been transplanting some of the tomato, pepper, and cucumber/squash/melon sprouts, to see how they turn out. The first generation of volunteer tomatoes is coming to ripeness. This yellow cherry is like ones I grew from commercial seed, very prolific and also sweet—

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-QLgwvOdiJiI/UUSdZ0dUvXI/AAAAAAAAD2A/AZcq_CsNnnM/s650/gh13-13.jpg


This medium-size bright red tomato is new to me, both in the color of the stems and leaves and the fruit, which has dark-green streaks on the upper half as it ripens. Haven't tasted it yet as this is the first ripe fruit.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-OYgMo8LtQVE/UUSde8hAiUI/AAAAAAAAD2Q/XOOy6sNLRaU/s650/gh13-17.jpg

It's been slower to set fruit and ripen than most of the red tomatoes I've grown. The color is brilliant. If the flavor's good, I'll save seeds. The tomato with extra-large petals that I pictured earlier has set heavily, but the fruit is still green.

The vine tomatoes grow so vigorously that they'd fill the whole place if I didn't prune them. As the stems grow old, they start to hollow out and set a great many tiny fruit. This Sun Gold tomato was a great producer, and as I pruned the long vines was putting out new stems from the base, so I cut it back to a stump and took off all except a couple stems. Here's the result: a robust new stem on a mature rootstock.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-VSt-9ybRrII/UUSdbcUVIeI/AAAAAAAAD2I/HQ6lHnAUayU/s650/gh13-15.jpg

Most tomatoes are amazingly resilient.

The volunteer peppers (capsicum) I transplanted were sickly and didn't grow. There's a volunteer sprout in one of the cucumber pots (look where the righthand twine is tied on the near pot) that's some sort of cuke or melon— I'll let it grow and find out. The lettuce is getting rank, so I've been pulling whole plants around the edges. The new planting of lettuce, radishes, rocket, and a braising mix of greens is coming up nicely.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-XzsLnQw6ydg/UUSddqE-NJI/AAAAAAAAD2M/XbZO95MorwI/s650/gh13-16.jpg

In the pot at the far end of the center bed are pole beans, which have been slow but are now taking off. I had a couple good crops of pole beans planted in the bed, but the third bunch were diseased and then got attacked by spider mites. The pots seem to isolate plants from some pests and diseases, which helps.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-4sXTVJ8_a6c/UUSdfFlB-9I/AAAAAAAAD2U/NLt3Fo5_ULc/s650/gh13-18.jpg

The night temps are still a bit cool for beans, but this one's flowering nicely.

I kept the night temps a bit higher this winter, despite more cold nights than last year. The big passive heatsink tanks and the active solar radiant heat in the floor are the main sources of heat. The electric radiant heaters on the ceiling click on when the air gets chill. For the really cold nights (less than 10°F / -12°C) the little propane heater on the lowest setting does the trick. I've burned about $40 worth of propane this winter, 10 gallons or so.

We were spending $60-100 each month on vegs, and now spend about $10-20. Haven't bought any lettuce or tomatoes for two years.

Paul Girouard
03-16-2013, 01:45 PM
Has anyone mentioned lately that you suck Chip?

Chip-skiff
03-16-2013, 04:06 PM
Has anyone mentioned lately that you suck Chip?

You're s'posed to put a smiley after that, Paul.

:d

Bobby of Tulsa
03-16-2013, 04:25 PM
You're s'posed to put a smiley after that, Paul.

:d :):):) You really do, what he said. Chip do you grow any heirloom maters? I been reading about grafting tomatoes, they say by grafting an heirloom on to hybrid stock you get old fashioned flavor with all the disease resistance of the hybrid, I don't know if that means anything in a green house environment.:):)

Chip-skiff
03-16-2013, 04:49 PM
Most of the tomatoes I grow are heirloom varieties (as opposed to the F1 or F2 hybrids sold by most seed companies). Part of the reason for messing about with heirloom varieties and volunteer sprouts is to collect and save the seed of plants that do well in my greenhouse. It also saves money.

This plant is a Russian heirloom variety called Peasant (a San Marzano-type) that yielded over 25 pounds of fruit. I saved some seed and just sprouted a couple for the coming season. Two other plants from the same batch of seed (from Seeds Trust) didn't do near that well.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-Xqfqnw4M9V8/UO20m_tfh9I/AAAAAAAADV4/Cr5bNZhfIhA/s632/gh13-1.jpg

Weren't you growing Brandywine and Cherokee Purple tomatoes? Do you save seeds?

I might try some grafting this year. Lots of stuff online to consult.

Bobby of Tulsa
03-16-2013, 05:09 PM
Most of the tomatoes I grow are heirloom varieties (as opposed to the F1 or F2 hybrids sold by most seed companies). Part of the reason for messing about with heirloom varieties and volunteer sprouts is to collect and save the seed of plants that do well in my greenhouse. It also saves money.

This plant is a Russian heirloom variety called Peasant (a San Marzano-type) that yielded over 25 pounds of fruit. I saved some seed and just sprouted a couple for the coming season. Two other plants from the same batch of seed (from Seeds Trust) didn't do near that well.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-Xqfqnw4M9V8/UO20m_tfh9I/AAAAAAAADV4/Cr5bNZhfIhA/s632/gh13-1.jpg

Weren't you growing Brandywine and Cherokee Purple tomatoes? Do you save seeds?

I might try some grafting this year. Lots of stuff online to consult. Yes to both questions, I was just wondering
if grafting like that would really improve any thing or not. The early girl seems to do really good for me, so I was thinking an early girl root stock and Cherokee purple graft.

Bobby of Tulsa
03-16-2013, 06:17 PM
Johnny's (http://www.johnnyseeds.com/c-711-rootstock.aspx) sells seed of specifically rootstock Tomatoes. They're all F1, some organic, some not. Thanks for that link Donn.

Paul Girouard
03-16-2013, 06:20 PM
You're s'posed to put a smiley after that, Paul.

:d

Ya , but I just figured I'd let you wonder. :D

Chip-skiff
04-03-2013, 11:34 AM
Quick catch-up. We ate that gorgeous brilliant red tomato, lovingly grown from a volunteer plant of unknown heritage. It had no discernible seeds and despite good looks, no flavor. Too bad. The Sun Gold plants that were pruned back to the stump look great: the two vine-type plants have robust, dark-green stems and lots of blossoms. The Peasant (San Marzano type shown at the top of this page) is short and shaggy, also with many flowers. Can't wait to see what the fruit is like.

Peter Sibley sent me a link to a subsurface greenhouse thingie.

http://media.treehugger.com/assets/images/2013/02/walipini3.jpg.492x0_q85_crop-smart.jpg


Our winter sun angle is quite a bit lower than that. The video's poor quality but you'll get the idea.

http://www.treehugger.com/green-architecture/build-underground-greenhouse-garden-year-round.html

If I was starting from scratch, I'd probably try something similar, with a bit more structure, ventilation, etc. In our rocky soil, it would cost a bundle to get the hole dug, and in a year with a big snowpack, the meltwater and/or groundwater might be a problem. Digging a shallower hole with a built-up berm on the north side might be a better way to achieve the same thing, with more sun penetration in winter.

Last fall, I clipped the runners off the strawberries and planted the nodes (leaf clusters) in the greenhouse. Once they developed root systems, I put them in hanging pots.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-XIOrMDm17rU/UVxRj8F0JiI/AAAAAAAAD9s/NbWRy6JzwzI/s700/berries2.jpg

They're an heirloom variety, Fort Laramie, that does well here and has medium-small fruit with wonderful flavor. They aren't as well-suited to hanging pots as the hybrid Seascape berries I had the year before. They grow more slowly and the berries grow down into the soil rather than flopping over the rim of the pots (convenient and it keeps them clean.) But they are tasty. Besides that, the major advantage is that I can lift plants from the outdoor beds, rather than having to buy bare-root hybrid plants. Here's the usual morning harvest:

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-2il_S4vx1IE/UVxRbr1BBBI/AAAAAAAAD9k/3oXVFNWtMYU/s650/berries.jpg

Enough for a bowl of cereal or a cup of yogurt.

Phil Y
04-03-2013, 07:05 PM
Love this project:)

Chip-skiff
04-03-2013, 07:17 PM
Love this project:)

Thanks. Me, too.

Chip-skiff
04-11-2013, 03:49 PM
This is the third volunteer tomato to ripen, the one with the large flowers that hold their petals (or sepals, or whatever) as the fruit forms. Very robust, thick stems and deep green foliage, with a heavy set. I picked the ripest one today and it was good. No visible seeds. I'll let a couple tomatoes wrinkle up on the vine, to see if seeds develop. Otherwise, I might propagate it with slips.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-wKPPqIc9woQ/UWcdRZKBKBI/AAAAAAAAD_0/MqDV9jrOJ3A/s500/gh13-19.jpg


This is the Sun Gold vine tomato I pruned back to the stump, and now it's taller than I am.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-k_iwhmVgBNQ/UWcdS34iyVI/AAAAAAAAD_8/Y_i5YZUM_tc/s500/gh13-20.jpg

I pruned several stems that were zooming off at angles. The stems are robust and the foliage rich green. Plentiful blooms. High hopes for this one.

The new radishes are ready to chomp, Calloo!

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-aeWEasEa0Q0/UWcdU0nKORI/AAAAAAAAEAE/GFutc7O5u3k/s500/gh13-21.jpg

It's a French type, D'Avignon. The leaves are tender enough at this stage to make good salad greens, with a spicy bite.

I used the wee propane heater heater more often this winter and can see the effect of the added moisture, which freezes up on the polycarbonate and then melts into puddles along the framing. It'll take a bit of repainting this summer.

Just calculated my response rate on this thread, replies divided by views, and it's less than 0.0001, or 1/100th of one percent. You are allowed to comment. Invited, even.

JBreeze
04-11-2013, 05:37 PM
RE: "response rate"....I'll mention two things that may be of interest, although not greenhouse related:

Strawberries - I never managed to have the ground prepared in time for early spring planting of lg. quantities of bare root stock, but wanted to establish a bed. Last year I purchased a 10 pack ($3) of bare root plants (Quinalt)and put them into ½ gal pots to see if they would sprout. Six plants grew, and sent out so many runners I ended up with ~ 40 plants in plastic pots which survived the winter in coastal RI. I probably could have had ~80 plants if many of the runners weren’t cut off by me.

This year 10 bare root Jewel (june bearer) were planted two weeks ago, and 6 are sending out leaves. If the plants are as productive as the others, I should end up with plenty of runners to establish another patch. This time I’m prepared with plenty of containers!

Blueberries – soil sucks here and blueberries require acidic pH and a specific type of nitrogen fertilizer. With no experience growing blueberries and being skeptical of catalog claims, I started growing them in containers. 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 soil, 1/3 pine bark mulch or nuggets plus some Holly-tone fertilizer has worked great! Since I’m a sucker for neglected,½ price plants at the garden center, I now have 7 varieties (14 plants) in containers,at an average price of $4. Some are in their 3rd year in pots, are growing at a good rate, and generated 2+ gal of blueberries last summer. If you look around the neighborhood or transfer station, you may be able to acquire 5 gal containers which nurseries use for larger shrubs and trees and are usually disposed of after planting.

Moral of the story? You don’t have to lay out a lot of money to try different varieties of strawberries and blueberries, as long as you are willing to wait a bit for 1styear plants to mature. Container perennial plants also have the ability to survive the winter, at least in coastal RI.

Chip-skiff
04-11-2013, 11:33 PM
Interesting. I should try blueberries. It's too cold (-40°F in midwinter) for tree fruit, grapes, etc. and the native berries only produce a substantial crop maybe one year in five. We started some raspberries last year out back. There are two Nanking Cherry bushes at the other house that can bear well in wet years and make good jam and syrup.

I bought bare root strawberries (Seascape) from Johnny's and of twenty plants only four survived. I put them in hanging pots in fall and they started throwing out runners, so I clipped the nodes and planted them close together in a plastic windowbox. Once they developed decent roots, they went into hanging pots and gave us a nice, continuous pick of berries for nearly a year. When they got old, I replaced them with the Fort Laramie plants from the outdoor bed, that aren't as good in containers.

Chip-skiff
06-06-2013, 01:02 PM
Winter hung on into May, which didn't hurt the plants in the greenhouse, but did hold back the outdoor gardening.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-DYLLkWVQE48/UbDJgMv9ekI/AAAAAAAAEGU/k-MEMnNCD-Y/s800/gh13-22.jpg

With all the passive and active heat, the inside air temp never went below 44°F and the soil stayed above 50°.

The Sun Gold vine tomatoes I pruned back to the stump have been phenomenal.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-s9Sd_GKAkiM/UbDJioMQ7dI/AAAAAAAAEGc/GI5ujimltpM/s640/gh13-23.jpg

They grew fast, with thick, robust stems and foliage, and the fruit is both larger and more profuse than the original growth. This plant was started last July.

This is one of the volunteer sprouts: not sure what it is, but the fruit is big and flawless.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-9WJBO2YWBJI/UbDJmoG-vWI/AAAAAAAAEGs/xdj5ercygzA/s700/gh13-25.jpg

You can see where the side stems were pruned. To get nice tomatoes, you need to prune regularly and not let the plants sprawl, and get in each other's way.

The Socrates cucumber is bearing well, very thin-skinned and sweet tasting. Plants started in winter grow bushier and don't zoom up to the roof as they do when it's warmer.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-AYuouMZJUow/UbDJkcJ40MI/AAAAAAAAEGk/s3arxJsPVqI/s650/gh13-24.jpg

Aphids got into the baby lettuce, rocket, and tetragonia (NZ spinach), but I carpet-bombed 'em with ladybugs, which laid a bunch of eggs. When the larvae hatched, they devoured all the aphids in a week.

(continued)

Chip-skiff
06-06-2013, 01:19 PM
Here's the baby lettuce and NZ spinach crawling with aphids– ugh!

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-gqNKZJgszpA/UbDQEUunLxI/AAAAAAAAEHk/ul3ENoyLKaU/s750/gh13-28.jpg

Rather than hit 'em with Safer Soap spray, I waited to see if the ladybug larvae would be up to it. There are two larvae (like little Gila monsters) and a pupal case in the frame.

A week or so later, the ladybugs have gobbled up thousands of aphids.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-NKzk9Kln_dE/UbDQHgJPHiI/AAAAAAAAEHs/sH3f58_ScYk/s650/gh13-29.jpg

Some of the larvae have started pupating, to emerge as mature beetles and lay more eggs. Go Ladybugs!

This is the Tetragonia: a single plant. It's a sprawling shoreline species that puts out many stems, and grows back after cutting. Another week, and the aphids are few.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-ESsAMG_PnX0/UbDJqrLpm5I/AAAAAAAAEG0/Ha7wycCqTVE/s750/gh13-26.jpg

I harvested most of it, since it was overgrowing the walkway. All this foliage, blanched and frozen, yielded eight servings.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-t2trn03kCiA/UbDJtfRKawI/AAAAAAAAEG8/mVpX6eyOh7A/s750/gh13-27.jpg

Chip-skiff
06-06-2013, 05:08 PM
Here's the whole deal, from the door:

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-4-E1V2CCYMI/UbEGu5mnZ2I/AAAAAAAAEIE/M_14lgLaBPw/s800/gh13-30.jpg

From the other side:

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-91DsBo_uaMs/UbEGzvJtXWI/AAAAAAAAEIM/IFPQ1QyVgMs/s800/gh13-31.jpg

Paul Girouard
06-06-2013, 06:19 PM
Will you move stuff out of the G/H soon , or just attempt to keep it from roasting in there over summer?

MiddleAgesMan
06-06-2013, 07:42 PM
I'm still reading, looking and marveling, Chip. I envy your successes and ambition. This year I'm down to six tomatoes in pots sitting on the steps up to the second floor. Twice weekly waterings and the occasional picking is all I can manage due to chronic fatigue.

My son has taken over most of the gardening done around here so I'm going to send him a link to your thread. I hope he can be motivated to work with some of your ideas.

Chip-skiff
06-06-2013, 09:40 PM
I'm still reading, looking and marveling, Chip. I envy your successes and ambition. This year I'm down to six tomatoes in pots sitting on the steps up to the second floor. Twice weekly waterings and the occasional picking is all I can manage due to chronic fatigue.

Sorry you're not feeling well. There are times when I feel like I'm grinding myself down, but my Da's family were ranchers and farmers, who persisted into old age, and that seems to be in my bones as well. We've not bought a tomato for more than two years, nor salad greens (except for a big lot of baby spinach for a party). So it's a bit more than a hobby.

Given the same place and patch of ground, it does get a bit easier year by year.

Chip-skiff
06-09-2013, 09:05 PM
Recent developments: the #3 cucumber plant, one of those skinny euro-types, is ripening a couple nice ones:

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-wc1ThhKBhSM/UbUw64Ns3pI/AAAAAAAAEJw/dzwYA_ZUBlA/s640/gh13-32.jpg

Very thin-skinned and sweet. Three plants is a bout right for the two of us, with occasional guests.

The unknown volunteer tomatoes are redding up as well. Some have been good and others tasteless, seedless, and odd. This looks promising—

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-QbfMyyJO708/UbUw8wdbz4I/AAAAAAAAEJ4/JNR9d-KSVJQ/s650/gh13-33.jpg

And this:

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-NaFkOR8sO44/UbUxAMuC5lI/AAAAAAAAEKA/QTugmTvujWk/s650/gh13-34.jpg

The black cherry tomatoes are also coming ripe, but I couldn't get a good photo: too many leaves in the way.

The herbs (parsley, sage, thyme, marjoram, chives) are getting rank. I need to start cutting and drying some.

It's odd to keep posting to a thread with so few replies, but evidently people are viewing it, so I'll persist.

Paul Girouard
06-09-2013, 09:10 PM
It's odd to keep posting to a thread with so few replies, but evidently people are viewing it, so I'll persist.



Your selective which posts you reply to , but I'll persist in asking questions , even if you don't answer them. Party lines are hard to break down , or so it seems.

Chip-skiff
06-09-2013, 09:12 PM
Your selective which posts you reply to , but I'll persist in asking questions , even if you don't answer them. Party lines are hard to break down , or so it seems.

No parties among gardeners, except organic vs. non-.

Ask away.

Paul Girouard
06-09-2013, 09:14 PM
No parties among gardeners, except organic vs. non-.

Ask away.

See post 174 for starters.

AnalogKid
06-09-2013, 09:23 PM
I'm watching Chip.

We try to grow as much as we can and do very well outdoors during the summer, but not so good in winter. We have a temporary pop-up style greenhouse, 8' square but at the moment it is sited on a deck and there is too much airflow underneath and not enough thermal mass to keep the winter temperatures up. I've a bit more landscaping to do before I free up a suitable area with a concrete base for the greenhouse to move to (or be replaced with a more efficient, rigid model). Of course, our winter temperatures aren't as low as yours, it rarely freezes in Auckland, so hopefully I won't need any more complex heat storage systems than a big ol' slab of concrete.

Our main aim is to grow winter tomatoes and capsicums because we eat a lot of these and the price always soars in the winter. In the meantime, we roast our bumper summer crop of tomatoes and sieve into a paste/thick sauce which gets frozen in portions to make and tomato sauce based meal. This usually includes garlic, and this year we are going to devote our 3 newest outdoor beds to the garlic crop. I weeded the beds over on Saturday ready for planting next weekend.

Andy.

Chip-skiff
06-09-2013, 09:31 PM
Will you move stuff out of the G/H soon , or just attempt to keep it from roasting in there over summer?

Sorry. Didn't see it. I use two computers and the pages divide at different points.

Most of the greenhouse plants stay inside. The ones that are trellised can't be moved, as our local climate is so severe that I can't grow tomatoes, peppers, etc. outdoors at all. I've tried and failed. I hate to torture tomatoes that way, and watch them shrivel. Large-leaved plants that grow tall, such as peppers, get torn up by the wind. I use row covers, but tall plants aren't easy to shield, where low-growing sprawlers such as summer squash can be protected under hoops.

I do start frost-tender plants inside. Right now I've got a flat of summer squash sprouting, that'll go out in about ten days. After that, I'll start some late-season stuff such as kohlrabi and cabbage, in the greenhouse. With a 45-day frostfree season, late is relative, I guess.

I designed the greenhouse with passive ventilation, with large screened intake vents at the corners and peak vents along the clerestory opened by thermally-driven pistons (scroll back several pages for a look). When the sun is hottest, I stretch reflective net over the west side of the roof and the west wall, which keeps the ambient temps in the 80s. I don't use electric fans or any other sort of cooling. I could hook up a 12-volt fan to the wee solar panel that drives the active heat system (shut down in summer) and might do that if this summer is particularly scorching. The more sun, the faster the fan spins.

If the daytime temps in your area get in the 90s or above, the passive cooling idea doesn't work so well. Commercial growers use reflective panels and misters to keep things cooler.

Chip-skiff
06-09-2013, 09:42 PM
We try to grow as much as we can and do very well outdoors during the summer, but not so good in winter. We have a temporary pop-up style greenhouse, 8' square but at the moment it is sited on a deck and there is too much airflow underneath and not enough thermal mass to keep the winter temperatures up. I've a bit more landscaping to do before I free up a suitable area with a concrete base for the greenhouse to move to (or be replaced with a more efficient, rigid model). Of course, our winter temperatures aren't as low as yours, it rarely freezes in Auckland, so hopefully I won't need any more complex heat storage systems than a big ol' slab of concrete.

Our main aim is to grow winter tomatoes and capsicums because we eat a lot of these and the price always soars in the winter. In the meantime, we roast our bumper summer crop of tomatoes and sieve into a paste/thick sauce which gets frozen in portions to make and tomato sauce based meal. This usually includes garlic, and this year we are going to devote our 3 newest outdoor beds to the garlic crop. I weeded the beds over on Saturday ready for planting next weekend.

We lived up in Grafton on top of the hill, in a 1907 Victorian between the Med School and the Domain. In Auckland, you'd be more concerned by the lack of sunny days in winter and by the buildup of moisture: the nights get cool enough to condense quite a lot of water in a hothouse, and you end up fighting mildew and rot. Some friends in Sitka, Alaska, built greenhouses to keep the rain off the plants as the local climate is like Westland: deluges followed by downpours. A venting system that would dry things out on sunny days would be nice, and some sort of drainage setup inside, so the water wouldn't pool along the base of the frame and start rot and mould. A visit to some commercial hothouses might give you ideas you could apply on a smaller scale. Some reflective foil panels might also help to bounce the sunlight onto the back side of the tomatoes and capsicums.

Rather than concrete, which keeps water from draining, I might dig down a half-meter, putting in concrete footers and an insulated foundation wall, and filling the floor with gravel topped by coarse sand, packed down hard. On top of which, you could frame up beds and lay pavers for walkways. Better to have the water soak in and drain, than pool up. The damp sand is an effective thermal mass.

The local climate is the starting point. That's what's so fascinating about it: there are no universal right answers.

AnalogKid
06-09-2013, 09:54 PM
The concrete pad is very rough, so I'll be bolting down a pressure treated frame first to sit the greenhouse on, and covering the concrete inside with pea gravel with a few paving slabs between the benches to make it easier to walk on. Hopefully that, and that I very much doubt the pad is at all level, will sort out the drainage issue. Maybe I'll need to think about circulating the air to prevent the mildew.

BTW - I work in Grafton, probably a little higher than your old place up at the highest point of Khyber Pass Rd. There's been a lot of work done near the hospital recently and Park Rd is a pleasant place for a stroll and to get some lunch these days.

Andy.

Paul Girouard
06-09-2013, 10:01 PM
Thanks , you take gardening to a new level!! Tough place to garden where you are for sure! I've got a few kohlrabies about ready to pick , and you haven't even planted your yet!

How long are your days ? we get about 12 hours of sun , a rough average over the course of the growing season, our longest days are close to 16 hours of daylight , soon to peak right , around the 20th of this month.

Chip-skiff
06-09-2013, 10:13 PM
The concrete pad is very rough, so I'll be bolting down a pressure treated frame first to sit the greenhouse on, and covering the concrete inside with pea gravel with a few paving slabs between the benches to make it easier to walk on. Hopefully that, and that I very much doubt the pad is at all level, will sort out the drainage issue. Maybe I'll need to think about circulating the air to prevent the mildew.

BTW - I work in Grafton, probably a little higher than your old place up at the highest point of Khyber Pass Rd. There's been a lot of work done near the hospital recently and Park Rd is a pleasant place for a stroll and to get some lunch these days.

I'm unreasonably biased against concrete slabs. Pea gravel on concrete only drains water to the low point of the slab. If you go that way, you need an outlet drain or two. Rammed sand is just as effective as a thermal mass.

Auckland is a beaut city. We loved living in Grafton. Having the Domain a block away was wonderful. We could walk in short order to Newmarket or Parnell, or down Queen St. to the CBD and Viaduct Basin. Sometimes we'd tramp over to Ponsonby to eat, and then ride the late bus home. We didn't need an auto, which was nice as parking was a problem.

Chip-skiff
06-09-2013, 10:17 PM
How long are your days ? we get about 12 hours of sun , a rough average over the course of the growing season, our longest days are close to 16 hours of daylight , soon to peak right , around the 20th of this month.

We're a bit south of you, so our summer days are shorter. Being between two steep ranges of mountains, on the solstice we get about 11 hours of direct sun, and about 15 hours of light.

Chip-skiff
06-14-2013, 09:10 PM
The red tomatoes and peppers (capsicums to you Kiwis) are coming on. I did a generation of volunteer tomatoes, from whatever sprouted, which came out half familiar and half weird. One plant has gorgeous deep red tomatoes that are seedless and have almost no flavor. Two other plants have these lobed fruit:

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-IiYS3iJT7IE/UbvI1EKEJMI/AAAAAAAAELg/U-E9dczY1a8/s600/gh13-36.jpg

Here's one almost ripe:

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-8dvqnyjP834/UbvIy2hguiI/AAAAAAAAELY/qQ-0qEQPTI4/s600/gh13-35.jpg

As can be seen from the green one at right, the other fruit on these plants is normal.


This one's 3.5 inches (9cm) and flawless:

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-YxBOkw7S5tY/UbvIs-uRWjI/AAAAAAAAELI/kVHzOlN4ZEQ/s650/gh13-37.jpg

Here are more red beauts, name unknown:

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-L_rpIIRwBkY/UbvIvxXQxBI/AAAAAAAAELQ/bhk2vil7yVU/s650/gh13-38.jpg

Rather than hit the peppers with soap spray, which sets them back, I've been brushing the aphids off with a hair paintbrush, and things are looking good:


https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-zMd-vkRN4to/UbvI4DkP2BI/AAAAAAAAELo/0NwoClCb2SI/s600/gh13-39.jpg

Thinking about your plans, Analog, I'm wondering what length of day these need to bear. In Auck, you might need to use grow lights to get a crop in winter.

JBreeze
06-14-2013, 10:36 PM
This doesn't have much to do w/ gardening, but I'll toss it out there for folks that end up w/ produce in the freezer (I'll delete it if it's off base).

I got one of the Bella Personnel Pie makers a couple of years ago at Kohl's (on sale, and w/ add'l coupon it was $12.50). Kind of a foolish appliance, like those "fuzzy logic" rice makers.

Finally started to use it and I love it!! Either buy pre-made crust or make your own. It requires about 1.5-2.0 cups of filling, one pre-made 9" pie crust which will make 4 top and bottom crusts, 12 minutes to bake 4 pies, and it doesn't generate heat like an oven does in the summer time. Nice way to use-up the couple of apples in the back of the fridge, experiment w/ different types of fillings, sweeteners, thickeners, etc. I always disliked having to risk 4-6 cups of blueberries, etc, on a new recipe.

Negatives are the filling(s) may require separate stove-top cooking, especially for meat pies, as the ~12 minute bake time isn't sufficient. And it requires storage space.

Here is a video ... IMHO she didn't use enough filling, hence the upper crust didn't contact the upper surface of the pie baker to assure even browning of the crust. If you are cooking for 1-2 people and catch it on sale at Kohls or Target it might be a useful appliance for using the fruits of your gardening efforts. And kids like their "individual pies".


http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=0WF3KJ8KG1U

AnalogKid
06-14-2013, 11:34 PM
Well a week before the winter solstice and the met service page says the sun will be up for 9 hours 40 minutes today. Of course, with the rain we're expecting tomorrow it might not actually get light enough turn the lights out indoors if I want to read.

There's a few jobs to do moving things around to free up the space for the improved greenhouse, the garden's like one of those puzzles with a mixed up picture and one missing piece and to rearrange it you can only move one piece at a time. I'd like to have it ready for next winter, but we'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, we've just put some garlic in, regular and elephant varieties, and a few more winter greens in the outdoor beds.

Andy.

Chip-skiff
07-24-2013, 12:53 PM
The pies look good. We have a small kitchen and I'm not sure there's room for another gadget.

We've got so many tomatoes ripe, with good stocks of frozen ones, both whole and pureed, that I decided to dry some—

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-o1tsPj3vOGk/UfAQhj_-_NI/AAAAAAAAEX0/wXRB3kme5hQ/s750/gh13-43.jpg

There are Peasant (San Marzano), Sun Gold (orange cherry), Galina (yellow cherry), and Black Cherry (dark red) here. I left some to dry on the stem and they're sweet, like dried currants.

The peppers are handsome, although it's a constant battle to keep aphids off. I mostly use a hair paintbrush, but today I lugged the peppers outside for a spray with the hose. The pole beans were ruined by spider mites, wretched things.

The outdoor garden is grand. The potatoes are twice as tall as last year, blooming like mad. I started them and the summer squash under row covers, which helped a lot as out nights are often cold, even in summer. The greens and carrots need thinning, which I'll do this evening and tomorrow early— too bloody hot in midday.

Bobby of Tulsa
07-24-2013, 01:39 PM
Chip I keep an eye on this thread, I am amazed with your Green house and the success you have had.

Andev
07-24-2013, 04:57 PM
I can see that I need to do more than quickly flick through this thread. There are some really good ideas in here!!
Your success considering where you live is very impressive indeed.
It looks like you really enjoy it.
I'm sure I'll have some more questions, this is something I'd love to try.
Thanks a lot.

Chip-skiff
07-25-2013, 10:47 AM
A few more photos—

The Sun Gold vine tomatoes climb like mad— left unpruned they fill the top of the greenhouse with stems and leaves and tiny fruit.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-DpcmuV4jivM/UfFBvLra_zI/AAAAAAAAEZk/m3fGf3ivsk4/s750/gar13-9.jpg

I'll leave a few stems with the most/largest fruit. The rest have to go.

Here's a Carmen pepper (capsicum to you Kiwis) that's just turning ted— I love the wild color contrast at this stage—

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-pLpW6M04M4w/UfFBw4Az1NI/AAAAAAAAEZs/1hUVUy_t3fc/s700/gar13-10.jpg

If you cut the peppers green, the plant might put on new blooms, but if you wait 'til they're red ripe, it shuts down.

Too hot now for lettuce and greens, except the NZ spinach, which is merrily spreading out again. Wonder how many times it can be cut back? The one plant has so far produced about 20 times what a regular spinach plant does.

Chip-skiff
08-02-2013, 02:06 PM
On another thread, someone asked if the photos of the greenhouse and garden are "photoshopped." I don't have PhotoShop on my computer, and use iPhoto for storing and editing. To get nice pictures of garden stuff, I use the Edit functions as follows:

First, take pictures before sunrise or at dusk and/or lower the exposure. Fill flash can be good, but can also give you glaring highlights. 2nd, crop for either subject or composition. 3rd, increase the contrast— slightly, which makes the subject stand out from the background. 4th, increase the saturation, again slightly, so the colors match what you saw. Overdoing gives a cartoonish effect. 5th, increase the sharpness, again slightly. Here's a shot of some San Marzano tomatoes that has been treated as above.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-GGBn_-axHwo/Ufv-3ZAMY-I/AAAAAAAAEb4/XuXsKpNux2Y/s700/gh13-45.jpg

Here's an outdoor shot of the yellow squash. At our elevation, the strong sunlight tends to wash out color, so most photos need slight editing to match what the eye sees. The idea is to make the photo look as the scene did to you— our brains have some powerful editing capabilities.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-l9C3AxfRAAA/UfFBrLILocI/AAAAAAAAEZc/82y_P1zkyR4/s750/gar13-8.jpg

PeterSibley
08-02-2013, 06:36 PM
That's what I'm going to have to do next year Chip, my garden was totally washed out this year, rain followed by downpours . I planted 3 times only to have the lot mashed into the ground ! All I'll need is light plastic covers and deeper drains to take all the wet stuff away .

I love your photos, they're good, actually very good .Y>


We lived up in Grafton on top of the hill, in a 1907 Victorian between the Med School and the Domain. In Auckland, you'd be more concerned by the lack of sunny days in winter and by the buildup of moisture: the nights get cool enough to condense quite a lot of water in a hothouse, and you end up fighting mildew and rot. Some friends in Sitka, Alaska, built greenhouses to keep the rain off the plants as the local climate is like Westland: deluges followed by downpours. A venting system that would dry things out on sunny days would be nice, and some sort of drainage setup inside, so the water wouldn't pool along the base of the frame and start rot and mould. A visit to some commercial hothouses might give you ideas you could apply on a smaller scale. Some reflective foil panels might also help to bounce the sunlight onto the back side of the tomatoes and capsicums.

Rather than concrete, which keeps water from draining, I might dig down a half-meter, putting in concrete footers and an insulated foundation wall, and filling the floor with gravel topped by coarse sand, packed down hard. On top of which, you could frame up beds and lay pavers for walkways. Better to have the water soak in and drain, than pool up. The damp sand is an effective thermal mass.

The local climate is the starting point. That's what's so fascinating about it: there are no universal right answers.

PAlien
08-02-2013, 07:02 PM
I appreciate the kind words. If you build your own greenhouse, rather than updates you could be enjoying ripe tomatoes.

While I'm still enjoying the updates and following this thread, I thought you'd like to know that you have inspired me and I am also enjoying ripe tomatoes, and peppers!

http://i65.photobucket.com/albums/h228/mremine/P1040827.jpg (http://s65.photobucket.com/user/mremine/media/P1040827.jpg.html)

http://i65.photobucket.com/albums/h228/mremine/P1050273.jpg (http://s65.photobucket.com/user/mremine/media/P1050273.jpg.html)

Chip-skiff
08-02-2013, 08:34 PM
While I'm still enjoying the updates and following this thread, I thought you'd like to know that you have inspired me and I am also enjoying ripe tomatoes, and peppers!

Brilliant— your own private vegie jungle!


Sibbo— you've got a bit more to work with, climate-wise, than I do. From the photos of your commercial growing, you're no stranger to the art.

JBreeze
08-24-2013, 02:57 PM
One of the varieties of tomatoes planted this year is Burpee's BushSteak hybrid, developed for container gardening. It is doing very well, producing lots of fruit up to 8 oz, i.e. 2 slices make a BLT. Resistance to early blight is outstanding, compared to my other variety, and 1000 times better than whatever my neighbor a block away planted.

Taste is very good, but not of the quality of heirloom varieties. Only negative is the package said "65 day" after transplanting, and my actual is ~80 days. Listed as "determinate", but as you can see from the pics, there will be weeks (months?) between 1st picking and the last ripe tomato. 5 lbs picked from 3 plants, and probably another 15 to go. Highly recommended for container gardening!

http://i185.photobucket.com/albums/x92/jbreeze_albums/BushSteak2_zpsc29b5cca.jpg

Chip-skiff
10-22-2013, 11:13 PM
Thanks for the pics and comments.

Since I last posted, the Tetragonia (New Zealand Spinach) made a bid to take over the whole center bed and the walkways—

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-JikyhdfuK_Q/UioRKVguWvI/AAAAAAAAEik/UaZKsrztyiM/s640/gh13-55.jpg

This is a single plant. The seeds don't germinate easily, but when they do, look out. I harvested the leaves, blanched, and froze them. The plant has oxalic acid, which blanching removes.

As the chill of fall comes on, I started a new planter of basil on a heat mat, with a grow lamp, to give to our friends at Woods Landing. There's an old pnater of basil on the bottom shelf and one that's been thinned and harvested once (for pesto) just beyond the clear dome. Basil sprouts are wonderful in salad. Once it gets tall, I cut the tallest plants for pesto and let the understory develop. A planter can be cut 2-3 times before it thins out like the bottom one, which has small leaves on woody stems.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-6QRVtdT5fh4/Ulx0KJgTZqI/AAAAAAAAEr8/UBwg2G6zs_k/s640/gh13-57.jpg

The center bed was clear after I harvested the NZ Spinach. The tomato jungle got a severe pruning, with the really vigorous plants cut back to the stump. Some scroungy-looking plants went to the compost. I'd started a new generation of tomatoes from seed, and transplanted those, and when they started to climb, trellised them with twine.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-MJ73QQiRWp4/Ulx0NbpuLVI/AAAAAAAAEsE/3wDCkrksV64/s640/gh13-58.jpg

Also started a bunch of peppers/capsicum: sweet, hot, chocolate, yellow and red mini— the aphids are happy about that. Time to order more ladybugs. Once it gets cold, they stay in the greenhouse instead of migrating into the Great Beyond. Here's another view with the last remnant of the jungle, and new tomato and pepper plants growing fast.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-cTLNsKY4XIM/Ulx0QpCO3wI/AAAAAAAAEsM/GzTrisyRiFc/s800/gh13-59.jpg

I did a thorough cleaning, clearing all the dead leaves from the beds, wiping down the frame, and cleaning the polycarbonate, which gets scummy. Let there be light!

Here are two pepper plants with volunteer sprouts (from seeds in the compost): tomatoes, peppers— who knows what? I transplanted a couple volunteer tomatoes to large pots, to see what develops.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-Mt2loWyWHgA/Ulx0TRwQLbI/AAAAAAAAEsU/mXb1y3Kg8gg/s600/gh13-60.jpg

The San Marzano tomatoes, pruned like mad, are still producing. This is a variety called Peasant, from Seeds Trust.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-jJS-_SG-FvM/Ulx0a1hLlgI/AAAAAAAAEsk/GoGiRX6HVwU/s640/gh13-62.jpg

(continued)

Chip-skiff
10-22-2013, 11:29 PM
Here's a Carmen pepper, with wonderful flavor, also an aphid magnet (you can see the wee buggers). I swipe 'em off with a paintbrush and occasionally use a soap spray, which has to be rinsed off before the sun hits the leaves. Ladybugs do a good job, but they don't seem to like climbing the plants. So it's a constant struggle.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-2LKMf-__L1o/Ulx0heb4e2I/AAAAAAAAEs0/V8T3-DpQfg4/s640/gh13-64.jpg

If the peppers are harvested green, the plants usually set more flowers. When the fruit ripens, they start to shut down. But I love a really ripe pepper. We grilled this one and ate it with buffalo sirloins. The tomatoes were slowing down: here's a pick from just before the pruning massacre—

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-123NsquitBA/UgZ-kI2YxOI/AAAAAAAAEe4/aH5xO5_ddHI/s720/gh13-51.jpg

Last but not least, the herbs: thyme, marjoram, sage, and rosemary. They grow faster than we use them, so I clip stems and dry them and bottle them up.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-v1kpqWEISzA/Ulx0ePlb1fI/AAAAAAAAEss/jvIx3yF7wdU/s700/gh13-63.jpg

Charged the solar heat system for winter. It had an air lock (made an error with the valves), boiled over, and blew a fitting. So I reconnected it it, charged it again, and it's working perfectly. So we're ready for winter, and here it comes—

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-RfDuP0K0VDw/UmdPpl41T3I/AAAAAAAAEvY/7E9vvWYPtmg/s800/gh13-65.jpg

Bobby of Tulsa
10-23-2013, 04:24 AM
Very nice pics Chip. What is all that stuff falling outta the sky? Looks like winter time at your place.... Oh, what kinda birds are those in the tree?

PeterSibley
10-23-2013, 04:39 AM
Chip, you're the kind of grower I normally read about in magazines ... in the centre fold ! A beautifully worked out project .

Chip-skiff
10-23-2013, 10:51 AM
Very nice pics Chip. What is all that stuff falling outta the sky? Looks like winter time at your place.... Oh, what kinda birds are those in the tree?

Our third snowstorm this year. Big flakes, but it didn't amount to much.

The birds are probably magpies. Or there might be a couple Steller's jays among them.

Thanks, Peter. At the moment, I feel more like an aphid farmer. Good reminder to order ladybugs.

Bobby of Tulsa
10-23-2013, 11:05 AM
You Make me wish I had a fine green house like yours, I would probably have to install some kind of cooling system as well as heating.

Chip-skiff
10-23-2013, 11:31 AM
You Make me wish I had a fine green house like yours, I would probably have to install some kind of cooling system as well as heating.

Our summer air temps seldom go above the low 80s (28°C), so the automatic passive vents keep the inside from getting too hot. Tomatoes and peppers do well with 90-100° (32-38°C). I use reflective mesh on the west slope of the roof and the west side, for midday and afternoon sun, which helps. I might have to get another piece of reflective stuff for the east slope of the roof if our temperatures keep rising, as they have in the last years.

Growers in hot areas build greenhouses with sides that hinge out and larger roof vents. Some also use big fans and water misters.

The temperature ranges can still be large. Last night it was 28° (-2°C) outside and 45° (7°C) inside. Yesterday it got up to 95° (35°C) inside in mid-afternoon: a 50° range. I took the reflective stuff down a couple weeks ago since it cuts down on the solar input to the big black passive heatsinks. The sub-floor tank (400 gal. water, pumped through radiant tubing in the floor) is up to 95° and the floor temperature at night is 55°. A sunny day adds about 8° to the floor tank and a really cold night will draw 10°+ out, so several cold nights and cloudy days in a row draws down the water temperature to the point where it's not worth the electricity to pump it.

I put wireless sensors outside, in the passive black heatsink, and in the sub-floor tank. The base station measures the inside air and cycles through the three sensors, so I can tell what's going on. There's a simple soil thermometer in the center bed.

Data: I love it.

Chip-skiff
10-26-2013, 02:17 PM
The ladybugs arrived. I sprinkled them randomly on and around the peppers. When I came back, they were concentrated in the spots with the most aphids.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-2kKKz4qyQaU/UmwOe0WMP-I/AAAAAAAAEwA/93zYRTC1b0E/s640/gh13-66.jpg

The gnashing of tiny jaws: love it.

There are a couple reserve battalions in the fridge. They go dormant in the cool darkness. I've been knocking the aphids off with a paintbrush, but the ladybugs do a better job.

From http://www.organiccontrol.com

Bobby of Tulsa
10-26-2013, 03:12 PM
Those poor aphids, you know they need to eat to.:):)

Chip-skiff
10-28-2013, 04:41 PM
Those poor aphids, you know they need to eat too.:):)

They've been getting more than their fair share.

Paul Pless
11-10-2013, 03:43 PM
Chip, I have a couple of questions, if I may.

What are the lowest temps that you have recorded inside of your greenhouse?

And, what's your experience with vegetables like tomato and pepper plants withstanding cold temps inside (how cold can it get and such plants still survive)?

Thanks.

Chip-skiff
11-10-2013, 06:03 PM
What are the lowest temps that you have recorded inside of your greenhouse?

Around 30°F/-1°C, on a night that dropped to about -35°F/-37°C outdoors. The tomatoes nearest the walls got nipped. After which, I got a wee propane space heater to supplement all the other systems. First winter I used it 3-4 times. Last winter I used it about 20 nights.


And, what's your experience with vegetables like tomato and pepper plants withstanding cold temps inside (how cold can it get and such plants still survive)?

Some heirloom tomatoes from Russia and Eastern Europe can survive temps slightly below freezing, if the air is still. Most tomatoes and peppers shrivel around freezing or just above. I've tried to grow them outdoors here and failed miserably. Gardeners in Laramie grow them outdoors, with row covers, water jackets, and similar tactics, for a very short season. But hail is a problem, too.

PeterSibley
11-10-2013, 06:12 PM
Hail !! At least 8 times I've had 7000 zucchini squash plants reduced to pulp in the field . I hate hail! But I don't hate it as much now that I'm not a commercial grower.:d

Paul Pless
11-10-2013, 07:16 PM
Thank you Chip.

Chip-skiff
11-10-2013, 11:43 PM
Hail !! At least 8 times I've had 7000 zucchini squash plants reduced to pulp in the field . I hate hail! But I don't hate it as much now that I'm not a commercial grower.:d

Some local gardeners cover rows with hardware cloth (rectangular wire mesh) so the sun and rain can get through but the hail bounces off. Probably too costly and troublesome for large commercial plots. I used non-woven fabric row covers that sagged, but kept most plants from harm.

Chip-skiff
12-22-2013, 12:50 PM
The winter solstice seems a good time for an update.

In the center bed are (L/top to R/bottom) D'avignon radish, mixed leaf lettuce, and two rows of spinach just sprouting. In the wee pots are two tomatoes and two New Zealand spinach plants that sprouted from the compost in the pots. In the event civilisation crashes, I guess one could get by with volunteer sprouts for a while, at least with tomatoes and peppers.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-sGP8KD_C_Hc/UqORx0VzrfI/AAAAAAAAE6o/HXdKaTT9lU8/s700/gh13-57.jpg

Despite the aphids (see the little monsters?) this plant yielded a second batch of nice, big peppers, sweet and savoury rather than hot. We had a very cold spell (-30°F/-35°C) and cold air leakage from the corner vents killed two tomatoes and damaged a hot wax pepper— the leaves are still green but they curled up. The aluminum louvers don't seal tight when they're closed and I set baffles to block the cold air. But I can't shut the vents down because on sunny days, the inside temps can still get into the 90s F (33°+C). Having a 50°F temp range is not ideal, but most plants do well.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-T7UO5OlbGn0/UqOR1tkH_mI/AAAAAAAAE6w/pyl7lY-rZ2I/s640/gh13-58.jpg


These are Johnny's 361 tomatoes, for salsa and cooking. I eat them in salads as well. It's a hybrid and no longer available, so I'm making the seeds last as long as possible. Most of the tomatoes I grow are heirlooms, so I can save seeds from the best plants.


https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-c6XkfNZplWA/UqOR4tJfTAI/AAAAAAAAE64/z2WsHJEAwpE/s600/gh13-59.jpg


These are Black Cherry tomatoes (they don't get as dark in winter) with one Moskvich (Russian heirloom) tomato behind.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-Dt36Q5AgT1c/UqOR8DQoipI/AAAAAAAAE7A/aAodXwF3WOI/s640/gh13-60.jpg

These are Moskvich heirlooms. Took this at night and the colour is weird and grainy.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-9JJ06yBGV2U/UqOR-zWmpiI/AAAAAAAAE7I/E3j_jMKxce8/s600/gh13-61.jpg

Here's a windowbox of baby arugula/roquette under the growlamp. I thin by pulling whole plants (great salad sprouts) until it gets 1--12 cm high, then clip individual leaves.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-NNmWPtM-j0Q/UqOSBaBT0fI/AAAAAAAAE7Q/Z-LQBBLmVHI/s650/gh13-62.jpg

That method will give you fresh greens from a windowbox for at least 2-3 months, as long as you keep up with it.

Summed up, the passive and automatic temperature control stuff I installed works very well down to very low temps (0°F/-18°C) when I use a small propane radiant heater at night. With the sun low and the days short, the solar heat collection system can add about 8-10°F to the heatsink under the floor with a full day's sun. Pumping water through the floor loop on a cold night takes that same amount out. So if we have three sunny days (when I shut down the floor loop and store heat) followed by five that are cloudy and cold, keeping a viable temperature depends on the active heat (radiants on the ceiling and the propane heater).

(continued)

Chip-skiff
12-22-2013, 01:05 PM
Here's the daily pick of radishes, roquette sprouts, and mixed baby lettuce.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-u6c3WJ5kG4k/UrcnHQ_RHhI/AAAAAAAAE_I/mwQJETH6y_g/s650/gh13-63.jpg

Young radish greens (top right) are excellent in salads, on sandwiches, etc. The D'Avignon variety that I got from Johnny's Selected Seeds are the best so far for indoor growing. The white part is in the ground with the red part growing above, so you can see when they're ready, and when the bulbs are mature, the greens are still tender.

These are another Russian heirloom, a San Marzano type called Peasant, that I got from Seeds Trust. The plants are very hardy and productive. These are from second growth on plants that were pruned back to the stump. Since I've been accused of using old photos, note the newspaper.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-0dxoZq8-mpU/Urcn1s1fNyI/AAAAAAAAE_Q/KWI7rstkh8w/s750/gh13-64.jpg

That's all for now.

Cheers!

George Jung
12-22-2013, 01:20 PM
Inspiring! Thanks.

skuthorp
12-22-2013, 04:37 PM
It's a bit early for tomato's here and the weather is warm and very humid at present wth a close cloud cover. Downy mildew weather. We plant our tomatoes with a few pots of Salvias amongst them as the ladybirds breed in the salvias.

PeterSibley
12-22-2013, 04:54 PM
I just love watching this thread Chip!

Chip-skiff
12-22-2013, 06:08 PM
I just love watching this thread Chip!

I'm pretty keen on your boatbuilding thread, so keep up the good work.

Old Dryfoot
12-22-2013, 08:01 PM
A bilge best indeed!

skuthorp
12-22-2013, 08:29 PM
Re tomatoes, I have adopted an idea from Donn a few years ago and sling a few fruit into the surrounding bush each saeson. Some of our best cropping seedlings grow 'wild' straggling through the native scrub and seemingly immune from pests and diseases. You loose some fruit to birds etc but there is always enough to go around. The birds also help sow next years seed.

Chip-skiff
12-22-2013, 08:36 PM
Re tomatoes, I have adopted an idea from Donn a few years ago and sling a few fruit into the surrounding bush each saeson. Some of our best cropping seedlings grow 'wild' straggling through the native scrub and seemingly immune from pests and diseases. You loose some fruit to birds etc but there is always enough to go around. The birds also help sow next years seed.

Thus do anthropologists characterise the origins of agriculture.

In our climate, there are a few plants that can winter in garden beds- strawberries, spinach, brussels sprouts, kale. But flinging seeds into the sagebrush is unrewarding.

switters
01-09-2014, 09:31 AM
It has been a while since our last green house update, so I thought a bump may be in order. I found an interesting greenhouse article to share also.

http://www.treehugger.com/green-architecture/inflatable-energy-efficient-greenhouse-responds-environment-c-f-moller.html

a cross between a geodesic dome and a green house that inflates or deflates depending on the sunlight conditions.

Cheers,

JimD
01-09-2014, 09:53 AM
We end up with so many seeds, especially tomato, in our compost bins and when we spread the compost in the spring we get 'volunteer' tomato plants everywhere in the garden.

Chip-skiff
01-09-2014, 01:50 PM
. . .a cross between a geodesic dome and a green house that inflates or deflates depending on the sunlight conditions.

Interesting, although a bit short on specifics. I guess I'd have to follow the links in the story for more info. I gather the "pillows" inflate when the outside temps go below a certain range. Not sure how they moderate incoming radiation. I calculated the dimensions and chose the roof and wall material to get maximum winter sun and filter the summer sun. The vents and most of the heating are passive or automatic, and work very well.

I just lost a nice tomato plant to cold. To fill the passive heatsink tanks, that are also the source for watering, I have to run a hose through the door, which is pulled nearly shut with a bungie cord. The tanks got low and I filled them on a day that was cold and windy, which chilled the poor tomato and shriveled most of the leaves. It has some large fruit that I hope will ripen. Rather than pulling it up, I'll try cutting it back to the stump to regrow, which has worked with other plants. In fact, the second growth tends to be more vigorous with larger and more abundant tomatoes than the first growth. Just cut back two peppers that had stopped blooming, after a heavy yield. It's easier than starting new ones from seed.

About half the present batch of tomatoes are volunteers and a couple of the peppers as well. Two standouts are a yellow oval cherry that's very hardy and sweet and a dark-red cherry that has a green patch around the stem, with excellent flavor. Both are similar to strains I've grown, but different enough to distinguish. One of the peppers is very bushy with numerous fruit, and the aphids don't like it as much as they do some of the others, which collect aphids so fast that it stunts their growth. Haven't tasted the results yet.

Boston
01-09-2014, 07:34 PM
Nice job, I used to work for a company that built all solar greenhouses.

Chip-skiff
01-10-2014, 12:26 AM
Nice job, I used to work for a company that built all solar greenhouses.

As opposed to lunar greenhouses?

Gerarddm
01-10-2014, 01:58 AM
Other than the grocery costs you are saving, a significant benefit as I see it is that you are eating organically. Kudos to you.

Boston
01-10-2014, 02:22 AM
uh huh lunar, thats it. No I was referring to the use of the heat sink fed by the solar pool heater looking thing, and the radiant system. Most people wouldn't have taken it to this level, you really did a great job, a lot of folks would have just stuck run off the forced air.

Chip-skiff
01-10-2014, 02:11 PM
A few pages back, I was harping on the importance of using your local climate as the starting point for a design. We have very cold winter temps (-30°F) but also sun most days. Summer is 90% sunny with highs seldom above the mid-80s F.

Very cold temps = more insulation than usual. The floor is about a meter deep of compacted sand, over Reflectix slab insulation (foil bubblewrap) and 2-inch foamboard. The foundation was poured into ARXX foam forms so it's insulated both inside and outside, making the thermal mass of the floor a good heatsink. The roof is six-wall polycarbonate, R 3.8. The sides are 3-wall, about R 2.5.

Sunny = good for collecting solar heat. In winter, the fairly high sides admit sunlight, even when there's snow on the roof, and the clear polycarbonate has about 85% light transmission. The floor, with black pavers, absorbs radiant heat, as do the black pots I us for planting. Four black plastic tanks on the N wall (facing south) absorb solar heat and seldom go below 55°F, even in the coldest weather. The insulation, the floor, and the passive heatsinks will keep the interior 25-30° above outdoor temps. A flat-plate hot water collector, salvaged and rebuilt, collects more solar heat, via a 50% glycol solution, run through a closed PEX loop by a 20W pv panel and DC pump, that kicks on when there's enough sun to heat the fluid. There's about 120 ft. of PEX coiled through a 400 gal. livestock tank under the floor (also insulated) filled with plain water. With good sun, the water gains about 10-12°F per day and can get up to about 100°F. Water is better for diffusing heat inside. A small Taco AC pump circulates water through a maze of PEX tubing about a half-meter under the floor surface. That's controlled by a manual switch. When the difference between water temp and floor temp is less than 10° I shut it off.

In summer, the flat-plate collector gets covered.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-SOkPGBmikTg/UBAp3zJhd3I/AAAAAAAACfY/ujzKz4CyrnQ/s799/aluminet1.jpg

With the sun overhead, the 6-wall roof material, with about 60% light transmission, keeps the inside cooler. I stretch reflective mesh on the W slope of the roof and the west side, to keep the internal heat down. With thermally-driven corner and roof vents, the inside temps stay below about 95°F, without any cooling other than air circulating from outside and out the roof vents. If outdoor temps were heigher, I'd need more reflective mesh and perhaps fans.

The heat transfer from the passive heatsinks is steady. For really cold nights, I added radiant heaters on the ceiling (one of those 1500W parasol heaters taken apart, on a hanging thermostat) to provide direct warmth to the foliage. That keeps plants healthy down to -15°F. Below that, I use a small propane heater intended for ice-fishing huts, etc. set on low, which keeps the air temps inside around 40°F, even at the lowest temps we experience (that's 70-80°F above the outdoor air). In three years, I've set it on high a few times, when there was both severe cold and strong wind. Most of this stuff is described in detail, with photos, earlier on.

Air leaks at the vents (which I block off during cold nights) cause plant damage and stems grown up to the outside wall also get frizzled occasionally. A small fan might improve the circulation and prevent some of this.

We save about $60-100 each month on produce (I also garden outdoors in summer), and also save the fuel for regular trips to the grocery, a 70-mile round trip, and the time involved, although greenhouse chores take at least as much time as driving and shopping. But I can choose varieties, everything is fresh-picked, and no worries about pesticide residues, etc.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-Y-iNS5FgXf0/UrNdPIYtb8I/AAAAAAAAE-Q/uXBMKfTQrYw/s750/rby2.jpg

Since we installed a 4kW PV home power system, all our electric power is solar. We typically generate about 10-20% more electricity than we use, which gives some leeway for a plug-in electric vehicle. The greenhouse flat-plate collector is visible on the right.

Chip-skiff
01-15-2014, 04:16 PM
Might as well post some vegi-porn. This is the day's pick, for a Sunday dinner (leftover steak, cut thin and warmed in a fresh-tomato sauce, over pasta bedded in baby spinach.) I love going out to pick just before I start cooking. Sometimes I get inspired and change the menu.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-Wk2xmtb834g/UtMnM8gWbxI/AAAAAAAAFGU/dg4S-R72dUM/s750/gh14-1.jpg

THis is an interesting volunteer cherry. Pretty, with good flavor. The unusual feature is that while most cherry toms set alternate fruit on a single stem of the main trunk, this one branches out and then doubles: two fruiting stems. I'll definitely save seeds.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-P5-8zfEm4WI/UtMnRoM-PuI/AAAAAAAAFGc/Q4EBWVW6e_Q/s640/gh14-2.jpg

Another volunteer, dark orange/red. Mild but pleasant taste. Fruit is 1"+, so I usually halve it for salads.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-vPJPrJeLxjk/UtMnUYg9l9I/AAAAAAAAFGk/1fpjhLU4060/s640/gh14-3.jpg


Moskvich, a sturdy Russian heirloom salad variety that produces well in winter (about half the summer crop).

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-j5JadzlHg-c/UtMnWd6y-jI/AAAAAAAAFGs/4lglzAzQDDY/s720/gh14-4.jpg


A volunteer yellow plum that resembles Galina, a Russian heirloom. Prolific, bright flavor. THis one just had a severe pruning— they get very bushy.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-tqWfQ5MQwOQ/UtMnY13TMcI/AAAAAAAAFG0/GcyyyBvim0w/s640/gh14-5.jpg


This is a Johnny's 361 hybrid, a variety they no longer sell, so I'm hoarding seeds and planting 2-3 per year. Most of them are stocky, but this one turned into a vine, so I trellised it up with twine. A cooking tomato, dense and meaty, it sets large, bright-red fruit. The withered one to the right was damaged by cold air through a door cracked open— I'm hoping the fruit will still ripen, after which I'll try cutting it back to the stump for a second growth.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-JdILBu-XGLU/UtbSo3kSlTI/AAAAAAAAFHs/OHs0jdY6u70/s640/gh14-8.jpg

(continued)

Chip-skiff
01-15-2014, 04:31 PM
The baby lettuce (bottom) got buggy, so I harvested whole plants to the right of what's left, and then ordered more ladybugs. I'll pick single leaves and let this bunch grow taller. The other green is baby spinach, which is already bolting. The wee dark-green plant in the pot is NZ spinach (tetragonia) which I'm going to try in a hanging pot, hoping it will droop rather than spread out.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-vb--B-UBRQ4/UtMnfDd8eXI/AAAAAAAAFHE/G8WcigBNJQ8/s750/gh14-7.jpg


Don't recall whether I posted this, but I counted the peppers on this wee, bushy plant (about 9"/24 cm tall): 12 already set, and it's still flowering. The aphids don't fancy it much, attacking plants on both sides while leaving this one mostly alone. More seeds to save—

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-SjEwV5WfeoI/UtMncjiVt8I/AAAAAAAAFG8/nXPTQVstyqk/s640/gh14-6.jpg


This is a sticky-trap for adult aphids and other flying pests. I just hung this up a few days ago, so it definitely has an effect. The barely visible plant is a strawberry in a hanging pot.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-BF5GPFGSXRM/UtbSrfa9_pI/AAAAAAAAFH0/pkmIpQckgOs/s640/gh14-9.jpg

Fresh salads in January at 8,000 ft. In Wyoming. Hard to believe.

PeterSibley
01-15-2014, 05:48 PM
Fresh salads in January at 8,000 ft. In Wyoming. Hard to believe.

Indeed ! Quite remarkable Chip !

Chip-skiff
01-19-2014, 01:39 PM
A puzzle for you— this is the most common weed in the greenhouse. I'm trying to find our whether it's edible, in which case I'll stop calling it a weed.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-xJRnHYehw_A/UtwYWpkSwrI/AAAAAAAAFIc/f09dkA3CpxM/s600/weed1.jpg

The flower has five split petals. It somewhat resembles a woodland star (lithophragma) but the leaves are different. It's not a plant I recall seeing in the wild, so it likely was introduced in bagged fertilizer or nursery stock.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-_HYxlyKr1cM/UtwYYpxeB3I/AAAAAAAAFIk/q_pJlewy7pY/s600/weed2.jpg

I tried keying it out, but the technical terms for plant parts— petioles?— have mostly departed my memory. Any help?

Chip-skiff
01-19-2014, 02:05 PM
[/FONT]n;4036858]Stellaria media, AKA Chickweed. It's edible and supposedly delicious.

Cool! I just ate my type specimen. Not bad.

Stellaria media is delicious, edible and nutritious, and is used as a leaf vegetable (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leaf_vegetable), often raw in salads (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salad).[3] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellaria_media#cite_note-3) It is one of the ingredients of the symbolic dish consumed in the Japanese spring-time festival, Nanakusa-no-sekku (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanakusa-no-sekku).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellaria_media

Thanks, Donn.

George Jung
01-19-2014, 04:07 PM
I love this thread. Thanks!

PeterSibley
01-19-2014, 04:19 PM
Salads just got easier !

Chip-skiff
01-29-2014, 01:03 PM
Some indoor wildlife. Aphids are the bane of my greenhouse existence. See the little monsters roaming the mixed lettuce?

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-2FZoL-LxHpk/Uuk9B0xzS2I/AAAAAAAAFKM/N7kysP08yeE/s750/gh14-14.jpg

Every ecosystem needs predators, and it's nice if they're cute—

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-RQkpbkJ6ClY/Uuk89bfavfI/AAAAAAAAFJ8/vUTuIhhIGRw/s640/gh14-10.jpg

I water before releasing ladybugs, since they're thirsty when they wake up. They were circled around that droplet like puppies at a bowl of milk, so I ran for the camera. But when I got back, they were all done drinking, except for one. The plant is a strawberry, just starting to bear fruit.

Here's a wee spider, with a web in front of a blocked air vent. When it warms up and I unblock the vent, he'll have to find a new spot.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-GrOEN-Dh09o/Uuk8_O6_k8I/AAAAAAAAFKI/sHtzH26Rh9M/s640/gh14-11.jpg

The paint peeled back from moisture, but the treated wood sill is solid— no trace of rot. I'll clean it up and repaint next summer when it's dry.

The current bunch of tomatoes is aging— the foliage dies back during winter and I prune to admit light, so they look spindly and sparse, but still bear decent fruit. This is a Moskvich salad tomato.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-AtCvc5Yhmfo/Uuk9H9-gRKI/AAAAAAAAFKc/TbkdV33vUc8/s640/gh14-12.jpg

This one, too. Good producer and vigorous.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-Lc_SGcCd2sY/Uuk9E1xDLlI/AAAAAAAAFKU/CEJv-S8x_Sw/s750/gh14-13.jpg

During cold, windy, snowy spells, it's like having a door into summer. . .

Boston
01-30-2014, 10:19 AM
looked like you had some polygal behind that tomato

Chip-skiff
03-01-2014, 08:56 PM
looked like you had some polygal behind that tomato

Polygal?

In any event, the cold, cloudy weather set the tomatoes back, although they're still yielding more than enough for our needs.

The exotic invader that Donn identified as chickweed grows incredibly fast, so I've been using it in salads (chopped, as the stems are fibrous) and also chopped and steamed.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-wpTT_Q09dmE/UxFyY91j9XI/AAAAAAAAFPo/rOy_JD74u0o/s750/gh14-15.jpg

The overwhelming New Zealand spinach (tetragonia) plant sowed seeds in the center bed, so I potted some volunteers to see how they would do in hanging pots.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/--iRLtxH4fvo/UxFyb5-lRtI/AAAAAAAAFPw/BjiHBdqVE18/s750/gh14-16.jpg

I was hoping they'd droop but instead they thrust outward, so I'll harvest the ones that are ready and then use the pots for strawberries. Speaking of which—

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-W3KXCqBiN60/UxFyiv0C-qI/AAAAAAAAFQA/Di7Y6Qo5e-8/s650/gh14-18.jpg

I set them outside for the summer and fall, and they looked like hell, but when I brought the in and re-potted and fertilized them, they took off. Really good tasting berries.

The center bed has been producing good lettuce, radishes, and baby spinach.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-e_0XlmuRwqU/UxFyftr2T5I/AAAAAAAAFP4/kBYyX55TQyI/s750/gh14-17.jpg

There's a new crop of radishes (D'Avignon) around the top left corner, with the last of the lettuce upper right, spinach just below and roquette in the center, and baby lettuce bottom. It's a luxury to have fresh greens available on a daily basis in winter. Well worth the effort.

PeterSibley
03-01-2014, 09:34 PM
|:)Y>

Chip-skiff
03-02-2014, 12:48 AM
|:)Y>

A thumbs-up to you as well.

I just built a worm-compost thingie, with stacked frames a bit like a beehive, out of scrap wood. Loaded some crushed peanut shells and kitchen waste into it today. The worms are ordered. All the websites say it's dead simple, so I might do okay. The outdoor composters freeze up in winter and I'd like to be able to produce enough compost inside the greenhouse for transplanting and keeping things in good nick.

Ordered a hand-crank compost grinder for kitchen scraps and small prunings.

http://images.hayneedle.com/mgen/master:INGE001.jpg?is=360,360,0xffffff

Also ordered a chipper/shredder for larger stuff. Summer composting should go a lot more quickly if the woody things are reduced to chips.

http://www.chippersdirect.com/product-images/ES1600_4829_600.jpg
Since we've got the solar power, I got an electric one. It won't handle larger prunings, but most of what we have is small and twiggy. The other use is to make chips for smoking with the kettle grills— lots of alder along the river and other woods I'd like to try, such as serviceberry and aspen. (You'd think they'd quit calling everything ECO this or that— I'm over it.)

PeterSibley
03-02-2014, 02:34 AM
We don't even frost up here on my hill and last year I put a handful of compost worms into my compost heat. I now have a worm farm a metre by a metre by a metre. No matter what I put on top of it it's gone in a flash. 2 foot deep of weeds is gone in 10 days.

They're voracious ! and I have a cubic metre of worm castings !

Chip-skiff
03-02-2014, 04:13 PM
We don't even frost up here on my hill and last year I put a handful of compost worms into my compost heap. I now have a worm farm a metre by a metre by a metre. No matter what I put on top of it it's gone in a flash. 2 foot deep of weeds is gone in 10 days. They're voracious ! and I have a cubic metre of worm castings !

That sounds ducky. I might put some in my outdoor composters once it warms up. Regular earthworms survive hard frosts (and ours are very hard) in pots full of soil set outside.

A note on the solar heating setup (if you page back, there are photos of the 4 x 8 ft. flat-plate collector, the tubing loops, pumps, etc.) In late January, when we had unusually cold and cloudy days, back to back, for nearly two weeks, I ran out of stored heat in the 400 gal. heatsink under the floor. That is, there wasn't enough difference between the water in the tank (~50°F/10°C) and the thermal mass of the floor (~45°F/7°C) to run the pump on the floor loop, which I usually shut down when the difference is less than 10°F.

The passive heatsinks mounted on the back wall were about 50°F as well, the lowest they've been in going on four years. I had to run the wee propane heater every night, and a few days as well. Lost three tomatoes and one pepper to cold air leakage. Despite temperatures down to -30°F/-34°C, most of the plants came though fine.

The fix would be to add another flat plate collector, but I'd have to build a new steel rack and get another collector. Except for the coldest spells, that would collect more heat than I need, so I'd have to cover one collector or dump the heat somehow— considering the added cost, it doesn't seem worthwhile.

PeterSibley
03-02-2014, 04:34 PM
Chip, here's an idea that might prove worth chasing . Using a simple waste oil burner ( chip shop oil), it's free and burns very well. I've been investigating it's use in my bronze foundry for couple of reasons , the price of propane being one.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEQ6fHFpS5g

Chip-skiff
03-10-2014, 03:17 PM
Thanks for the idea, Peter. My greenhouse is rather small and installing a burner such as that would take up too much growing space. The other thing is that we don't have leftover oil— I seldom deep-fry food. The local saloon collects all theirs and sells it. In fact, all the food joints do that, as it gets so cold in the winter that any fat going down the drain will form clogs.

The worm compost thingie has been waiting for worms, which finally arrived today after a week in transit. They seemed to be fine, perhaps a bit dehydrated— they're shipped in dry peat in a porous bag. I emptied it onto the worm farm and had a fist-sized mass of writhing little wigglers. I dashed for the camera and when I returned, they'd mostly burrowed in:

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-E014Gx1yQSw/Ux4UMk8GBEI/AAAAAAAAFRs/dgwjMl-Q1C8/s700/worms2.jpg

I left the top off so they'd burrow—they don't like the light. I'll give them a week or two to work on the scraps in that frame before putting on a second one.

The compost shredder works fine. Having fibrous, woody things such as tomato stems chopped up will speed the composting and make the compost easier to handle.

switters
03-10-2014, 04:04 PM
northern colorado worm guy, John of the infamous wormbulance.

http://www.cowormman.org/

Chip-skiff
03-10-2014, 08:40 PM
Interesting. I had no idea he existed, but it's nice that he does.

I've been out several times to look at the worm farm, but the only visible worms are 8-10 dead ones. Worm composting is not, it seems, a spectator sport.

Chip-skiff
04-18-2014, 04:18 PM
Started using the chipper/shredder on the compost that wintered outdoors. After I screen it, there's a quite a lot of woody, fibrous stuff left, along with peanut shells, mussels shells, eggshells, etc. The chipper will handle this stuff, although it won't take the 1.5-inch limbs promised. It's definitely cranky— jams or clogs pretty often, which means taking off the yellow part and clearing the discharge chute or whatever's stuck— about every 15-20 minutes which is tiresome.


https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-hTXdT291OLA/U1GSuskB9FI/AAAAAAAAFXk/hwfCKtl6H0U/s750/mulch1.jpg

But it does a good job shredding material that doesn't compost well otherwise.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-UdrqGB6TNlc/U1GSyqqNZqI/AAAAAAAAFXs/qRpQo3Ulq0w/s700/mulch2.jpg

This would be immediately useful as mulch and should compost more quickly than the coarse material I've been putting in the drums.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-yqhM9mk2Y5E/U1GS22bYN2I/AAAAAAAAFX0/xyKLksFBOuU/s650/mulch3.jpg

The small hand-crank shredder works for greenhouse pruning and veg scraps. The electric one will do thick stems, rootwads, and the tough bits.

Chip-skiff
08-17-2014, 03:18 PM
Haven't updated this for a while. The greenhouse has been getting hotter this summer and I gave up growing lettuce and spinach in the center bed until cooler weather. A friend sent some seeds for Christmas, so I'm trying some varieties new to me. This is Brandywine, a red, smooth type unlike the pink lobed fruits seen in markets. The plant has enormous, floppy leaves.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-KejpkhWmAmk/U--fIFW9IPI/AAAAAAAAF9g/vPphNDN1OfQ/s640/gh14-21.jpg


The big orange globes are Nebraska Wedding tomatoes. Just picked these today and have yet to taste one. The large cherry toms background are Sakura, very prolific.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-oiV0keRhbxM/U--fMXSpDaI/AAAAAAAAF9o/SJygR_q2kqw/s850/gh14-22.jpg


This is Moskvich, a Russian heirloom that's been a favourite for several years. It's tasty, prolific, and has a strong second and even third growth when pruned back to the stump.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-jinnXdZ8Aiw/U--fYVE7jKI/AAAAAAAAF-A/IqtsiRWC7fU/s640/gh14-25.jpg


This one, Black Plum, from Seeds of Change, was also a gift. When my friend moved to a new place with a garden spot, I sent her some of my saved seeds and a gift certificate for Johnny's Selected Seeds.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-UG_0pgEMgPA/U--fSN4VpcI/AAAAAAAAF9w/riwDBHqDxEI/s720/gh14-23.jpg


This Sun Gold is the third growth on the same root system, with larger fruit than the original growth. It's probably the sweetest and most flavorful tomato in my stock. When my friends taste one, it snaps their eyes open and they say wow! or hot damn! or something like that. Evidently, a large vine with small fruit tends to concentrate the sugar and also whatever lends that aromatic tang.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-Jaxsmk7ulQw/U--fWe3hzOI/AAAAAAAAF94/1ZFkSZ0VA-o/s640/gh14-24.jpg

Here's a morning's pick: nine varieties. The lobed one is a Red Calabash.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-MUiw2rQALy0/U--gbQz5_vI/AAAAAAAAF-g/fg8ZjbsswUA/s640/gh14-20.jpg

Tomato pickin' time in the Rockies!

PeterSibley
08-17-2014, 05:13 PM
Indeed ! Quite remarkable Chip !

Here I go repeating myself !BY:D

Quite wonderful Chip. I put some worms into my last compost which turned out to be something of a mistake if I wanted compost ! I ended up with a very large pile of worm castings , very nice but full of seed ,particularly tomato seeds :D. It's great fertiliser but means a lot of weeding . The worms reduced everything except the coarsest material (and the weed seed ) to an extremely fine material.

Phil Y
08-17-2014, 07:03 PM
I used one of those chipper shredder things a while ago. Powered by a petrol 6 hp Honda motor. It was rubbish. Noisy, slow, jammed a lot, really struggled to do anything like its job.

Chip-skiff
08-17-2014, 10:53 PM
I used one of those chipper shredder things a while ago. Powered by a petrol 6 hp Honda motor. It was rubbish. Noisy, slow, jammed a lot, really struggled to do anything like its job.

They are cranky machines, for sure. I finally got the hang of mine, which has a 2 hp electric motor. It won't do what the makers say: chop 1-1/2 branches? No way. Nor does it do well with green, fibrous stuff. But I can now run it it for an hour or so without jamming up, and it does produce a lovely shred.

The main reason for getting the electric model is that we have solar power, and the idea of burning fossil fuel to make compost seems a bit problematical, to me at least.

PeterSibley
08-18-2014, 12:51 AM
I've always put all my heavy fibrous material in a pile and forgotten about it, every 5 years or so I can dig some VERY nice compost from the bottom of the pile.

katey
08-18-2014, 10:55 AM
My favorite full-sized tomato when Dan and I were farming in Maine was Rose de Berne, from Fedco. This year I'm growing it here in Washington State, both in the greenhouse and outside, and it's different (not surprising) but still really good and really early, second in ripening only to Glacier, which is early but has no flavor. I like Rose de Berne better than Moskvich in the soil here (glacial till).

Chip-skiff
08-18-2014, 12:48 PM
My favorite full-sized tomato when Dan and I were farming in Maine was Rose de Berne, from Fedco. This year I'm growing it here in Washington State, both in the greenhouse and outside, and it's different (not surprising) but still really good and really early, second in ripening only to Glacier, which is early but has no flavor. I like Rose de Berne better than Moskvich in the soil here (glacial till).

Never heard of that one, but I'll look it up. Ahhh!

http://stonehillblogs.org/farm/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Rose-de-berne.jpg

Not wild about the colour, but it gets high marks for flavour.

I can't grow tomatoes outdoors here at 8000 ft.— summer nights are too cold, regularly in the low 40s or high 30s with occasional frosts. They love the greenhouse and being able to grow year-round means treating tomatoes as a perennial, pruning back and regrowing from the same root system, which I've learned by trial and error, mostly. So I aim more for steady production with some peaks that provide storage stock: sundried, puree for freezing. I don't can cooked sauce (yet).

Chip-skiff
08-18-2014, 01:02 PM
I've always put all my heavy fibrous material in a pile and forgotten about it, every 5 years or so I can dig some VERY nice compost from the bottom of the pile.

Judging from the photo you posted of your place (beautiful) it's a growthier situation than we've got here. The bottom of an outdoor compost pile stays frozen for most of the year. So I've got three bins that either roll or rotate plus the worm farm inside the greenhouse, which is about due for emptying and refilling with raw material, as the wee worms have gnawed their way to the top box and are poking their snouts above the surface. Given our climate, I need to make as much compost as possible in about four months, then stockpile it for winter use in the greenhouse.

The worm farm also yields a dark, stinky compost tea, about two quarts per week. I just applied it to the tomatoes and expect a spurt of growth in the fruit, rather than the foliage. Just pruned two buckets of new growth— left to themselves, the plants would fill up the space and produce a great many tiny fruit, just enough flesh to enclose the seeds. I recognise that the tomato plants have different priorities than I do.

John of Phoenix
08-18-2014, 01:22 PM
My little garden never got much better than this at the three week mark in late April. The heat is just too much for anything but the basil.

Left to right, carrots (stunted about 2" long), green onions and chives (each 4" thin stalk), the chili withered and died outright, the basil is great. I'm planning on a fall planting of the same.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-I2vmIO0dFrc/U4qgRj7BGOI/AAAAAAAAQXQ/qAj3m8RtpPQ/w503-h894-no/20140528_171709.jpg

Chip-skiff
09-11-2014, 05:37 PM
Took the worm farm apart today. The worms had gnawed their way to the top. So I dumped the contents of the top frame into a tub: brown muck crawling with wormses.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-oEPPi01sTKQ/VBIcND-zbCI/AAAAAAAAGOc/ncq33jglCQI/s650/worm1.jpg

The two lower frames were pretty well composted, and more reduced in volume than I expected. So a few worms were left in each of the bottom layers. I laid out a big leaf caddy in the greenhouse. The two lower frames and the base (without the drip pan) are shown.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-ORzoOcGocUw/VBIcQmmpRHI/AAAAAAAAGOk/5bqWiD7AHhM/s650/worm2.jpg

I dumped out the compost, scraped the sides, and then washed 'em off.

Here's the lowest frame on the base with the drip pan in place. I put a fairly fine mesh on to keep the worms in. The upper frames have larger mesh so the wee critters can slither upward to fresh eats.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-VgKVa5TV2Lg/VBIcS34JS5I/AAAAAAAAGOs/pO9OI_4JoWM/s600/worm3.jpg

Woody stuff from the electric shredder makes a good bedding for the bottom.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-mIMRKAK9fKg/VBIcU96GtSI/AAAAAAAAGO0/2gtDkZPPLgE/s650/worm4.jpg

Then I dumped the former top layer with worms in: gloop!

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-GWlUljcHVos/VBIcYBxL0FI/AAAAAAAAGO8/Xis8SerER2w/s650/worm5.jpg

Covered 'em with more wood fiber and put the second frame on.

To separate worms from the compost, I spread it out on the leaf caddy, covered the pile with plywood, and raked one side out thin.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-8jCb_3LOHu0/VBIcZ9s3J3I/AAAAAAAAGPE/9oX5fS1fQH0/s650/worm6.jpg

The worms crawl away from light, into the covered part. Once they're mostly gone, you rake the stuff away from the main pile, pick the last few worms out, and leave it to dry. This is my first time and I'm guessing it'll take a few days before the worms are herded out and can be put back in the farm box. The compost looks really good, very rich and concentrated. It started out as green prunings, spent plants from the garden, kitchen waste, dead leaves and grass, etc. The worms will slow down during the winter, but I should have a fresh batch of compost for spring, when the outdoor composters are still frozen hard.