Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Home-made heat mat for seedlings

I got a link for a homemade light box to start seedlings in my email this week but it used expensive rope lighting that I did not have on hand and many of our local stores did not have in stock due to clearance sales. I also was not sure I wanted to construct a box of plywood right now as we are redoing the kitchen and that takes priority. I did have a heavy cardboard box the right size and several strings of mini-lights that are not LED  to make a try. 

  1. After cutting the box to size for half my windowsill  I added a 3" wide box in the center for stability and possibly to set transitional plant on top of. 
  2. Next the lights were divided between the 2 halves and mostly  positioned under the lids of egg cartons. This give a good surface to set the plant trays and keeps the light a bit subdued. 
  3. Next I secured enough plastic to make a cover and added a couple of pieces of styrofoam to insulate near the window. The plastic keeps in the heat and humidity pretty well. 
  4. I added a tray of seed for the first trial. The temperature at top of soil level is an even 70 degrees which is perfect for the tomatoes. We used the top of the  freezer last year but some of the seeds need light to germinate or shortly after and the hotter and cooler cycles probably weren't the optimal either.

I  made my own starter cups using a clear XL egg carton with its top as the drip tray. Of course I did use the organic seed starting soil I have used in the past. Next week we'll see how things are actually progressing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Zone-by-zone to-do list for gardeners in December: Organic Gardening

Zone-by-zone to-do list for gardeners in December: Organic Gardening

Here’s a zone-by-zone to-do list for the month of December.


December is the time to plant bulbs in zone 8

December To-Do List: Zone 8
  • Continue planting onions, chives, spinach, mustard, peas, beets, and radishes.
  • Plant more lettuce in the coldframe.
  • Plant petunias, calendulas, annual candytuft (Iberis umbellata), pansies, sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima), cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus), stocks (Matthiola incana), scabiosa (Scabiosa atropurpurea), verbena, pinks (Dianthusspp.), and daisies.
  • Plant bulbs, corms, and rhizomes of iris (Iris danfordiae, I. histrioides, I. reticulata), amaryllis, anemone (Anemone coronaria, A. sylvestris), calla, and liriope.
  • Clean up garden debris to eliminate overwintering areas for diseases and insect pests.
  • Start to build beds for spring by adding lots of compost.
  • Plant bareroot trees, shrubs, roses, and vines.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Heating my greenhouse easier than expected

Keeping the plants from freezing was easily accomplished but keeping the soil temperature in the pots above 50 degrees to let the tomatoes and peppers continue to ripen and maybe to set more fruit on the cherry tomatoes has provided a bit of a challenge. 

A single layer of 6mil plastic was letting the temperature drop a bit too much at night so I added a night cover of a reflective back tarp I got on sale at Harbor Freight over the summer. Using it has let me turn the heater down to low and still maintain temperatures 10-15 degrees higher than ambient over night. It has been a bit of a hassle putting it on at night and taking it off in the morning but I am finding new baby tomatoes so I do not mind so much. 

The entire structure has a double layer of cardboard about 20" high around the base right now but will slowly be augmented with 2" thick styrofoam blocks. I will also try adding large cell bubble wrap to the inside of the roof in hopes of limiting the use of the tarp. Bubble wrap could stay in place all day and actually add a bit to the heating.

Thanks to all who helped find the ideal temperature for the greenhouse as the cherry tomato that went in covered with blooms a couple of weeks ago is setting fruit like crazy--saw 8-10 new ones today. The celebrity tomatoes that were already on the plants are thriving and the first one is ripening. I do not expect more fruit to set. Peppers seem to have a few new blooms but again am not expecting anything but growing out those on the plants already.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Construction of Greenhouse no small task

With the weather being a bit more favorable this fall the tomatoes and peppers were setting like crazy but not quite ready to pick. I put them into much larger containers which probably helped with their growth but presented a real problem moving them into the sunroom area for the winter. many were very heavy and there would be no space for seed starting. So off we went to Lowe's for 6 mil plastic sheeting and to the garage for scrap wood. We managed to make the entire 6'x7' structure with what we had on hand or could re-cut. I even made a door out of the old sliding door we do not use any more. I didn't move the water barrel out as it is full with 55 gallons and should help keep the temperature a bit more stable this winter.
 It heats up pretty good radiently which may be a problem on warmer days (not many scheduled any time soon!) but isn't keeping much over ambient by the end of the night. I pulled the oil radient heater and the red Xmas lights out of the sunroom and was able to keep the greenhouse about 10 degrees over ambient at 40-42 so we'll see how it does. I have put in more buffer (cardboard) around the pots too. My reading says to add bubble packing wrap to trap more heat from sunlight but not sure how much it retains over night. 
We did get the frames for the last 2 rainbarrels built and installed last week too. They are now full too. George is building lattice type screens for them as the blue is not as attractive as we would like along the front walk.