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Click on a thumbnail picture below to see the full size version. 38 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.
 

 

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