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Bread Baker
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited by Moderator)
That time of the year again. Been a while since I have posted. Spent most of the Fall and Winter researching and educating myself on the newest trends in Green House growing. Also looking back to tried and true methods. And even started getting into better shape, lost 70 pounds and joined a gym.

Moving along, I dont have pics of my early seedlings. Really, we all know what they look like. But for anyone interested, I still do my seedlings the same as I always have. I start them in plug trays, or flats. Place those on TOP of the T8 ballasts, wait for signs of life.

This year im sticking with the white 5 and 7 gallon grow bags. But im switching to Coco Coir as my growing medium. Essentially "Soil-less Media, Bag Culture, Hydroponics". I decided to take a look at how some of the Big Boys (and Girls) are doing it. Coir is in. Peat is out. Sorta.

I finally finished up Green House #2. Its a 12x48 HighTunnel. I rebuilt Green House #1, and made a few improvements, mostly expanded its foot print. It is now 22x24. Still have to finish installing some conduit and build the doors.

So on to some pictures.

These are 72 cell plug trays. Probably my favorite size. These were just seeded yesterday with more tomatoes, along with oregano, sage, and thyme. These will be grown out and transplanted into small pots to sell at my Market.



Green House within a Green House. Transplants are under the plastic. Warm air is pumped in via a small gas furnace. I try to keep the night time temps in the upper 50s. The furnace is controlled via a thermostat.



Plastic up when the temps are up. Loads of peppers and tomatoes waiting for there final home. At this stage, I have been feeding at every watering. I use a water soluble fertilizer at 1000 PPM. When I run out of my current mix, I will up the dose to 1500 PPM. Time to get some growth on these plants.



The gas furnace. This came out of a camper. 19000 BTUs. I also have the switch over valve. Dont have to worry about running out of propane.



Learning my lessons from previous years. Green House ventilation is a must. You can have all the fans you want, but nothing is better or more efficient then roll up sides. Both GHs have this. Later in the summer shade cloth will be installed to help mitigate additional heat.

Also, this GH is sporting deer fence. I wrapped the long sides with the stuff. I have decided that this year I am not fulling around. No more feeding the critters. The other GH doesnt have this yet, but it will soon.



Dabbling in recirculating Hydroponics. This is a commercial variety of lettuce known as "Rex". The nutrient flows into one end, drains out the other back into the reservoir. Im using General Hydro FloraNova Gro for this.



Trying to get #1 finished up. This will be for tomatoes, exclusively. Each grow bag has 2 plants. Each plant will grow up a string tied off at the roof line. Each plant will be heavily pruned. Or thats the plan. Hopefully the plants can be moved to this greenhouse in about 2 weeks. Depending on the weather. If all looks good, I might make the move a little earlier. Its a chance, as I dont think my back up propane heater would do much good in this size of a structure.

 

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Homesteader
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Glad to see you back for the '17 season Chad. Looks like your facilities and your crops are both growing. :)

I received my high tunnel but haven't erected it yet. The weather should be suitable soon so I'll start putting it up. I'd naturally like to be growing, starting something in it now but mother nature dictates on construction as well as growing.
 

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Bread Baker
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3,224 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Looks like a great start! We're still expecting snow around here. Some greenhouse folks have started lettuce.
Thanks! The weather folks are wishy washy on us. We might get an inch of snow this weekend. If we do, the whole state will shut down. :xeye: January we got 7 inches overnight and you would have thought the Apocalypse was looming.

Glad to see you back for the '17 season Chad. Looks like your facilities and your crops are both growing. :)

I received my high tunnel but haven't erected it yet. The weather should be suitable soon so I'll start putting it up. I'd naturally like to be growing, starting something in it now but mother nature dictates on construction as well as growing.
Yep im here. I come and go. :D:

Crops are doing well. I strive to be the first at my market with Tomatoes. Truly a cash crop if there ever was one. I started those, and peppers in January.

As far as my "facilities" go... im still working on it. Eventually GH #1, might become a seedling house. Or propagation house. Or nursery. Whichever you want to call it. I have been looking at heated benches for seed starting. Several exist. Some with recirculating hot water, some with heat cable. All can be readily purchased or DIY. My current use of the propane furnace with ducting was inspired by what I saw at my wholesaler. I visit them as often as I can. Anyways, they heat their benches with inflatable ducting that runs under the benches. The heat just rises. The furnaces are something like Modine or Reznor style, attached at the end of the benches, at ground level. I have a picture on my phone that I will upload later.

I have plans, maybe later this year, to start on another larger High Tunnel style Green House. I have plenty of property. Just have to rent a brush hog to do some clearing. Im thinking 20x48. If I do another, im considering having the elevated sides. The problems with the 12 footers is the short angle. Makes it hard to grow near the edges. Time to make another hoop bender.

My ultimate goal is to be growing 100 percent under plastic, and possibly be doing something like a CSA. Time will tell.

Seems like I recall you talking about purchasing the high tunnel. What size did you get?
 

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Bread Baker
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3,224 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Another busy day. I worked some more in GH #1. Finished up the roll up sides, and installed more conduit. Cut off the excess plastic.

In GH#2 we find:

A load of onions that need to be transplanted. Both spring onions and bulbing. I forget the variety..



Tomatillo flowers. Never had them get past the seedling stage. I usually forget about them. Only have 5 plants. These will be mostly for personal use, not for the Farmers Market.



Flowers starting to develop on Mortgage Lifter maters. I havent had the chance to grow ML's for several years. My favorite variety. Bar none.



Carrots in bags. Need to be thinned out. Also need to plant a bunch more. Hoping for a continual harvest. This is my first year growing carrots.



More about my lettuce rail. As I said previously, the nutrient is pumped into one end of the pipe, and it drains out the other end, back to a reservoir. A 600 gph pond pump does the job. Nutrient is changed once per week. A float valve in the reservoir keeps the water topped off with fresh. The plants use a significant quantity of water. Hoping to build another set of rails soon.









If your interested in Hydroponics that doesnt require pumps and such, check out "Kratky" style. I have done this in the past and it works quite well. Fill a 5 gallon bucket with Nutrient Solution, and thats it. Its really designed for fast growing crops like lettuce, but it does work for Maters and Cucumbers.

Im currently doing 5 buckets. This one with 4 lettuces. 2 buckets with 1 broccoli each, and 2 buckets with 1 cabbage each. Just for fun.



Now, lets talk irrigation. The last couple of years have been a real issue for me. Main issue is the well threatening to go dry. I finally decided to fix this problem. First was to put to use the 1500 gallon tank I had. Next I acquired an IBC tote. Then, I picked up a shallow well pump.

I can pump water from the big tank to the IBC tank. This is rain collected from my workshop roof. Or I can pump water from my well into the IBC if needed. If I have to pump from my well, I plan to do it during the night, when water wont be used for the house.

Currently Im just running water hoses from this setup over too GH#2. If this works out, Ill bury some water line.



Once the IBC is full, I mix in my fertilizer. Im using Masterblend Tomato Formula. Its a 3 part fertilizer that requires the addition of Calcium Nitrate and Epson Salts. Its mixed in a specific ratio. Today I decided to mix up a new batch and shoot for 1500 PPM. After mixing the fertilizer, I take a sample by pumping some into a 5 gallon bucket. I hit about 1100. The light on the meter was flashing both 1200 and 1000. Because of the sheer quantity of fertilizer, ill let this stir overnight and check it in the morning. I can always add a little more if needed to bump up to 1500.



Speaking of, the meter I am using is a "Blue Lab Truncheon". This is a commercial grade, water proof meter. If your serious about mixing up fertilizers, and want to know exactly how much your feeding, this is it. About a $100, but well worth it.



So why is it worth $100? It reads accurate. Thats why. It will save you money on fertilizer. I decided to compare it too a cheap pen meter I got on Amazon. I think I paid about $15. Its hard to read the display, but it says 881 PPM. So a difference off 219 PPM. So if you didnt know better, you could end up adding a bunch more unnecessary fertilizer. Wasting money, and risking killing your plants. Buy cheap, you buy twice. :thumb:

 

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Bread Baker
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3,224 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
As I set here sipping my morning coffee, they are calling for snow. Possibly upwards of 2 inches. I guess that will help test the structural integrity of GH#1. I modified the rafters on that one.

Today might be a day to really consider installing center supports.
 

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gardener & news junkie
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Good to see you in here again! I wondered where you had gotten to but figured you were busier than a cat in a litter box. Yeah, you have been. :D:

Your facilities are really coming along and your plants are looking good. I like the water catchment system too. It pays to be prepared. You've really put a lot of thought and work into it all. :thumb:
 

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Bread Baker
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3,224 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Good to see you in here again! I wondered where you had gotten to but figured you were busier than a cat in a litter box. Yeah, you have been. :D:

Your facilities are really coming along and your plants are looking good. I like the water catchment system too. It pays to be prepared. You've really put a lot of thought and work into it all. :thumb:
Thanks! Yep, I come and go. Hopefully this year I will have a good year and will keep sharing here. The last 2 years have been cut short, thru both my fault, and Mother Natures. She seems to have other plans and distractions that seem to knock me off my perch. But thats how it goes.

As far as the water collection tank, I bought it 2 years ago. Its been full of water, with no practical way to use it. I knew I needed a pump and have had my eye out since about New Years, along with the IBC tote as well. This system has been in the works for a while.

The stars aligned and I found the pump on clearance at Harbor Freight. The Mgr. was nice enough to knock a few extra dollars off. The IBC I found on Craigslist for about half the price as other sellers. Not to mention the seller lives only a couple miles from my place.

Sometimes things just work out.
 

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Bread Baker
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3,224 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
On to todays updates.

Not a whole lot accomplished today. Feeling under the weather and speaking of the weather, its windy, cold, sunny, and just out and out confusing out there. Mother Nature needs to get her meds back in line cause this is some seriously screwy weather.

I did get the vertical supports installed in GH#1. Hopefully if we do get any snowfall, this will mitigate possible disaster. This is one of the drawbacks of Gothic Style GH's. They are weak at the peak. Hoop Houses are stronger, due to the strength of a circle. There are certainly exceptions to that.



The Thyme, Oregano, and some Tomatoes are starting to show signs of life. Cant say I have ever had 2 day germination, but it happens. I decided to sow the seed a little different this time around. I tried this with Thyme, Oregano, Sage, Tomatoes, and Verbena. I simply sprinkled the seed on top of the starting mix. Pushed down. Thats it. I didnt try to bury the seed. So far it seems to be working very well. As usual, I put on a humidity dome and place on top of the T8 ballasts.



Being that the seeds have been inside on top of the ballasts, I wanted to give them some fresh air. I brought them out to the GH and covered with a net tray. The way I see it, might as well start hardening off as soon as possible. If I had room on the heated bench area, these would stay out, but for now, back into the house they come.

 

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Bread Baker
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Discussion Starter #11
Wow! You've been busy.
Well you gotta have something to do, right?:D:

Honestly, most of this has come along within the last month and half. The day I was trying to put the plastic on GH#2, I thought the wind was going to carry us away. The only advice I gave my helpers was "hold on tight, or be prepared to let go!":D:
 

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Bread Baker
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Discussion Starter #12
Well, the crappy weather is nearing. Its gray, chilly, and just sad looking out there. The outdoor temp is around 41-42 degrees. The heat in the greenhouse is not currently running, but the temp is staying up around 69-71. So no complaints. Well, other then possibly 2 inches or so of snow on the way.

This morning I made a trip to Southern States to pick up some seeds. For my GH cucumbers I decided on a Burpless variety. I picked 2 packs of summer squash. Finally, got a pack of Cal. Wonder Peppers. Now, I have plenty of my favorite bells going in GH#2, but I decided that I wanted to give Cal. Wonders another shot. Its been years since I tried them, im thinking I might do better with them now. I believe that in the past my problems were soil ph issues.

Another reason to switch to the Cal. Wonders, seed saving.
 

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Homesteader
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Thanks!

Yep im here. I come and go. :D:

Crops are doing well. I strive to be the first at my market with Tomatoes. Truly a cash crop if there ever was one. I started those, and peppers in January.

Seems like I recall you talking about purchasing the high tunnel. What size did you get?

When I mentioned it last I was planning to buy one 108' X 28'. I ended up buying one 96' X 26'. The slightly smaller one had more closely spaced ribs and more stringers which I thought would hold up much better. Also it has roll up sides which you mentioned as being a necessity.

This will be a new experience for me and what I am hoping to do is extend my growing season on both ends and enabling me to grow things that I am limited on in my cool mountain climate (sweet potatoes, winter squash etc) plus be able to produce ripe tomatoes and others earlier and later.

Will likely try to edge closer to marketing produce as I progress. Still debating this aspect but it is a motivating factor. If nothing else, I'll be happy with the other advantages I mentioned.

Your pictures of your started plants are outstanding.
 

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Did you make your own gothic frames, and what is your tubing material? Where did you get the angle pieces?

Also I like your idea on the deer fence. Since I have serious deer problems, I think I'll add that too. I was originally thinking (wishful thinking I know) they might avoid entering the structure.
 

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Bread Baker
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Discussion Starter #15
When I mentioned it last I was planning to buy one 108' X 28'. I ended up buying one 96' X 26'. The slightly smaller one had more closely spaced ribs and more stringers which I thought would hold up much better. Also it has roll up sides which you mentioned as being a necessity.

This will be a new experience for me and what I am hoping to do is extend my growing season on both ends and enabling me to grow things that I am limited on in my cool mountain climate (sweet potatoes, winter squash etc) plus be able to produce ripe tomatoes and others earlier and later.

Will likely try to edge closer to marketing produce as I progress. Still debating this aspect but it is a motivating factor. If nothing else, I'll be happy with the other advantages I mentioned.

Your pictures of your started plants are outstanding.
Roll up sides, or some variation of that, an absolute necessity. Unless you live way up north, and Im talking Alaska-ish north, then I wouldn't worry about it. Along with controlling the temp you can control the humidity. For instance yesterday, our temps finally got to about 50, but inside the GH it topped out at about 80. It was mostly gray skys, but because of the ground warmth AND the humidity it warmed up. When you walked into the GH, you could just about cut the air with knife. I left the door cracked a bit, to help with the humidity.

You can certainly extend your growing season. Depending on your location, you could probably add 6 weeks on each end, and thats assuming no supplemmental heat. Obvioulsy you will have some trial and error, but give it a shot.

96x26 is a good size tunnel. Do you intend to plant directly in the ground? Lots of options. I know of a commercial operation that does raised beds in their GHs. Matter of fact, some raised beds, some rockwool growslabs, lots of growbags, etc. Once again, lots of options.

Did you make your own gothic frames, and what is your tubing material? Where did you get the angle pieces?

Also I like your idea on the deer fence. Since I have serious deer problems, I think I'll add that too. I was originally thinking (wishful thinking I know) they might avoid entering the structure.
No, the gothic greenhouse was a kit. I bought it in 2014/2015. It include everything. It was origianlly 12x24.

Heres how it turned into a 22x24. I decided early this year that I wanted to move it. It was in a location that liked to flood. That was poor planning on my part. So I decided to move it. I determined that the original plastic wouldn't hold up to being removed and reinstalled, not to mention that I would have to disassemble the structure to move it.

I decided that if I had to disassemble and reassemble, and replace the plastic, I might as well expand its foot print. I made a trip to Lowes with a small piece of the pipe and discovered that 1.25 inch EMT conduit would be a perfect fit for the angle connectors.

All I had to do, to expand the foot print was replace the "rafter" sections with longer pieces. I used full size 10 foot long conduit. Drilled some new holes, and bolted it back together.

Thats pretty much it. As far as my hoophouse, I bent chain link top rail, with a homemade bender.
 

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I knew about the hoophouse from last years posts but that was a great idea on expansion of your gothic. Now you can keep adding length if you choose. I know I've seen the angles available somewhere but don't remember which one of the jillion catalogs I get that I saw it in and getting your tubing from Lowes is probably cheaper than the whole kit.

If you can, post a picture and description of your bender (and tricks of the trade). I did some conduit bending last year building a tent frame and my hoops weren't too uniform.

If my hi-tunnel works out I have a couple of smaller ones I hope to build.

I'll be getting started too late to need supplemental heat this spring and only expect to use heat later when there is a hard freeze forecast. I am starting out planting on prepared ground. The spot I've picked is good ground. Later I might consider getting raised but I don't need the space and I'd rather do my work with machinery if that works for me.
 

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Bread Baker
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Discussion Starter #17
I will have to get a picture of the bender. I thought I had one on here, with a description, apparently not.
 

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Bread Baker
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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
So I have the pic of my tubing bender. If anyone else is interested, I can go into more detail, with specifics as to how to make the bender. I have a pretty long tutorial on another website that I can copy and paste because that would be tremendously faster then me typing it all out.

Also, I can do the toturial on how to bend the pipe. Which includes pictures as well.

Now, I would like to add, there is a company that produces hoop benders. You can order them in numerous size. Another option is to purchase a tubing roller. If I was building these things to sell, or if I needed to build GHs by the dozen, I would seriously consider a tubing roller. This bender that I built, was just a cheap solution. It did its job.

Anyhow, I have the bender mounted to the side of my well house. Mark your pipe at 6 inches, slide it in under the strap, start bending. Rinse and repeat.

The arc matches the radius of the hoop. The longer the bender, the better your hoops will look. This one is about 20 inches long.



Mtnairkin asked about or mentioned about uniformity. All though he was referring to conduit, virtually any pipe you bend with this type of bender will show slight signs of difference.

In other words, all of your hoops may turn out "slightly" different. Or they may turn out exactly the same. It could happen that way. The main thing to remember, it doesn't really matter in the end. Once you bend your hoops, install purlins, and put plastic on it, you wont notice little differences.

As im getting older, im starting to adopt the idea of "when is good enough", good enough. Believe me when I tell you that the plants don't care if your hoops aren't perfect. They also dont care if your plastic has a wrinkle or two. It just doesn't matter in the end.

Once again, if anyone wants more info, I can provide a tutorial that will cover just about everything, with lots of pictures.

Edit to add: This hoop is designed for 12 foot hoops. But you can build a bender for any size of hoop.
 

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Bread Baker
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3,224 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
Well, it happened. A serious cold snap came thru. This morning it was about 20 degrees, with a windchill down to about 11. Brr.

This morning the wireless thermo. in the kitchen indicated that it was 51 in the heated portion of GH#2. I went out this morning at 7 to check on the plants. The gas furnace was cranking, keeping the maters, peppers, and herbs warm enough.

Only a small bit of damage on this tomato that is close to the edge of the heated table.



Over on the other side where the lettuce rails are, things are not what I anticipated. Frozen solid. The nutrient in the lettuce rails, and the lettuce itself is frozen. Also, the hydro. buckets with the cabbage and broccoli appears to be frozen.



I really contemplated what to do. I decided that either this crop of lettuce is gone, or not. But I can try to help it along. I grabbed the propane heater out of my workshop and put it under the bench. Its set on low. Hopefully it will thaw out the rails slowly. Got to keep an eye on this heater, cause it can crank out the heat.

If this works, then I will probably leave the heater there and turn it back on tonight, as we are supposed to have another night of low 20s.

 

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gardener & news junkie
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Over on the other side where the lettuce rails are, things are not what I anticipated. Frozen solid. The nutrient in the lettuce rails, and the lettuce itself is frozen. Also, the hydro. buckets with the cabbage and broccoli appears to be frozen.
Man, that's the pits. I sure hope your rails aren't cracked. You'll know when they start thawing out. :eek:
 
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