Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A year in Re-cap, So much learned.

Sorry, Its been awhile... But time has been fleeting this whole summer, and as summer comes to an end and fall takes over... My laundry list of outdoor stuff to get done has finally subsided to a point that I can breath again!

So First Things First...  How was the first full season with the greenhouse?

Awesome, It was definitely a big learning experience. It allowed me to start my seedlings early last fall, It allowed me to enjoy plants in the middle of winter, I was able to see bloom in march and April, I was also able to make roughly 15,000 seeds with ease.

Some of the things I learned.

1. Difficult plants are still difficult in the greenhouse, It isnt magic, and you will still have a hard time.

2. Pest management will make or break you. You cannot ignore pests in a greenhouse.

3. Watering should be easy... Sometimes its not.

4. Potting mix selection is crucial

5. Monitoring the PH of your incoming water is important.

6. Maintaining Temperatures is a fine line.

7. Some plants just dont like pot or greenhouse culture

8. Keeping everything clean is just as important as everything else.

9. Be careful what you bring inside the greenhouse from others.

So let me expand on these a bit.

1.  I loaded a bunch of hard pod setting Tet's and went to town throwing pollen at them... Imagine my face when I wasn't achieving 100% success! Well yeah, they are still a bitch in the greenhouse, and If you MUST use it... bring it in, But dont load up with a bunch of pod difficult plants... You'll just be wasting space.

2. So I Learned a-lot here. Aphids, and Gnat Flys are easy, they dont build up pesticide resistance, and can commonly be dealt with, with organic methods.

Spider mites... Ohhhhh Spider Mites. Dont play with these.  I learned very early on that there is little you can do once a population is established. When I first saw these, I sprayed for them... knocked them out... and went on with life. Little did I know that maybe 2-3% survived.. and slowly built up another population... So I sprayed them again...  This time maybe 10% survived.... And they built that population back up. Well... because I did not rotate mode of action pesticides I literally created a pesticide resistant population. It was too late. They had created a population too great to knock out, even after I bought a few more pesticides they could only be knocked back.  The foliage cover was too great, and you couldnt get 100% coverage if you tried.

If you see any spider mites, SPRAY THEN. Stick to a product rotation of at LEAST 3 MOA's and spray at to the products instructions.. not till you "see them again"

3. This kind of goes hand in hand with Pot selection, and potting mix selection.  Try and keep everything uniform, so you do not wind up with weird issues.  I ran into issues with some pots drying out way faster then others, and some just staying soggy. It wasnt easy to water with half needing water and half not needing water.  Also the water demand of the plants will be very low until they really hit active growth and the GH temps climb way up.

4. A potting mix with too much peat will stay soggy, a mix with too much bark will stay dry. Its really hard to find a good mix between the two.  I use Pro-mix Bk55  It drains a bit faster then I like, but I rather that then it retains too much water like the Bk25.

5. Your potting mix has a limited source of "soil conditioner" to maintain a proper PH, sooner or later the potting mix will align itself with the PH of your incoming water.  I have High PH hard water.  It needs conditioning.

6. This is a case study in how much patience you have.  No really.  30 degree nights, and 60 degree sunny days...  Welcome to march and April.  You have the vents closed since you want it to stay 65-70 overnight without losing heat.. but if its 50 and sunny outside its easily 85-90 inside and you need to vent.  Its a great balancing act at around 80 degrees.  It'll drive you insane. 

7. So this was surprising to me but some plants do not do well in the greenhouse.  I primarily found that most plants with Norris genetics did not do well in the greenhouse... Even one plant "Ashwood Wray of Sunshine" did so bad that I wrote it off for dead.  I put it outside in a raised bed... It took off growing into a monster. From what I know, any plant that has a tendency to go summer dormant after bloom, will not do well in the greenhouse. Kermits scream, Pigment of imagination, and a few others are best left outside where they perform. 

8.  Dont let things get dirty, bugs LOVE dirty.  Use bleach, keep it tidy...  It'll keep bacteria and fungus's (Rust!) from spreading or having a home to stay in. 

9.  So how did I get my spider mites anyway?  GIFT'S! Gift's from outdoor gardens.  So the advantage of having a greenhouse is you can receive plants at ANYTIME. Well... the downside is... Pests, and rust.  I got my spider mites from incoming plants, even caught a few plants with rust.  I avoided getting any rust in the greenhouse this year, although I was prepared for it.  What I wasn't prepared for was the Spider Mites.  Next year any incoming plants will have their foliage cleaned, removed to fresh foliage, dipped, and watched like a hawk... with preemptive sprays. 

So the second year should be a smooth one I hope, I have learned a few things, will definitely change a bunch of things around.

Some changes-

Having multiple pesticides on hand-

Larger heater, Moving from a 50K btu to 80K btu unit. I found that my heater would struggle on cold nights, and truly we did not get many.  If we got a -10 degree night I would of been in trouble as my heater could only manage 40-50 degrees above ambient temperature at night depending on the wind. So a 20 degree night was fine.. it would cycle normally...  5-10 degree nights it would run constant with no cycles.  Not good.

Insulation-  I am going to add a bubble wrap type of insulation to the walls of the greenhouse. It'll be clear, and will let light in, but will double the R-value of the walls.  I will leave the roof alone so there wont be any light deficiency.  I hope this will also help with the BTU demand to maintain the temperature I need.

Switching to a larger seedling Pot

Removing racking in favor of Two tiered benches with (4) 2 lamp T5 fixtures underneath If needed.

Removed drip irrigation in favor of Water bench design

Removed clutter under benches, will keep 27 gallon totes under benches filled with water for greater thermal mass effect.

Bringing in more Pod proven plants.

Keeping the overnight temp lower in February and march to delay bloom for another 2 weeks or so.

Some picture updates!

Cleaned Out!

Seedling Pots ready for planting soon.

Winter 2017/2018 Plant selection. These will stay outside until around Christmas as long as we get sufficient cold so they go full dormant.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Its all a learning process...

Well Its been awhile since I have updated this... Its been an interesting May and June.  

We have had plenty of rain... I mean.. rain on rain on rain.  I haven't had to water much of anything.

My outside plants have displayed what I would call a overall large amount of spring sickness, and blasted scapes. 

But beyond that so far my outside season has been good. 

Moving onto the greenhouse!  

Well, I could call my first year a great success, with many teachable moments occurring. 

We are now at the tail-end of pods ripening from our April and may pollination's, and well its a bit overwhelming having pod and seed collection run right into peak bloom outside. 

I estimate that I made about 10-12 thousand seeds from about 200 plants total-  

Things I learned in the process here- 

Dont pick pod difficult plants hoping for a miracle... They will still be hard in a greenhouse.

Tet's are space hogs, but some dips can be also.

New arrivals really do much better with some time in the greenhouse.

Some plants DO NOT LIKE greenhouse culture

So my most important lesson learned...  Pesticide rotation. 

As with almost any greenhouse, once a pest gets in... Its almost impossible to get them out.

In early march I noticed some spider mites, So I sprayed them with Avid... Then In april, I noticed them again... So I sprayed them with Avid... Then in may... And before I knew it, I had a avid resistant spider-mite population. And while researching other ways to control them I learned very quickly that I used poor pesticide management protocol, and I was my own worst enemy. 

By the time I bought a few other pesticides, it was too late the overall spider-mite population was too large to "control" and the foliage was too thick to effectively spray anyways (spider-mites live and lay eggs on the underside of plant leaves.) 

So what do you do here?  Well you hit the reset button. I had to one by one remove all the foliage from each plant, and then I will follow up with a rotation of 5 different pesticides to eradicate any leftovers. 

So why not organic control?  

Well it was a bit too late for that, and well all the effective control methods wont take an out of control population and bring it down.  I will in the future consider buying a few "spider mite destroyers"  But their availability and cost are hit and miss with 50 of the bugs costing 65-100 dollars, and requiring overnight shipping.  And these would need to be purchased every 4-6 weeks, and still need a spider-mite population to thrive. 

There is now essentially only a few "new" plants blooming in there now, other then that.. I will start gearing up for planting seedlings in about 4 weeks! 

Some pictures from this season! 

 "Strawberry Milkyway"
 "Boss hogg"
 "Diamond shores"
 "Boss hogg"
 "Flower wolf"
 "Wacky Wednesday"
 "Clown pants"

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

April shower's bring May Flowers!

Another month gone... Just like that. At the end of March I saw my first blooms in the greenhouse, It was to be honest exciting, sort of magical... Here we were the end of march... daylilies are just coming out of dormancy and I had bloom coming. 

So lets start out this magic may with a look back on april.

 Stats and Info time!  

Average Exterior April Temp- 67 Degrees

Average Temp maintained in Greenhouse- 70 degrees

Average Humidity In Greenhouse- 74%

Max Temp- 92 Degrees

Max Humidity- 97%

Average propane use- Under 20 gallons for the whole month

Times watered- 4 times

Times fertilized- 1 time

Pesticide used- 1 time

Blunders- 0 

Lessons Learned- 1

Total time spent in greenhouse- 50 hours total

So as you can see I am now spending a ton of time in the greenhouse, this is mostly due to the hour to hour and a half I spend each day spreading pollen. 

The first week to week and a half of blooms was met with great disappointment, As I wasn't having much success setting pods. But after a few long days in the sun, it was like a switch was flipped and the pods started coming. 

I will say this, pods are easier in the greenhouse, but not as easy as some would have you to believe. 

As you can see the average temp inside the greenhouse has stayed nearly the same as last month, which is a good thing!  It has been a bit of a challenge to keep the temps from swinging. Between the heat being set at 60, the vents being set at 70ish, and the swamp cooler being set at 80, all of them overlap a bit.  I can't set the swamp cooler for 75 like I want too since the vents aren't really open enough yet, I can't set the vents for maximum opening yet since when the heat kicks on, they will open and vent the heat... so until the overnights level out at 55+ I can't set the passive vents yet. 

So far I don't need the shade cloth yet which is good, I rather the plants get as much light as possible right now. 

In addition to all this, My lesson learned-  Don't build your benches too high... I had to empty the whole greenhouse out and lower the benches by 7 inches. Most the blooms were too high for my wife to reach, and some were even difficult for me! 

As the plants are coming in for spring, I have been potting them up and letting them enjoy the greenhouse. I moved all the seedlings outside around the 2nd week of april, so I had tons of room to use.  I no longer have tons of room after about 100 new plants came in lol. 

Soooooooooooo want to see pictures???

Lets go. 

A crowd favorite- Steve Todd's "Clown Pants"


"Strawberry Milkyway"

"Yellow Frog"

"Dr. Strangelove"

"B. The Freak"

"Lucky you"

"The heart of christmas"

"money maker"

"Fried Green Tomatoes" 

"Strawberry Milkyway"

My Fat Princess "Cali"

"Money Maker"

Here are just a few of the hundreds of Photos I have taken so far.

In closing for this month, It has definitely been a bit of a learning experience so far. But I feel like I am getting the hang of it so far.  You pick up knowledge from the weirdest places, and some great mentors also. If anyone ever has a question, please feel free to ask me! 


Friday, April 7, 2017

April, The Magic Month...

So another month has come and gone... February was warm, If given how typical weather patterns exist march should be warmer?  NOPE. 

So with that said... Stats and Info time!  

Average Exterior March Temp- 51 Degrees

Average Temp maintained in Greenhouse- 71 degrees

Average Humidity In Greenhouse- 74%

Max Temp- 91 Degrees

Max Humidity- 99%

Average propane use- Didn't Calculate

Times watered- 4 times

Times fertilized- 1 time

Pesticide used- 1 time

Blunders- 0 

Lessons Learned- 2

Total time spent in greenhouse- 10 hours total

So march brought a few fun things with it... The Sun! and still cold exterior temperatures.  As you can see by my data-logger, temp swings were the thing for march.  

By the end of march we got the automatic vent openers where I needed them, and I set the power vent to turn on at 77-80 degrees.   The heat is set near 68-70. But I will be backing that down to 65ish to keep from heating and venting at the same time. 

As you can see the amount of watering has increased, the plants being in active growth in addition to the higher temperatures has lead to some pots drying out. Smaller the pot, the faster it has dried out for me. 

So onto a little greenhouse lesson for peter... About 15 of my plants where afflicted with a weird symptom... They started rotting from the newest growth, and on out. 

Although no conclusive reason was found... I attribute this to my improper spray technique (Being too heavy and soaking plants) 

I stopping spraying everything for 3 weeks, and all the afflicted plants rebounded.  I lost scapes on a few, but I can hope for re-bloom. 

My next lesson... The first round of blooms so far have be EXTREMELY difficult to set pods on. In my mind, it was going to be cake.  Not so.  It seems like they are blooming a bit too early for their own good. Possibly.  I am now starting to get pods with greater frequency. But the first few days of bloom. I got nearly nothing. 

So April will be full of blooms, I am about 2-3 weeks off from "peak"  and I almost have scapes from every plant.  The seedlings will be officially kicked out of the greenhouse this weekend for 2-3 weeks of hardening off. 

I will start a majority of my vegetable seeds and such after this weekend also. 

Busy times ahead! 

And here are some blooms in the greenhouse, Enjoy! 

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.