2017 Garden Projects
This year I finally finished a geodesic greenhouse project I was working on. It is about 19 feet diameter and about 10 feet tall inside, built into the hill on our property.
In order to make less work, I built raised beds so there would be less digging to make it flat inside. A guy local was selling rough sawn cedar for $1 per board foot, so I got enough to make the boxes. I planted tomatoes, peppers and brussels sprouts in early May while the daytime temperature was 20'C inside, the night time temperature dropped to near freezing. The plants didn't grow much until the night time temps were higher than 5'C.
By June 10th, the tomatoes were 16" high and the first flower sets developing. I bought two automatic greenhouse window openers off amazon.ca for about $70 and they work really slick.They open two vents at the peak automatically, and I adjust the lower venting according to the weather forecast. The vents at the peak open or close to maintain 25'C to 34'C. If the weather is supposed to be cool (15'C) then I only open about 2 feet square lower vent. If it will be warm (25'C), then I just leave the screen door open when I go to work. So far, so good....
October 2017- The greenhouse produced very well. I grew tomatoes, a couple of varieties of pepper, cucumbers,broccoli, lettuce and some herbs
I built a 34" X 70" box out of 2" X 4" and lined it with pond liner. Then filled it with about 250 l of water and dissolved 200 g 18/18/21 fertilizer with micro nutrients, and 60 g Calcium Nitrate, and 42 g MgSO4 (Epsom Salt). 1" styrofoam with tapered holes for the peat moss starter were drilled about 6" apart, and the foam floated on the water. The tapered holes were drilled by grinding a 1" "speedbore" drill bit into a point. The hole in the styrofoam is about 1" on the top and about 1/8" through the bottom of the styrofoam. That keeps the peat from falling into the water and also allows you to use cheap peat moss instead of having to buy manufactured plugs.
Once the moss had wicked up some water, then I just soaked my little lettuce plants that I started in another tray, and pulled them out of the soil. Then pushed a pencil into the peat moss and dropped the seedlings into the holes. This may seem tedious, but it goes pretty fast for a tiny operation like this.
In 30 days we picked the first little lettuce heads. Really good, no slug damage, no worms and no bug poo. There's a blessing!
I built a small recirculating hydroponics system and ran that for most of the rest of the summer. I believe it would have worked well, but the pH requires more time to keep low than I would have expected. The pH required adjustment every day! And the next day it would be above 7 again. This was a frustration and removed a lot of the benefit since it was more time consuming than regular gardening.
The original floating styrofoam system works really well but it works best for batches, and I don't need a batch of 40 heads of lettuce all ready at the same time. I was hoping the recirc system would have worked better because it seems easier to change the nutrient solution and maintain pH than the large tank under the styrofoam.
I'll think about it some more over the winter and give it another try next year (Lord willing).
December 2017: One of the things I struggled with the most with the hydroponic system was the pH could not be kept down where it needs to be. Earlier this month, I did a little experiment to see if it was the source water I used that was the problem. I used Reverse Osmosis water to mix up the fertilizer. This allows more nutrients to be in the water at any given E.C. value, but it also removed the alkalinity in our well water that was causing the problem. The pH stayed where it was supposed to be and the plants are growing faster under artificial light than in the greenhouse last summer. Wow.
As the years go by, the Haskap bushes impress me more and more while in a way, the blueberries impress me less and less. The blueberries taste really good, but they always have die-off from the winter and are not very vigorous.Haskap seem impervious to winter damage and just keep growing much bigger each year.
Here are photos of the same Haskap from 2014 and 2017
Grapes: Last year I fertilized the grapes with manure, and they really produced well. This spring the vines are covered with little clusters that should mature over the summer.
October 2017- The summer has been fairly cool and wet, so the grapes are not fully sweet yet, but there is a very large crop. Hopefully they will fully ripen before the heavy frost hits.