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. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Ok Pete, But Why? Why all this...

So I get asked a lot, I also get comments, and opinions here and there that sound like this...

Why spend all that extra money for a greenhouse?

Isn't it a ton of extra work?

What benefit do you get in the end?

I want my plants hardy, I dont want Greenhouse plants.

What difference does it really make? 

Let me start out by saying, I got a greenhouse for many reasons, some that make sense, some that might not make a bit of sense to you at all. 

Here are my reasons and/or Answers to those questions.

For starters, I love plants, and hate winter. Winter is a dismal, boring, ugly time of year if you enjoy gardening or being outside. Nothing is green, you can't be outside to really do much, the day is so short light wise.  My Greenhouse is my pick me up, It's a little dose of wintertime joy...  Imagine walking through 2 feet of snow and then opening the door to the greenhouse, you walk in, it has that tropical smell, everything is green and growing it's 65 degrees and humid and you just look back outside to a world of snow that you just temporarily just left. 

Why dont I just move? In an ironic twist of fate, my living is dependant upon selling parts for a brand of car that is primarily only sold in cold, wintery places. My livelihood depends on shitty cold snowy weather. 

That alone was and is worth the cost I have outlaid.

As for the extra work part.  I can see how some people might think this, I enjoy the work. But honestly with all the advancements in automation, and greenhouse controls... It's not much. Digging, splitting, potting, planting seedlings out, making new gardens are still my number one time hog. Don't get me wrong, the initial setup of the greenhouse will be time consuming, but its not the time vampire you imagine it to be.   

What do I benefit?  Well that question has a few answers- 

1. My happiness (See first answer) 

2. Accelerates my program.

3. Allows me to reliably experiment or bring southern genes into Northern plants.

4. Allows me to get greater growth, plant division, quicker.

5. Allows me to set difficult conversion pods or pollen within a controlled environment.

6. Gives me a controlled environment to grow out new arrivals

7. I believe I can offset the cost of the Greenhouse

8. More seeds! 

9. Way longer bloom season.

So let me explain those Answers.  I will be a bit brief in my explanations here.

2. With Pod harvest in June, I am able to get my seeds planted in July. Planting in July and growing the seedlings in the greenhouse till spring next year should result in a very high percentage of first year blooms such as planting in florida. In the south its typical to get bloom in 10-12 months.  I am going to grow them year round for the same reason. This will allow me to see results of crosses, and improve upon or abandon certain lines as fast as you would in the south. 

3. Now some may agree or disagree with this,  Doesn't matter to me, some of the best northern breakthroughs have been by bringing southern genetics into northern plants. 

4. 10.5 months of growth as opposed to 5-6 months.

5. Some plants are just difficult pod setters, or the pollen is iffy.  Trying to do this when its 85 degrees out and the sun is beating down on you only ups the chance of failure. The controlled environment is key to getting seed from difficult plants.  

6. Spring of 2016 was a hard one, as was the growing season. It was very wet and cold in april and may, and extremely hot and dry the rest of the year.  I had many new arrivals rot, or just not grow because of the less then ideal environment.  Being able to pot new arrivals and let them grow in a controlled environment and grow to a nice large size to be fall planted will hopefully reduce any losses.

7. How?  Well almost everything I have in the Greenhouse I have growing outside.  So at the end of my growing season, and pod setting season It'll be july.  At that point I will need to divide out any increase in the pots. These plants will be large in size, easy to divide, and be perfect for fall planting.  I hope to sell  roughly 200 plants a year to offset the cost of operating the greenhouse.

8. Pretty easy here.  I can make way more seeds with two bloom seasons then one. 

9. Here's the best benefit, I will get two bloom seasons, and higher percent of rebloom. So I will get to enjoy bloom from april to october! 

Now, I've heard the typical "I dont want greenhouse plants"  Well neither do I, and in a 13 x 26 foot greenhouse I couldn't grow out an intro in there If I wanted to.  All seedlings will go outside and meet their fate with winter.  Its up to them to survive or not. 

What difference does it make?  This is really subjective.  Do you need it? Nope.  I wanted it.  For all the reasons above.  I think It'll help me establish myself with a great stock of seedlings and hopefully introduce some worthy plants in the coming years. As with almost anything, its for my personal enjoyment. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Time to get your chill on...

So, I bet you are slightly wondering... What do you do with the dormants?

Good question, Some dormants or "deciduous" Daylilies will perform fine without having a cold period, and notably there are still quite a few that will perform in lackluster fashion if not given that (Think RFK) 

To make the management of all my plants as easy as possible, I take all of my pots out in early november.  I leave anything that you would consider tender inside, but hardy EV's and All SEV plants go outside also. 

I do this for two reasons, I want bloom on a set cycle and a safeguard against rust. 

The pots are all placed within a wind protected wood framed box, and once the foliage goes down, I will cover the pots with frost blankets.  I am trying to keep wild temperature swings from happening when doing this. I also want to avoid daily Freeze/Thaw cycles.

Now the plants will stay outside till roughly the end of december. After that I will bring the pots inside. Once Inside they will slowly defrost, I will separate Tet pots from Dip pots, and then top dress the pots with alfalfa pellets, and slow release fertilizer. I won't start watering the plants till they break their dormancy, and then I will start mildly fertilizing them at about 50-75 PPM Nitrogen.

Now in this next picture you can definitely see the difference between my outside plants, and everything that was growing in the greenhouse.  The picture below was taken November 6th of this year.  As you can see, I got a solid 6 extra weeks of solid growth from my plants at the end of the season.

So once the pots are inside, they break dormancy... then what?  Well this depends on how much money you want to spend and when you want bloom among other factors. Be it, this is my first winter and I really dont know how much propane I will be using I personally would like to cap my supplemental heating bill at 500 gallons of propane.  That might sound like a lot, but it really isnt. Because I have seedlings inside, I will heat from November on.

So I can't really tell you what's best here... but I will tell you my plan.  I plan on keeping an average temperature of 60 degrees until Feb 1st.  At that point I will then increase my Temp to 65 degrees. On march 1st, I will then maintain 70 degrees to induce bloom In april. 

There are a few reasons why I am doing it this way... For starters, In late december the Daylength is an abysmal 9 hours and 19 minutes.  Which means I am only getting about 7-9 hours of solar gain, and the rest of the heating is on my dime.  So keeping the temp low during January allows me to keep the plants growing, and conserve energy. 

So at the end of february, a few things improve. Typically for my area exterior air temps start climbing,  Sun angle starts improving for better light distribution within the greenhouse, and day length is now 11 hours and 20 minutes. So now I am getting 11-12 hours of free heat, I am getting better solar gain within the greenhouse, the plants are getting better light, and a longer day for growth. So now is the time to kick them into GO mode! 

March will be a funny month, I suspect it will be like my October sort of. The air temps outside will be 40-55 but the sun angle and daylength will again improve as will the amount of solar radiation captured by the greenhouse.  This will help and hurt me. The helpful part will again be almost 13 hours of daylength at the end of the month, better sun angle, better light distribution in the greenhouse. The hurtful part? I will be in a quasi heat/cool cycle which is hard to manage. During the day, the greenhouse would easily exceed 100 degrees without power venting.  But at the same time, the air temp will still only be 40-55 degree which would cause wild temp swings if you just turned a vent fan on.  It also makes it hard to retain the heat you gain during the day because the Vents are temperature sensitive. and they need to be set at the highest opening temp because during the night the heater will be maintaining a 68-70 degree temperature.  But during the day you want the vents to start opening at almost the same temperature to keep the temperature from building up too quickly, causing the fans to kick on and start dumping cold air into the greenhouse.

Well if thats what march is like, what does april bring???  Well more of the same In my eyes. At some point in april the shade cloth will be put onto the greenhouse which will help us maintain a steady daytime temp. The overnight supplemental heating will be brought down to 60 since day time temps will be roughly that. And we hope for tons of bloom, while maintaining 70-75 degrees for the best pod set. We will then set our vents at our summer settings, as well as our swamp cooler. The goal is to maintain a temperature as close to 75 as possible for maximum growth, rebloom, and pod set/formation. 

So why not sooner/later?   Well in my eyes you could do this sooner for sure,  but you will be doing it with less light, less light distribution, and a much higher heating bill. I also believe because of  daylight hours you wont get as much bloom, nor as many seeds.  

Later? Well you could, but then you start dealing with higher daytime temperatures, you also would start backing up into your normal season... and I rather get my seed in June so I can get a crop planted in July.  Anything past that point in my eyes isnt worth all the extra effort of the greenhouse. Also, I would want the plants to be finished with seed as soon as possible so I can divide the plants out of the pots for fall selling, or donation.  While giving the divisions plenty of time to grow, rest, multiply before november. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

How many seeds do you sow?

Seeds, Seeds, Seeds...

So the 2016 summer season was a productive one for our gardens.

We produced 14,000+ seeds, which from hearing what others made was impressive. We had a season long drought, we had many days over 85+ even full weeks 90+.  Even more impressive, we don't have a single established clump in the whole garden.

90% of the plants bloomed for the first time this year.

So how did I do it?

Nothing special, I irrigated heavily,  And not so much my choice but rather what I had to do.. I pollinated from 6am to 8am five days out of the week (Damn real job)

That's It.

So did I plant all 14,000 seeds?  Heck No.

I planned for 2500, But had excess capacity to about 3700-3800. We used all of it.

So we here's my system for this years crop-  I am using a Landmark Plastics Watermatic Tray

I am using 4.5 x 4.5 x 4.88D Square pots, the trays hold 15 of these. We plant 5 seeds max per pot, giving us a capacity of 75 seeds per tray.  We planted 50 trays, 750 pots. Some pots got less then 5 seeds.

Using all the space we have!

So what do I do after they start growing?  Well depending on the weather, They will stay in the greenhouse till Early to Mid April. Then we will plant them and maintain them throughout summer.  We got spotty first year bloom this year, with a very bad spring with a record late freeze on April 26-27th. We don't rely on first year bloom yet. 

My next blog entry will go into greater detail on how we plan to try and be competitive with southern growers, and get first year blooms. 

This Picture is from May 29th. This year was a learning year.  We won't be planting that late this coming spring. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Cats Cats Cats Everywhere!

Well, I figured you guys might want to know a bit more about the crazy behind the Greenhouse...

Here is my lovely wife of 3 years.. Shayna.. holding a cat that might or might not be skinnier then logan.

Here is me, with my Cat "helen"

So we have 6 cats,  yes six.. we had a HUGE mouse problem.. we still have it.. plus 6 cats.

Here Is Cali, doing her favorite thing.. pretending to be furniture. 

Cali was a rescue, she was given to me by a good friend, and well... was sick. We feared she wouldn't make it, after a few weeks of playing wack a mole with what it could be, we found out she had a cyst obstructing her throat and thats why she wasn't growing. We had it removed, and now shes the biggest cat out of them all. 

Our next kitty Is Stella. We got her from a local Cat rescue- 

Our Next Kitty is Bella- We rescued her from a friend that rescued her.

Next up is logan, we rescued him from the same place we got Stella, Me and my wife walked into a pet store, with maybe a bit too much to drink beforehand... My wife saw logan.. and HAD to have him. 2 weeks before we got married to boot! 

Might I add.. he LOVES to be touching you.. at all times.

Next up is Lola, she is our only Non-rescue. She is a F5 Pure Bred Bengal cat.  My wife adores and dotes on this cat. 

And last. but not least is the most saved Kitty of them all... "Helen"  Helen was posted to a facebook group for blind cats as needing an emergency home.  Without even asking my wife I emailed the place and said we would take her.  Well the wife wasn't happy, and well... Helen was in North Carolina.  Helen is Blind, and has a dislocated tail.. so we think she lost her vision from trauma. She is a huge brat, the only cat that begs for people food.. and is insanely smart almost to diabolical levels.

To be able to eat in peace, I have to sit her in my lap and feed her.. Not joking. 

She can scale out dining room chairs.. How she figured this out, we dont know.