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Click on a thumbnail picture below to see the full size version. 86 Entries.
Saturday, February 22 View Page
Early Start To The 2020 Growing Season This past winter has been certainly on the warmer side of average. So, the plan is to take advantage of these mild conditions and start the reconstruction of the indoor high tunnel/greenhouse structure early. The ground is still frozen in places, but the hoop anchors were able to be put into place and now it is time to assemble the hoop structure. The plan this year is to do a staggered start to try and have the pumpkin plants take advantage of the longest 50 to 100 days of sunlight during the year. Early on when the plant is small it is easy to add supplemental lighting, so the early start date plant will have an additional 600watt grow light to help extend the day (light) duration during what would naturally be short days. Start dates are planned to be as follows… Indoor Plant: Seed Starting Date: March 11th, 2020 Outdoor Plant: Seed Starting Date: April 11th, 2020
 
Saturday, February 22 View Page
All Heaters Are Not The Same While it may be “warm” now, the weather can quickly change and with a planned early start to the growing season the heating system needed an upgrade from last year. So, the traditional torpedo style heater (in this case the ReddyHeater 200T) is being replaced with the Indirect-Fired Heat Wagon (HVF110). Even though the BTU of the Heat Wagon (110,000 BTU’s) is almost half of the ReddyHeater (200,000 BTU’s) the reason for the change is removal of exhaust gasses from the growing space. Last year, during the consecutive cold nights when the traditional torpedo heater was running more frequently there was some early aging and damage noticed on the leaves. This was cause by the by products of the combustion process being directly added to the growing space, which was evident by the nearly 5,000ppm of CO2 reading on the controller. This value is getting to the point that it can be hazardous to humans, not to mention the smell and other by products produced by the heater. Both can run off diesel fuel and a power source, but the Oil Indirect-Fired Heat Wagon requires some extra piping to properly vent the exhaust gasses which are kept separate from the hot air. This should allow only hot air to enter the growing space making it a better environment for the plants and grower.
 
Saturday, February 22 View Page
Heat Wagon HVF110 Oil Indirect Fired Heater Specs These are the specification and model number of the Heat Wagon HVF110 Oil Indirect Heater that is being used to supplement heat in the 32ft wide x 40ft long x 12ft tall growing structure. Overall, it should do the job needed to help prevent the inside of the structure from getting to temperate that would damage the plants. Based on a test in the drive way it seems to perform well and there is also an external thermostat to help automatically regulate the temperature in the grow space. Burning less than 1 gallon for each hour of run time and having a 17 gallon capacity should reduce the need to refill every day.
 
Sunday, February 23 View Page
Compost For The Season Here is the trailer with two cubic yards of leaf compost, 1 cubic yard for the indoor plant site and 1 cubic yard for the outdoor plant. Indoor plant required the compost to be brought in through the door which took a little extra time. The outdoor plant was easy; just hit the button and the trailer automatically rises dumping the compost out. Then it takes a little time to spread it, but it is sure easier than having to shovel it all out first.
 
Sunday, February 23 View Page
Indoor Plant Amendments Added Today the amendments were spread on the indoor plant site only. Based on the soil test results the proper amounts of Sulfate of Potash (0-0-50), Copper Sulfate, Iron Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Borax, Kelp, Greensand, Humic Acid and Alfalfa were added to the approximately 1,000sq. ft. of growing space. Using this spreader (Earthway 2600A Plus Commercial 40 pound capacity) for a number of years it has always performed well and is able to be easily pushed across the uneven garden surface. Since it is only used once or twice a year (like the tiller) it is important that it works when needed. Be sure to always rinse your spreader after use because even after doing just one plant there was noticeable build up of material that will only increase the likelihood of future failure when you need the tool most. (*This image was pre-wash;-)
 
Sunday, March 8 View Page
Indoor Plant Site: Ready For Tilling Amendments are spread, hoops are up, purlin braces in place and fans are installed so the amount of walking in the growing space is now reduced. At this point tilling can take place.
 
Sunday, March 8 View Page
Troy-Bilt Horse Tiller After a little reworking from a faulty switch at the end of last year’s tilling, this is back in action for one of its only two days of work for the year. Typically, tilling would be completed in just one day but there is a staggered start to this year’s growing season planned. The indoor plant site is the only one that has been amended to date and since the plant will be going in early to this site, it requires an early tilling. The goal is to wait on the outdoor planting site so the nutrients added have less of chance of leaching out before the pumpkin plant can uptake them.
 
Sunday, March 8 View Page
Indoor Plant Site: Tilling Complete Tilling has been completed. Having the hoops in place made for a little challenge, but the next step is to get the drip irrigation in and hopefully there is enough daylight left to do this today.
 
Sunday, March 8 View Page
Indoor Plant Site: Drip Irrigation Lines Installed The sun is setting and light is being lost fast, but all of the drip lines have been installed and tacked down so they do not get tangled or crossed. For those seeking specifics… Total of 48 lines each 31ft. long to cover my 40ft x 32ft single plant area Drip Tape Thickness: 15mil. Emitter Spacing in Tape: 8 inches Flow Rate per 100ft @ 8psi: 20 GPH (or 0.34 GPM) Space between Drip Tapes: 9 inches Run Time: Daily for 30-60min. (*This will depend on the season and plant stage of development as I can also control the flow to each line individually, so I may select to have two 30min. irrigation events per day during peak growth and heat.) Estimated Water Usage: 150 gallons per 30min. irrigation over 1,280 sq.ft.
 
Monday, March 9 View Page
Greenhouse Covering (6mil Polyethylene Film) Installation Today While the smaller cold frame and heating cables have already been installed it has been a game of “play the weather” to determine the “best” day to install the plastic to the structure. Well, today at 4:00pm is the time.
 
Monday, March 9 View Page
Greenhouse Covering (6mil Polyethylene Film) Installed Hard to catch a picture in the moment, but thanks to the helpers, everything went well and after a slight adjustment the entire process only took about an hour from the first pull to the final positioning.
 
Monday, March 9 View Page
Greenhouse Covering (6mil Polyethylene Film) Sides Secured This shows the long sides and the ends. A trench is pre-dug along the long sides of the structure that is about 8 inches deep and 12 inches wide. This allows an area for the plastic to lay into and then it is easy to toss the soil back on the plastic which creates a very strong anchor and seal. The end walls are held on by many 1.25” x 4” snap clamps which do a great job of holding, as long as you use enough of them. The plastic is greenhouse grade single layer 6mil clear. It is strong enough to take the wind for multiple years and still provide a good light transmittance. There are always little tears/holes and the silver tape marks some of the patch areas to prevent any issues during the season.
 
Monday, March 9 View Page
Greenhouse Covering (6mil Polyethylene Film) Sides Secured This shows the long sides and the ends. A trench is pre-dug along the long sides of the structure that is about 8 inches deep and 12 inches wide. This allows an area for the plastic to lay into and then it is easy to toss the soil back on the plastic which creates a very strong anchor and seal. The end walls are held on by many 1.25” x 4” snap clamps which do a great job of holding, as long as you use enough of them. The plastic is greenhouse grade single layer 6mil clear. It is strong enough to take the wind for multiple years and still provide a good light transmittance. There are always little tears/holes and the silver tape marks some of the patch areas to prevent any issues during the season.
 
Wednesday, March 11 View Page
Seed Starting Day (Indoor Plant) 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg (F: 1756 Howell/Jolivette x M: 1625 Gantner) This growing season just like last year the 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg will be the seed planted for both of the plant sites (indoor and outdoor) this year. The intention is to try and keep comparisons all with-in the same plant genetics. While there are differences between seeds even from the same pumpkin, at least the total variability is reduced when the same seed stock is used. The seeds for the indoor plant, were taken out of the freezer, edges were filed and now they are soaking in room temperature water for about two hours. After this time they will go into a wet paper towel, then into a plastic bag. The propagation chamber is ready and waiting for the seeds.
 
Wednesday, March 11 View Page
Germination Temperature = 86F Regulating the temperature can be finicky, so this year the same basic heat mat, greenhouse tray and towel will be used with the addition of a thermostat. The temperature sensing probe will be placed directly under the plastic bag to allow for an accurate temperature that the seeds are being exposed to. The thermostat has been set at 86F and typically stays in the range of 84-87F which is ideal for maximizing the germination rate.
 
Wednesday, March 11 View Page
Germination Chamber The entire set-up is placed in a cooler to help insulate the environment from quick temperature changes. The lid is kept slightly open and this simple system works out just fine for the seeds.
 
Friday, March 13 View Page
Germination! Both seeds have produced a radical which means germination has occurred. Now the next step is to transfer these seeds to media and wait on emergence. (*The seed on the rights is the keeper.)
 
Friday, March 13 View Page
Propagation Bench Here is the Pro-mix, heat mat and HPS (High Pressure Sodium) light set-up. This will hold the seeds to get them large enough to know which direction they will vine and build up a good root system before being transplanted outside. They do not spend very long here since the roots grow fast and cucurbits as a plant family do not like their roots disturbed so the goal is always to get them outside.
 
Monday, March 23 View Page
Weather Delay... Transplant day will now be tomorrow;-)
 
Tuesday, March 24 View Page
Transplant Day… All systems are go! Two 100 watt ceramic reptile heaters CO2 system Soil warm (70F) Grow light Mill fabric/belting installed to keep weeds down 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg Indoor Seedling
 
Tuesday, March 24 View Page
Soil Temperature Check = 70F This confirms that the all important root zone temperature is stable right around 70F which is the target temperature. Takes the soil heating cables about three days to stabilize at this temperature, but this also confirms that the in-line thermostat is functioning properly.
 
Tuesday, March 24 View Page
Heating Cable Found! The selected planting site was carefully dug out and one section of heating cable was discovered. This also shows the depth the cables are placed and the drip tapes are also moved to a greater spacing to avoid soaking the area which will only increase the odds of rot at the all important crown region of the plant. Having the heating cable come in contact with the roots should not pose a problem since the thermostat is working properly to keep the temperature right around that 70F point. However, it is good to know the root zone will be at a favorable temperature for plant growth.
 
Tuesday, March 24 View Page
Root Inspection (Indoor 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg) Difficult balancing act of the camera and plant while alone, but here is a picture of the root system. Everything looks good here, no complaints.
 
Tuesday, March 24 View Page
1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg Indoor Seedling Transplant Success Plant is safely been transplanted into its location. The electrical station to the right hand side has all of the supporting equipment (separate timers for lights and heaters, CO2 controller and soil heating cables) which is a little more than normal due to the early start of this plant. The CO2 readout is hard to catch in the camera so the next entry will show the readout after many attempts.
 
Wednesday, March 25 View Page
Carbon Dioxide Current Reading The goal is to have the CO2 level in the 850-950ppm range. When the plant gets out of the small cold-frame structure the settings will be slightly increased to 1050ppm. The reason is the try and stretch the use small 20lb bottle since the total light getting to the plant (PAR values) are not quite as strong and the temperature is not near the optimum of 85F for much of the day.
 
Wednesday, March 25 View Page
20 Pound Bottle of Pressurized Carbon Dioxide This shows the 20lb bottle that is feeding the smaller cold frame that is inside the larger structure. The reason for the smaller cold frame is that it is easier to regulate the temperature and CO2 in a small area. The controller (Atlas 9) has a “fuzzy logic” feature and with the small relatively sealed cold frame and a small plant (not consuming much CO2) and some “free” CO2 from the compost, this 20lb bottle lasted 17 days! However, as the season progresses the same 20lb bottles will last much less time. “Fuzzy logic” is a computed release of CO2 to help reduce large swings in CO2 levels to help not over add and conserve the total amount of CO2 used. It adds to the cost of the controller, but the long term savings and reduced hassle of bottle moving is well worth it. Fuzzy Logic Explained Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_4uP6ZdTBU
 
Wednesday, March 25 View Page
Regulator Gauge This shows a full bottle and the regulator. It only runs at a flow rate of about 10-12 cfm because not much is needed to quickly fill the cold-frame. Also it is important to know that running it much above 20 cfm will cause regulator freeze-up, even on a hot summer day in a greenhouse.
 
Friday, March 27 View Page
Soil Heating Cable Preparation This is the process to bury soil heating cables. First a hole is dug that is about 5ft wide x 6ft long x 1ft deep. The cold frame structure supports are installed first to help ensure that 2/3 of the root zone will be heated. After the soil is removed a pitch fork is used to break-up the bottom and offer some aeration for improved drainage.
 
Friday, March 27 View Page
Soil Heating Cable Pattern The 40ft soil heating cables with built-in a thermostat are laid out using this pattern. The goal is to maximize coverage, while not having any cables cross each other and have the thermostat between two heating elements. Bamboo stakes are used to initial position everything and then once the soil is added back the stakes can be removed.
 
Friday, March 27 View Page
Large and Small Structures Once the heating cables are buried, the hoops are installed, plastic put in-place and mill fabric/belting put inside to act as ground cover. So there is basically a large cold frame (32ft x 40ft) in the background and a smaller version (5ft. x 9ft.) in the foreground.
 
Friday, March 27 View Page
Large Structure Also Has an Indoor Small Cold Frame The reason for the small structure within the larger one is better control over the smaller environment for both heat and Carbon Dioxide enrichment. However, since the plant was stared a month early, to supplement light a 630watt CMH (Ceramic Metal Halide) light will be used. Ropes attached to the main structures hoops and ratchet hangers will allow for proper positioning.
 
Sunday, March 29 View Page
Indoor 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg: 5 Days After Transplanting This shows the plant only 5 days after transplanting and everything is looking great. The CO2 reading is 943ppm which is right in the preset range.
 
Sunday, March 29 View Page
With and Without CO2 Enrichment Both of these plants were stated at the same time and were of comparable size when the selection was made to plant the “chosen one”. However, this shows the impact that the addition of CO2 can have on a plant for just five days. The plant on the left has received CO2 and the one on the right is of the same age and in the greenhouse, but in the section without CO2 supplementation. The plants are still young enough that there is still minimal chances that root bound is the cause for the size difference.
 
Wednesday, April 1 View Page
Indoor 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg: April 1st, 2020 (This is no April Fools;-) Overall plant is looking great, with the help of some foliar Epsom Salts (rate 2TBS/gallon) misted on the leaves. There has been some feedings of Growth products triple 12 (12-12-12), Age Old Grow (12-6-6) and Origin 360 added along with some 100watt reptile heaters. Keep-in mind that this plant was started on March 11th, 2020 so the key is plant age and not the calendar date. The thought process is to maximize the 100 longest days of natural sunlight. However, to start this early there needed to also be some other investments in equipment to maximize the growing environment. One of the main items added this year is a quality and reliable heating system.
 
Wednesday, April 1 View Page
Heat Wagon Exhaust Pipe: Interior View In an effort to maximize heat to the grow space with the minimum amount of equipment this shows the indirect oil heater inside the growing structure. All that is needed is an exhaust pipe to remove the exhaust gasses to the outside (which is much better than the traditional style torpedo heater). As a result this heater only produced hot air that does not contain any combustion waste products. So, no harmful substances are added, but also CO2 is not added. The bend fitting it to compensate for the slight unevenness to ensure the exhaust pipe is exiting level and can be properly fixed to the structure. The pipe containing the exhaust gases does get warm, but it helps maximize the heat added to the grow space before it exits.
 
Wednesday, April 1 View Page
Heat Wagon Exhaust Pipe: Outside Look While the rain cap may only need to be at least an inch from the plastic, there were some unknowns when mounting so the longest (five feet) exhaust pipe was purchased. This resulted in the stack being a little higher than originally thought, but there is no negative of this extended height so no need to make any extra modifications. It also helps ensure that even if the plastic moves in the wind there is no chance of it coming in contact with the exhaust pipe.
 
Wednesday, April 1 View Page
Heat Wagon Installation Angle This shows the heater pointed in the plants general direction, which is the lower point of elevation in the structure. Since heat naturally wants to rise pointing the initially hot air to the lower point will help create a natural convection current. There will be fans running as well to help this natural air mixing to avoid stratification. Another advantage to having the heater “inside” is as long as the thermostat is operational there is no risk of the fuel freezing or gelling since the will be kept well above the critical 32F (0C or 273K) temperature. While the thermostat does include gradations and numbers, it is important to use these as suggestion and take the time to set it up with an independent thermostat for accuracy.
 
Wednesday, April 1 View Page
Test of the Heater System One cold morning a test run was conducted. After an entire night of cold this test occurred in the pre-dawn hours (disregard the time on the meter). The intention was to allow the environment to cool down to represent the worst case scenario to truly test the heating abilities of the heater. Test Conditions: When: Pre-dawn hours (the coldest time of the day) Settings: Thermostat set to 44F (6.6C) (these reading tend not to be accurate) Outside Temperature: 34.3F (1.3C) Results: Heater comes on at 48.2F (9C) (so this is the minimum temperature that the grow space will reach) and it takes 9min. for the heater to turn off and at this time the inside temperature rose 6.3F (3.5C) to 54.5F (12.5C). So, even though this may be the small heater it can get the inside temperature to 54.5F (12.5C) even when the outside temperature is only 34.3F (1.3C). Summary: All looks good and knowing there is the ability to maintain the temperature at least 20F (11C) higher than the outside temperature provides some reassurance that an early start can take place with minimal risk of cold damage to the plant with the new heating system.
 
Wednesday, April 1 View Page
Structure Ventilation Is Important While there was extra attention spent on the heating this year, it is also important to remember the ventilation as well. Last year, this system worked out well it will be implemented the same way this year. There is a Motorized Shutter Kit for 12-60 in. shutters, #1260 Motor that is rigged to a 48” (123cm) aluminum high velocity shutter vent (Specifically: Dayton 48” Backdraft Damper model # 4FZJ2). This is initiated by a thermostat that will open the shutters and also turn on the large 42” (107cm) (Dayton outdoor mobile air circulator) exhaust fan at the same time located on the opposite end of the structure. Since the goal is to move the most air inside passively there are two of these “intake” shutters installed on the Southern facing end wall and one “exhaust” directly in front of the exhaust fan on the Northern end wall. All three are the same size. While these move a lot of air the goal was to just move air and not bring in bugs from the outside during the venting process. To do this insect netting was installed.
 
Wednesday, April 1 View Page
Insect Netting “Filter” For Ventilation This is the same 48” (123cm) shutter vent looking from the outside of the structure. However, there is a white box around the vent. This is made of 1” (2.54cm) PVC pipe that has snap clamps installed to hold the insect netting. Since the insect netting is very fine (Protek Net Insect Netting in the 25 gr model) the netting area needed to be increased more than just the surface of the vent to not have a restricted air flow. By having essentially five sides the air can easily move though the netting and enter the structure insect free.
 
Wednesday, April 1 View Page
April 1st, 2020: Current Set-up All Going To Plan So, far things are going to plan. It still takes time to get all of the needed tasks completed, but as one item gets checked off the list, there is another right behind it to ensure if there are any issues there can be some time to make adjustments if needed.
 
Thursday, April 2 View Page
First Woodchuck of the Season This one was not seen in the patch, but was in the area so it is now in an area far way from giant pumpkins. Odds are there is another one, but it looks to be a yearling so it is officially spring time.
 
Saturday, April 4 View Page
Indoor: 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg: Plant Update The foliar applications of Epsom Salts (at a rate of 2TBS/gallon) is keeping the plant green and avoiding the yellowing of leaves. Note this is the highest recommended rate for foliar applications and is only recommended when an issue is noticed. At this young and tender plant stage the risk to foliar damage with high product rates is increased, so make foliar applications with caution. All applications are made as a fine mist and at times of low light intensity.
 
Saturday, April 4 View Page
630watt CMH (Ceramic Metal Halide) Grow Light This light while working in the image ends up failing for some unknown reason. CMH lighting does offer some advantages of being full spectrum and also producing UV light but if the ballast is not functional than all the benefits are null and void
 
Wednesday, April 8 View Page
600watt HPS (High Pressure Sodium) Replacement Grow Light This is the replacement for the CMH light and while it is the same wattage, it is a High Pressure Sodium (HPS) light which produces a different spectrum. It has much stranger red/orange tones that are not thought of to be idea for early growth, but in this case some light of high intensity is better than no light. The intention is to maintain a more summer like photoperiod (duration of light) to help the plant have an aggressive growth pattern of development.
 
Thursday, April 9 View Page
HPS (High Pressure Sodium) Set-up Daytime Image Here the plastic from the top has been removed for a few reasons… 1.) Increase the amount of light (PAR) that gets to the pumpkin plant. 2.) Prevent the plastic from burning due to the heat from the light 3.) The bottom is kept sealed to prevent the CO2 from being lost 4.) Still allow the venting of the hottest air inside the structure
 
Friday, April 10 View Page
Indoor: 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg: Plant With 500 Watts of Heat With the early start cold temperatures were expected. However, it seems this year is especially cold so the watts of heat has been increased to 500 watts (up from 200watts). With a blanket and tarp over the cold frame and the heaters running, the temperature was kept warm 60-70F (15-21C). Also, since it is still early in the season light is being supplemented to replicate a May/June photoperiod to help further encourage growth. However, the heaters alone do not add any light to provide control over the photoperiod and temperature independently. At this time, the indirect heater is not being used because this plant is still inside the small structure. Due to the smaller sized are it is more efficient to just heat this smaller volume. However, with the data collected and equipment in place it will be a simple “flip of a switch” to use the larger indirect heater. Once the plant outgrows its current structure the electric heat will be replaced with the indirect heater which requires diesel fuel. The goal is for the plant not to have any noticeable changes in environmental conditions despite the change in heat source. The plant is on the ground and running so the goal is to keep a good thing going which is the reason for the supplemental light and heat (not to mention CO2 enrichment).
 
Saturday, April 11 View Page
Outdoor Seed Starting Day: 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg (F: 1756 Howell/Jolivette x M: 1625 Gantner) *Note this is the same seed as the Indoor Plant, but this one has been started a full month later March 11th vs April 11th). Each will be continually identified as indoor or outdoor plant so it is clear which plant is being referred to. Notice how the seed packet is on the right side of the cup compared to the indoor plant where it was on the left;-)
 
Sunday, April 12 View Page
High Wind Warning Calling all clips needed! With high winds predicted (40+mph or 65+kph) with higher gusts and having a slight issue with another recent wind storm extra new clips were purchased and arrived just on time. It seems these clips work great for a season but when used for a second year some loose the full holding strength. Adding more clips will help, since it is all about strength in numbers. Each is sized for the metal hoop and about 4” long which is an ideal size for an easy and quick application. Also, at the end of the season this size is manageable to remove as much longer would be even hard to remove (risking breaking them) and longer ones may not be able to match the curve of the hoop very well reducing the maximum holding power.
 
Sunday, April 12 View Page
New 20 Pound CO2 Bottle and Regulator The plant seems to be using more CO2 now than it did a week ago as the regulator seems to be running more to try and maintain the pre set level of 850-950ppm. The plant has grown in physical size so it is able to assemble more carbon based sugars now, than it did just a week ago, so an increase in carbon dioxide consumption is to be expected. This is a 20lb compressed carbon dioxide bottle which makes for easy exchanges. There is a metal stake in the ground with a green metal core wire and plywood on the bottom. This system makes for a safe and secure location because if the bottle was to tip over and break the top off it would essentially be a very dangerous and destructive missile.
 
Sunday, April 12 View Page
Indoor: 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg: Is On The Run Despite the cold weather and lack of sun the plant is on the ground and starting to vine. Root nodes along the main vine have been covered to help encouraged rooting to help the plant update more water and nutrients. The hope is to provide the plant with good early structure to allow for exponential growth in the future.
 
Sunday, April 12 View Page
Fertilizer Line-up Here are the core fertilizers used during the first month of growth. Age Old Grow (12-6-6)- Great general fertilizer that is high in Magnagnese (Mn) (based on tissue test results). Even through the label does not state high Mn, remember the label is only required to state guaranteed minimums and based on the data collected via giant pumpkin plant tissue testing, there is much more than stated on the label in this product. For giant pumpkin growers in particular this is a good thing and this fertilizer will be used over the course of the entire growing season but it is used more regularly early on in development. Growth Products (12-12-12)- This came highly recommended and it is used in about a 2:1 rotation to Age Old Grow. (Meaning after two Age Old Grow applications one triple 12 application will be made). Epsom Salt- Always seems there is an issue early in the season with Sulfur so this is the go to fertilizer. Typically a rate of 2TBS per gallon is used as both a drench and foliar application which seems to correct any early season yellowing that may occur. Origin 360- This is the source of amino acids and is used now, but will be used in greater quantities after the first month of growth. The idea is to apply some now, but increase application frequency when the plant gets growing and demands and stresses become greater on the plant. Note, this product will increase the pH of the nutrient solution. This is not a bad situation in most cases, just something growers should be aware of.
 
Sunday, April 12 View Page
Outside Plant Site Before Turning on Soil Heating Cables Even though the cold frame has been assembled, and in place for a few days and it has been quite warm in there the critical root zone temperature clearly is still in winter mode only being 46F (7.8C). This shows the importance of getting the root zone temperature heated up before the plant goes in to help ensure it can be off to a strong start.
 
Monday, April 13 View Page
Outdoor 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg: Germination Great to see two nearly identical radicals! Only took about 36 hours from the initial filling so let the outdoor plant comparison begin.
 
Thursday, April 16 View Page
Outdoor 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg: Emergence Only about 100 hours (4.5days) from filing the seed and 72 hours (3 days) from germination the cotyledons are above the soil and expanding. These are under an HPS light which is the reason for the orange coloration in the image. This may not be the ideal spectrum for the plants, but they are not under this light for very long so it severs the purpose of hardening the plant off so it is field ready. The ballast has a dimmer option and the height can also be adjusted allowing for a balance of light intensity and heat to be achieved.
 
Saturday, April 18 View Page
Cold Day For April only 33F or (0.5C) This is an unusually cold day in April for southern New England, especially for a daytime temperature. Luckily, there are heaters for the indoor plant and the outdoor plant has not been planted just yet so it is not subject to these temperatures.
 
Thursday, April 23 View Page
Soil Warmed Up 76F (24.4C) Takes about three days for the heating cables to bring up and stabilize the soil temperature, but giving it a few extra days helps ensure the thermostat is working and the entire area has a chance to warm up and stay at this temperature. Looks like all systems are a “go”.
 
Thursday, April 23 View Page
Outdoor 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg: Planting Today is planting day and just like with the indoor plant one line of the heating cable is found and also checked to make sure it is warm and that the roots will have direct contact with this heat source.
 
Thursday, April 23 View Page
Outdoor 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg: Root Inspection Overall, just like the indoor plant the roots look great and the timing is also perfect to maximize the container but still avoid root bound issues. This is part of the reason why setting everything up ahead of time is so important so when the plant is ready it can progress to the next step. It is the growers’ job to be one step ahead and let the plants dictate the exact timing.
 
Thursday, April 23 View Page
Outdoor 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg: Installed Since this plant is small it is encircled with some black decorative garden fencing. This will be used to help support a large white sheet and extra blanket to reduce the total volume of air that needs to be heated, instead of the entire plastic enclosure. This is how only two 100-watt reptile ceramic heaters can sufficiently warm the plant and environment, even on the coldest of nights.
 
Saturday, April 25 View Page
Indoor 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg: 1 Month Head Start Comparison While the outdoor plant has recently been planted, this indoor plant has just outgrown its 5ft x 9ft cold frame. The supplemental light has served its purpose and will be taken down soon as well. With the recent weather it is reassuring to know that the heater is functional because it will likely be running quite frequently based on the weather forecast.
 
Thursday, April 30 View Page
Indoor 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg: Data Collection Getting an idea of the growing environment with meters is an unbiased method for double checking to make sure all environmental factors are being maximized for plant production. The small round black tubing is CO2 delivery tubing and the numerous flat black “lines” are the drip irrigation. In addition, a quick and “point in time” soil moisture meter is also installed. The plan is to also use a multi-sensor digital moisture meter, but this is just a good way to get a quick reading from different points in the structure to help ensure consistency. Also, there is a thermometer to see what the temperature is at soil and plant heights to help determine if stratification is occurring despite the use of multiple fans. Based on the current reading the mixing of air is going to plan.
 
Friday, May 1 View Page
May 1st Patch Update Not much has changed from a visual standpoint, but from the plants point of view there has been a lot of changes.
 
Friday, May 1 View Page
Outdoor 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg: May 1st Update This plant still has some fainter green color than what would be considered normal, but the feeding of Epsom salts at a rate of 2TBS/gallon is slowing helping the greening process. The third true leaf is looking more normal in coloration indicating the continued fertilizer application is improving new growth.
 
Friday, May 1 View Page
Indoor 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg: May 1st Update The task of vine burying has begun for the indoor plant and it is only the first of May. Starting a month early has thrown off the normal plant tasks based on the calendar. This has cause more of a read the plant and do what it needs type of management which helps keep the main priority tasks at the top of the list.
 
Friday, May 1 View Page
Indoor 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg: May 1st Leaves Look Great Overall, the plant is behaving well and the growth and coloration look great, even despite the poor weather conditions (cool temperatures and lack of sun). The weed block has to continually be moved back indicating that the plant is actively growing.
 
Saturday, May 9 View Page
May 9th Snow? This is very unusual for this area, but this just required an extra walk-around check to make sure all the heaters were running. All the plants were thinking during this storm is… Where is the sunlight? Since the temperature was not an issue.
 
Saturday, May 9 View Page
Indoor and Outdoor Temperature Comparison This data logging thermometer was just installed to get an idea of the indoor and outdoor temperatures. The placement of the sensors is important for accurate readings and this just shows the temperature advantage the structure provides. Note: LF = Inside Temperature (50.7F or 10.4C) RT = Outside Temperature (37.0F or 2.8C)
 
Saturday, May 9 View Page
Carbon Dioxide Enrichment Reading = 955ppm Here is the current reading of the CO2 levels in the structure which is 955ppm. The goal is right around 1000ppm so things are operating just fine. This Titan Digital CO2 Controller (Atlas 8) has an automatic shut off when my exhaust cooling fan comes on so the carbon dioxide is not wasted. The 50lb compressed CO2 bottle is located right behind the controller and is changed about once every 7 days. The actual interval is based more on the weather as if the exhaust fan runs more the CO2 bottle will last longer due to the automatic shut off built into the system.
 
Wednesday, May 13 View Page
Regulator Failure Leading to Freeze-up This is what happens when the CO2 regulator valve gets stuck open and literally dumps the bottle of compressed CO2 quickly. There is a strong cooling effect that causes freezing to occur and this only compounds the problem. So, what happens when CO2 is released unregulated? How high would the ppm be in the structure? Check out the next post…
 
Wednesday, May 13 View Page
Current Reading After Regulator Fail The regulator valve would not close causing what was left in the 50lb CO2 bottle to enter the grow space. (Luckily an entire bottle was not wasted.) The controller reads 3016ppm which is three times the level that the preset is for. However, levels over 5000ppm are considered to be dangerous for humans so even at this 3x the preset level is still not a hazard to being in the structure. For comparison normal (natural) levels of CO2 are around 405ppm and the target level is 1000ppm.
 
Saturday, May 16 View Page
Outdoor Amendment Adding The same process was carried out for the indoor plant earlier in the year but the mid-day sun during the applications for the outdoor plant shows the soil surface well. Weed black is laid out well in advance to kill and of the weeds and grass that starts growing. This results a nice clean and level soil surface for amendment applications.
 
Saturday, May 16 View Page
Outdoor Soil Close-up Before Tilling This shows the even spread of amendments on the surface of the soil. This comes from learning how the spreader feeds each amendment. Based on the particle size and density it can impact how the fertilizer will spread. The goal is for an even application of all amendments over the entire growing area.
 
Saturday, May 16 View Page
Sulfate of Potash 0-0-50 This is applied based on soil test results, but no single application should be made that is over 25 pounds per 1000sq.ft. If your growing sites needs more than this rate, split the applications between plant starting time and when the vines begin to run. The reason for this is to reduce the overall stress on the plant as high application rates of potassium can impact other nutrients (Ex. Calcium) availability to the plant.
 
Saturday, May 16 View Page
Humic Acid This is a general soil additive that helps overall soil condition. It does not add any specific nutrients but can help availability of some nutrients and overall soil structure. It is a fine black dust so try not to make applications during windy times.
 
Saturday, May 16 View Page
Alfalfa Meal (Horse Feed) This is another example of adding a product that does not offer much of the macronutrients that a plant needs, but has other benefits. While there is some nitrogen the key with alfalfa is the presence of the plant hormone triacontanol in addition to some other plant and microbe supporting properties.
 
Saturday, May 16 View Page
Greensand While many growers add this for the potassium it has, the potassium it does have is very slowly available. For pumpkins this potassium could be considered minimal and should not be counted on due to the high requirements of a pumpkin plant. However, the inherent sand properties along with micronutrients are worth the time it takes to apply this product.
 
Saturday, May 16 View Page
Kelp When in doubt, add some kelp;-) This is something that is hard to over add, and does offer many advantages. Micronutrients and hormones are the main benefits. Also, kelp can be added in season to both the soil and actively growing plant so it makes for a good product to have on hand.
 
Saturday, May 16 View Page
Ferrous Sulfate This should be applied based on soil test values to help keep nutrients in balance. Not much is needed and it should be used with some caution as it could alter the pH of soils if overly applied.
 
Saturday, May 16 View Page
Zinc (Zn) Just a micronutrient that is know to be low based on soil and tissue testing so in an attempt to be proactive some is added to the soil at the start of the season.
 
Saturday, May 16 View Page
Copper (Cu) Native soils are known to be low in copper so it seems each year some is added to help try and elevate the levels.
 
Saturday, May 16 View Page
Boron (B) The goal is not to just “add nutrients” but work on balancing the nutrients in the soil. Adding boron in relation to Ca is a good stating place with the intention to be about 1000:1 Ca:B ratio. This means if your Ca value was 2300ppm the goal Boron level should be 2.3ppm
 
Sunday, May 17 View Page
Indoor 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg: Plant Looking Good This plant has a few secondary vines that have reached the edge of the greenhouse which indicates they are about 15ft. long as the structure is 32ft wide. The open female flower is not a planned keeper but is 18ft out on the main vine. The clear umbrella is the location of the CO2 sensors to keep them dry because there is a mister that comes on 5 times a day to help offer some cooling and humidity to help maintain soil moisture. Based on the look and feel of the soil while vine burying the irrigation system seems to be working out well.
 
Sunday, May 17 View Page
Structure Equipment Here there are four key pieces of equipment to help maximize the growing conditions. Large Yellow Fan- This is the main exhaust fan that is a Dayton 42” Outdoor Mobile Air Circulator. It has a low and high setting. The low setting is used early in the season and then when more air is needed to be moved, the fan will be set on high to aid in the cooling process. The thermostat that controls the fan is left the same setting to come on at 85F (30C), only the fan speed is adjusted with faster speed when the temperature is foretasted to be warm during most of the day. White Indirect Heater- This heater is also on a thermostat to help ensure the temperature does not dip below 50F (10C) even on the cold nights. This run off diesel fuel and produces only hot air as the exhaust is vented out the stove pipe outside the structure. This makes in the inside more pleasant for the pumpkin plant and grower compared to a traditional torpedo heater. Senninger Upright Mini-Wobbler Mister (Nozzle #7 Lime)- Since no rain can fall inside the structure a mister has been added that comes on five times a day for 5min each time to help increase the humidity and also add some cooling. 50lb CO2 Bottle- This bottle contains 50lbs of CO2 when new, but weighs in around 170 pounds when the wight of the bottle is also taken into account in addition to the actual CO2. It can be a little bit of a hassle to pick-up, move in and out of the structure but based on the plant growth it is worth it.
 
Wednesday, May 20 View Page
Indoor 1989.5 Daletas ’17 dmg: Hot Day Looking at the plant in the image there is no indication how hot the temperature is. All of the plant leaves are turgid, soil surface is moist and there is no burn. This is a good sign that despite being in the plastic structure all systems are working together to help maintain good growing conditions with minimal stress to the plant.
 
Wednesday, May 20 View Page
Hot Day = Gas Expansion Normal bottle pressure is about 700psi, but when the bottle is in a hot environment in full sun the pressure can increase to what is seen here to be 1300psi. Still in the safe zone, but just shows Gay-Lussac’s Gas Law in action. (This law states that the pressure of a given amount of gas held at constant volume is directly proportional to the Kelvin temperature. With an increase in temperature, the pressure will go up.)
 

 

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