Monday, February 27, 2017

Andddddddddddddddd We have liftoff!

Well I can't claim that february was a very exciting month... cause it wasn't... but the very last day of the month brought me a surprise.  

But first let's go over the stats and info of february...

So It's February 27th. We had a VERY mild february here in Pa, It bounced around from 30 all the way to 74.

But here we go... some stats and info-

Average Exterior January Temp- 49 Degrees

Average Temp maintained in Greenhouse- 66.6 degrees

Average Humidity In Greenhouse- 77.4%

Max Temp- 91 Degrees

Max Humidity- 100%

Average propane use- 3 Gallons a Day

Times watered- 2 times

Times fertilized- 2 times

Pesticide used- 1 time

Blunders- 0 

Lessons Learned- 1

Total time spent in greenhouse- 6 hours total

So, as I talked about the amount of overcast days in january, february wasn't an improvement till the tail end of the month, besides that, I decided that saving twenty to 30 dollars on propane was foolish and cranked the heater up.

I was able to hit, and surpass my benchmark of 65 degrees.  I maintained 66.6 degrees. My propane use went down, and the days are getting longer, fast. If the amount if overcast type days would decrease, I would be in a pretty sweet spot. 

In the above image is february's day by day temperature as per my thermo data logger.  You can definitely see the trend towards the end of the month. Ignore that severe dip, The heater, albeit brand new is intermittently malfunctioning (more on that later).

So as it stands, The weather seems to be completely unpredictable.  We have marches average temperature, In february.  This is just a really weird year.  

Over the next couple of days I'm going to set all the automatic vent openers for 80 degrees, since the daytime highs are getting a bit too hot.  I'm hoping passive venting can carry me for a few more weeks, I would hate to try and control the power vent, and heat at the same time. 

As you can note, I did manage to lower the humidity in the greenhouse, this was done by running a dehumidifier around the clock.  I suspect I won't need this much longer once the greenhouse vents everyday and getting some air movement. 

And onto the exciting part... MY FIRST GREENHOUSE SCAPE!  I was gone for the weekend, I joined the great folks in region 2 for their winter symposium, and visited my good friend James Clancy.  I sort of expected to come home to a few scapes since the plants have definitely reached that size. Its still pretty cool. Smiling Cobra is listed as an Early.. so I expect a few more scapes to start showing up soon in the coming days.  

Since the daytime temps are getting higher, I am going to have to watch, and water more frequently. I have noticed some pots dry out quicker than others. 

The heater failure... Well I chalk this up to two things.  A cheap heater, and the humidity.  Let's start with the heater,  Its a 50000 btu Mr heater, it was 400 dollars.. Pretty much the cheapest thing you can get for the money, it's meant to be a intermittant garage heater in all reality. The failure has to do with a small vacuum port on the exhaust side of the unit.  The combustion process is hampered by the ultra high humidity causing excess emissions in the exhaust, clogging this port. Once it clogs the pressure switch doesn't see the vacuum, and then the unit wont fire. Cleaning this port weekly will become a new chore. 

Next year I will buy a UHE sealed combustion chamber unit that will be rated for a humid environment. 

So whats next?  March!  Higher temps (maybe.. february was warm), More Sun, More scapes... More fun! 

I have started to receive daylilies from the southern states, it's pretty cool to pot them up and try and find room for them lol! 

Friday, January 27, 2017

The beginning is Near.

So It's January 27th. We had a mild january here in Pa, It bounced around from 25 all the way to 62.

But here we go... some stats and info-

Average Exterior January Temp- 41 Degrees

Average Temp maintained in Greenhouse- 58 degrees

Average Humidity In Greenhouse- 85%

Max Temp- 79 Degrees

Max Humidity- 100%

Average propane use- 3.5 Gallons a Day

Times watered- 2 times

Times fertilized- 2 times

Pesticide used- 2 times

Blunders- 1 

Lessons Learned- 2

Total time spent in greenhouse- 5-6 hours total

So there's the quick stat sheet, Now let me go into some detail.  

My average temp maintained in the greenhouse is pretty close to what I wanted out of january, I set out early in the process to keep it at 60 degrees in january.  The amount of propane used to overcome large heat differential from exterior to interior made me second think that plan for january back in december.  A very mild january allowed me to keep it pretty close. I cant say that, this will happen every year. 

On the Flip side, we have had an extraordinary amount of cloudy days here, so I have not been getting my free heat from mother nature. I really do hope this changes, but with 13 out of the next 15 days forecast as cloudy.. I dont know if that'll happen.

This will become an issue sooner then later, The solar gain typically will bring the temp in the greenhouse up to 75 degrees. I need this to keep my temperature average up, without using too much supplemental heat. 

So come febuary first, the plan is to maintain an average of 65 degrees. 

A quick note about humidity... It is almost always wet in the greenhouse so far, and I really didnt expect that... But since the Air exchange rate is so low on purpose during winter, the water has no where to go.  A bonus to this is, you really aren't watering very often. 

And onto the propane use... I am doing good here, I am pretty happy with 3.5 gallons a day.  That makes the cost of operating the greenhouse around 6 dollars a day.  I'm completely ok with this. 

Watering, and pesticide use.  So let me get to the watering first-

Early january, I watered the pots for the first time once I saw almost everything was in active growth, I could have let it go a bit further, but I really needed to get the plants treated.

The second watering was a compost tea, It's the start of me trying to establish a positive fungal and bacterial environment within the pots and use less chemical fertilizer.

Onto the pesticides-  Now since all these pots have been outside, at the end of the year.. many fun things crawled into the pots, laid eggs, or just stayed in the pots. Job #1 was to lay down the foundation of pest management-   

In my first watering, I used BTI and imidacloprid, This was to kill any fungus gnat larvae, and give the plants a systemic resistance to aphids, and other insects. 

My second watering followed the same protocol. 

In two foliar sprays in January I used Avid 0.15sc, this is a adult Mite control product, It also controls fungus gnat adults, and aphids.  I had a little bit of all three since I took in some plants that had them survive in the foliage. 

As of right now, I have no gnats, spider mites, or aphids. But I will continue to spray on the maximum interval.

I have had a new bug emerge from the soil, it's small, but visible, it's red...  I have not identified it yet, and will be taking a sample to the nearest extension office on monday for hope of identification. 

Onto my Blunder-  Forgetting that you turned the drip irrigation on, and leaving it on overnight. It sure was wet in there the next day...

Lessons learned-   Don't leave the water on!   And that during the winter months... you won't be watering as frequently as you would think. 

So time spent in the greenhouse... So going back to all the horror stories about owning one of these monsters... About 3 hours of that time was just cause I wanted to be inside.. the other three... watering, sprays, doing small things. This really isnt a ton of work. 

Now, I can see if you got a bug infestation, or rust, or no heat/cooling, or no irrigation... there being frustrating times. Which is why this shouldn't be done on a "budget", while I'm not saying it cant be... if done so, I can see it being much more work without the automation. 

Also, practicing control, having the proper fungicides, and pesticides along with following the rotation requirements of the products is KEY to controlling the insect population within your Greenhouse. I can't stress this enough.  And yes, I understand that there are a-lot of people who dont want to use chemicals, I am right there with you.  There are many "advancing" technologies that will allow less and less chemical control.  But for the moment, I am using the best product to control my problem, while also buying some new ones to test their efficacy.  

But understand, this IS the perfect environment for you plants... and your bugs. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Well... There's some Green Now!

As december closed, we welcomed a new year. 2017...  Let us hope for a good year all around with some great daylily weather! Its been almost a month since the pots have been pulled in.  Some hard dormants have still refused to really wake up much... But everything else has begun to grow. 

I am still keeping the average temperature at around 52 degrees, we just had a cold snap that brought our overnight lows into the single digits for a few days.  My propane usage hasn't been out of hand, which is good. As long as the temperature differential between ambient outside and within the greenhouse doesnt exceed 40 degrees the heater doesnt run very frequently. 

At the top end of the differential, It will run constantly. 

We are coming into a stretch of good weather with day time highs in the 40's overnights in the high 20's low 30's. I might take this opportunity to bring the average temperature up to 56. I know it seems like small potatoes, but the end goal is 65-70 at the end of february. 

Well Here are some pictures of how everything is getting along so far, Enjoy! 

Malibu barbie is a growing standout so far in the bunch. 

Oddly enough, Dormant "magic of oz" Is the largest plant in the Greenhouse right now. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Just waiting for the growing...

Not really much going on... Winter is winter.  

I organised a few things to help come busy time...

Space is severely limited, So I am definitely trying to maximise the space I have.

My propane usage has slowed down, Last fill up, over the course of 17 days, which had some very cold nights I averaged 4.2 gallons a day. So far, thats my goal, keep it under 5 gallons a day. 

I added another circulating fan.  Air movement is pretty important, so to keep things moving I added another. Commercial grade greenhouse fans dont come cheap.. I can tell you that. 

Well here are a few pictures of everything, most of my Evergreen, and Semi Evergreen stuff is starting to put foliage out. Most the Dormants are still down, but a few have started to break dormancy. 

Cant wait till its a lush green bench full of flowers.

I dont really think this ia actually a dormant, as registered... It caught my eye because it has the most foliage out of the bunch right now. 

The seedlings are plugging along, I feel as if they could be growing faster, but the temperature, and short daytime length is holding them back.  February and march should be breakout months for them. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Prepping the pots for some growth!

Well, Its cold.. In addition to that.. Its cold. 

So the pots are in. They have thawed out, and achieved a temperature of about 50 degrees. 

I cut back all the dead or dying foliage, and cleaned the pots. 

The first step to getting the pots ready is done, they are thawed, the plants are still dormant and it'll be a few weeks before they get watered, or really start to grow much. 

So for getting ready for when they do start growing, I start the pots out with a dry topping with the following.

Alfalfa pellets

Worm castings

Organic fertilizer 4-3-3

All of these are slow acting, slow release, soil builders. No fast acting nitrogen, No heavy numbers. 

Just a nice mix-of some great soil builders,  I treat my plants in spring to the same mix. 

In other news the cold still makes winter boring.. Nothing to do but pet cats, and buy day-lilies! 

See how thrilled I am...

Portable clothes warmer... Dont worry about the grey tuffs of fur on that shirt, no one else is worried about it. 

Just sleep winter off... no matter where you are when it hits...

Maybe get a bit bored and toy with the idea of a 7th kitty! 

Well thats it for now,  Hopefully next entry I will have some growing parent-stock, and seedlings getting larger in size!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

So It's December... And well It's definitely not going to be like last year.  For our region last year, we had stuff blooming on christmas!  The temperature this same day In 2015 was 68 degrees,  It was 70 on christmas Eve. 

So that being said.  Our ground is already frozen, Most of my plants have gone down, and I can only hope for some snow cover soon to keep everything from a freeze thaw. 

I am going to seal off 6 out of the 8 vents on my greenhouse in a few days.  There is just too much air leakage coming from them.  I bought a "delicate" duct tape for the job.

I added about 200 gallons of water in bins under the benches to help stabilize the temperature in the greenhouse, in addition to hopefully capturing the daytime heat from the solar gain. While releasing it at night... to help with the cost of heating the greenhouse.

And on that note. As of 12/7/16- I have used 100 gallons of propane.  With the super short days, the below average temperatures so far this month... I have noticed the needle moving way faster on the propane tank. 7 days after my last fill, the needle says I'm 60 percent fill.  I doubt the accuracy of this device on the tank.  But that would be an estimated 40 gallons of propane used over 7 days.  This is at the high end of where I want to be usage wise. 

I have dropped the night time temperature to 50 degrees instead of 60. And added the thermal mass to help.  Once the pots are pulled in (tomorrow!!!) there will be a significant amount of thermal mass within the greenhouse.  

My temperature monitoring has been by a logging device with bluetooth connectivity.  But I have to be within the greenhouse to download the data.  So I bought another temperature monitoring device.  It function off wifi, albeit more expensive I will be able to live monitor the temperature within the greenhouse.  I am contemplating a wifi controlled thermostat also. 

Temp Stick- Wifi Logging

Sensor Push- Bluetooth Temp/Humidity logger

We are about one month in on the seedlings. Everything is looking good. Looks to be 65-75 percent germination so far.  I will give them another 4 weeks before I start culling pots and condensing. 

This coming week, they will get a final overhead watering with Banrot mixed in for damp off prevention, and BTI added in for fungus gnat control. After that everything will be drip irrigated in. 

Happy Winter Everyone!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

How DO you drip...

So part of having a greenhouse is having the advantage of being able to set up permanent irrigation which is a time saver for me! 

So I will keep this entry short, there really isn't much to explain here. 

I am using a dripworks "system"  But to be honest... It's 5/8in irrigation line and a few twist loc fittings made for the line, the emitters are Rainbird 1 gph (don't buy these, the dripworks emitters are far higher quality) , and the drip line is a flexible vinyl 1/4in line. All you need is a punch tool and a decent pair of pliers to punch the emitters into the line. 

I use a 30/40 psi pressure regulator, and quick connect hose fittings. 

I tried to branch as many lines together, each tray gets one line, 3 lines per shelf, 9 lines per shelving unit. 

And some seedling progress pictures!  Most are just breaking the soil now.