Thursday, June 19, 2014

A 'Tour' of My Greenhouse

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Further Greenhouse/Aquaponics Thoughts

So I was thinking some more. (My husband always says uh oh at this point.) But I was thinking about how to keep the tilapia warm in the winter. From what I've read, they get more susceptible to disease below 70 degrees Fahrenheit and don't survive below 50 degrees. I need to do some more reading but that seems to be my base line.

But since North Carolina gets freezing temps, how do I keep the tilapia above 70 degrees with the least impact on my electric bill or solar supply. So I was thinking (yup, doing it again) and remembered that I'd planned on building a cordwood structure to house the bigger livestock like goats, meat cows and possibly horses. And, of course, to keep things like feed.

So I figured I could also build something similar for the tilapia tank. To house the tilapia tank. Not as the tank. Just to clarify. Then I was thinking (yes, again. It's called brain storming.) that I would also need a warm place for the rabbits and chickens. So I came up with this.

The green part is the greenhouse. Oriented possibly south at the end there to take advantage of the sun going west to east over it. May have to research that some more to make sure that is the best orientation. The smaller rectangle would be the grow beds. The white area would be the cordwood structure. The smaller rectangle in it would be the fish tank. I'll use ibc totes for the fish tank and I plan on getting a second one in a case I need to expand or use it for whatever else reason. Better to have it just in case. Maybe as a koi grow out tank. Besides, tilapia can breed pretty quickly if kept in the right conditions. But I figure having the tank in the structure will keep the tilapia warm in the winter (should be easy to heat the structure if needed) and will keep it cooler in the summer since it will be shaded.

As for the rabbits, I'd once seen pictures of someone's rabbitry where they had the rabbit cages hanging on the outside of a shed. They had a hole for each cage cut into the side of the shed and a nesting box on the inside of the shed. This made so much sense to me. The rabbit could hang out in the cage or go in the nest box for warmth. So if I heated the cordwood structure, it would be a great place to attach the rabbit cages too. 

Now, the brown area would be a chicken yard. The rabbit cages would hang out into this area so that anything hay, food or poo that fell out of the cage, the chickens could scratch through it. Also, the fenced in yard would help to keep predators away from the rabbit cages. But the chickens will also need some place to roost and stay warm. So why not incorporate their area into the design also? I could section off an area in the structure to use as a chicken coop and just leave an opening near ground level for the chickens to get in and out. Probably put a door on the opening to help keep heat in and predators out. I could also make the chickens nest boxes on that inner most wall that separates the coop on the inside of the structure. That way the eggs won't freeze, I can collect the eggs easily and it would be extra protected from predators.

I could check on the fish, chickens and rabbits all in one nice warm room.

So I think this will work out really well like this. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Greenhouse Idea

So, today I thought I'd talk about my idea for a greenhouse. Again, this idea is inspired by other youtubers. That, of course, is because right now the only thing I can really do is watch other youtubers with their gardens, aquaponic setups and greenhouses.

But anyway, onto the greenhouse idea. Now, I could just make what's called a hoop house (or polytunnel if you're not in the US. What is with americans naming stuff differently then the rest of the world?) But I wanted something a bit sturdier. So I'm going to model mine after Brock's greenhouse. Or sort of. You know me, I gotta put my own mojo on it. This time it's mostly because his greenhouse is all wood for the frame.

My problem is I don't know how to make joists and such for the roof with wood. But I do know how to put a pvc pipe into a fitting. I figure make most of the frame with wood and then do the roof with pvc. Pvc fittings are already made into angles so I won't have to worry about cutting any wood to the correct angles. I'll paint the pvc to help protect it and subsequently probably the wood too. Maybe paint it different colors to make it colorful.

Ok, so I drew another mock up of my idea. I know, my drawing skills are terrible. But in my defense, I drew this on my tablet with my finger and that is not easy to do. But anyway, first view. The grey filled squares are deck pier footings. I'll dig down just far enough to put those in the ground. I'll use a piece of wood and a level to make sure they're all nice and even. Then I'll put a frame all around the bottom and attach the walls to it with braces. Maybe put a little cement over the pier footings and the wood to firmly anchor it together.

Here's the side view showing the pier footings, walls and the roof. Now the greenhouse will be clear, of course, to let light in. I just colored in the sections here to differentiate what is what. The covering is one area where I'm differing from Brock's design. He has double walled polycarbinate panels. But those can get very expensive very quickly so I doubt I'll be able to afford them. Plus, you have to order them online unless you're lucky and can find a place in your area that has them or can order them.

Instead, I'll be putting some 4 mil plastic sheeting on it first. One of the big box hardware stores has sheets in 10' x 25ft sheets. This will cover the sides with a little extra. One roll should also cover the roof with some overlap and I'll connect the side rolls with the roof roll with some clear duct tape or something similar.

Oh yeah, the dimensions of the whole greenhouse will be 10' x 20'. Not sure of the height of the roof since I'm not good at calculating those sorts of things. I'll just measure the pvc to size when I get to the roof. The pier footing will be every 5' to give it plenty of support. The wall themselves will be 8' tall.

After I have the plastic sheeting done, I'll slowly buy clear corrugated panels to put over the sheeting. I've opted for the corrugated panels because I can also buy them from the big box hardware stores and save myself the cost of shipping. They are also UV protected so will help keep the plastic sheeting and themselves from degrading too quickly. When it's all said and done, I wouldn't doubt if the whole structure costs close to what Brock's did. But unfortunately I don't have the money to buy the double walled panels all at once, and buying them individually and having them each shipped will be a waste of shipping costs.

Besides, even if I could afford the double walled panels, I'd probably still put on plastic sheeting first. This is because neither the double walled or the corrugated panels will seal perfectly and will still have some gaps where cold air can get in. The plastic I'll be able to tape together where it overlaps.

This here is just a view of the front with the door and the guesstimated angle of the roof. I would have designed it with a pointed roof but I couldn't find a 4 way fitting that angled down the way I wanted it. So this should work just as well.

This should be one of the first things I'll have to build at our property since, for one thing, it will house the aquaponics setup. It gets to freezing temps in North Carolina and I want to grow tilapia and they don't like the cold. Something we have in common. The first winter will probably only have the plastic sheeting on the greenhouse so I'll probably have to put a heater in the tilapia tank. Or maybe heat the whole greenhouse somehow to keep it above freezing. If I only heat the tank then I'll at least be able to grow cool season crops like lettuces, brassicas, peas. But if I heat the whole greenhouse I'll have more options of what I can grow. Maybe even tomatoes if I can keep it warm enough.

My first thought for heating would be a rocket stove since it doesn't require electricity. But I think a better idea would be to use some sort of space heater with a solar panel and a battery to run it at night. But most space heaters are really inefficient and use a lot of power. So I may have to experiment a bit to find out what works. On further thought, maybe I'll heat the whole greenhouse but still have a heater in the fish tank. That should keep the tilapia nice and comfy.

Anyway, that's it for now. Feel free to leave any suggestions, questions or just comments either here or on my google plus page.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A 'Tour' of my Garden

So today I thought I would post some pics of what I currently have as my 'garden'. Pre-move from Ohio to North Carolina.

This is my sad bucket garden right now. Most of these buckets are raspberries and blackberries that I think were killed by the very cold and long winter. I also bought another raspberry plant to replace those. The shelf thing is part of a cheap three tier greenhouse. I'm using pieces of it (like the wire shelves) to protect my little asparagus sprouts from the squirrels. They don't eat the sprouts. They just dig through the soil and uproot everything. Most of my buckets I have little rocks in to deter the squirrels. But I couldn't do that with the asparagus seeds sprouting.

This is the argenteuil or French asparagus. They came up very well. I think every seed may have sprouted.

This is the Mary Washington. So far only three of these have sprouted. (Might be hard to see them. It was drizzling outside so I had to take the pic quickly. I circled the two bigger ones in red to help.) The squirrels dug through both of these pots before I erected my defenses. But I'm afraid they might have pushed too much soil over the seeds. I do have some more seeds. So if these are the only ones that sprout then I can always plant some more. The Mary Washingtons are also the more common of these two varieties so I could probably get some crowns to plant when we get our property. You can also click on the pics for a bigger image.

Here are my two grapevines. The first is a concord grape and the other is a variety called Reliance seedless. The potted plants are all around the concord one because when I planted it, a squirrel dug through the freshly disturbed soil and completely uprooted it. (Can you see a theme forming here?) There are a couple of leaves that don't look so good. That's because when the stupid squirrel uprooted it, it also broke that branch. Not a big deal since it's not the main branch. But annoying just the same. That branch is still mostly attached to the plant and is still alive. So after I get done with this post, I'm going to get some cling wrap and some soil and see if I can get that damaged branch to root. The other plants around the concord grape are a volunteer russian kale and a tophat bluberry plant that didn't make it through the winter (top) and a yellow, orange spotted canna and an empty terra cotta pot (bottom).

Things I've got growing indoors are...... My tea herbs. Zebra haworthia (not an herb and not for tea but still in the pic), chamomile that didn't make it, stevia, orange mint, lemon balm, rosemary, lemon verbena (my favorite, smells so good) and a pak choi. The tall thing growing with the rosemary is lambs quarters I think. A weed to most people but you can eat the leaves. A lot of these look kind of ratty because they got kind of leggy and I hadn't trimmed them because I was waiting until we moved. But the other day I broke down and trimmed the orange mint and the lemon balm. I've got the cuttings in a covered pot to try to get them to root. I'll probably do the same thing to the stevia today.

If you follow my youtube channel then you would have seen the video of these pak choi sprouting. They haven't grown much but I've made some rabbit manure tea that I'll be feeding them today. Hopefully that will encourage lots of leaf growth.

But a weird thing that's happened to one of them is that it's starting to bolt. These plants aren't very big or very old so shouldn't be doing this. The only thing I can figure is that it's getting hotter outside and subsequently hotter in the house and I haven't really bothered to turn down the a/c much. Guess that will have to change. Only trouble with that is that my chair sits right next to the vent and I get cold really fast. Guess I'll have to move my chair. But I really like sitting right next to the big window. Oh well. I've also been a bit absent minded with watering (with everything else on my mind right now) so I'm sure that's part of the problem too.

I've also got my spider plants hanging above my herbs. As you can see, they're very happy in a bright window with no extra lighting. They're also supposed to be good with keeping the air in the house a little cleaner. Not sure if that's true, but I still like them.

And last but not least, these are the 30 gallon containers where I'm packing our stuff. I'll be using these for gardening once we get moved. I'll be using a smaller version of these for my aquaponics prototype and then graduating up to this size if all goes well.

Anyway, that's it for now. As always, feel free to post any questions or comments either here or on my google plus page.