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Archive for February, 2010

What’s Growing This Weekend

February 28, 2010 Leave a comment

March is almost here, and soon I will be very busy planting seeds, so I thought I would take some pictures of the plants growing in my house. I have nearly 30 house plants, and I really enjoy living in a jungle =-)

Cabbage

Cabbage

I don’t like cabbage, and I refuse to eat it, unless it is in the form of Sauerkraut; but last year, I decided to grow some. The plants grew quite well, but something ate them, so I don’t have experience growing them to fruitition.

This year, I planted some in the house, simply to watch them grow. They are growing pretty well, and I figure as they grow bigger, I can snip off leaves and put them in a salad or on a sandwich. The idea is to gain experiance growing cabbage, and maybe expand my pallete a bit.

Apache Blackberry

Apache Blackberry

Above are Apache Blackberries, which are new to me. I haven’t yet tried the berries, but I’m hopefull that they will remind me of my childhood days in the berry patches. I would spend hours eating berries, and still bring home a few gallons of berries. I was always picking one type of berry or another.

Dwarf Banana

Dwarf Banana

I have two Dwarf Banana trees in my living room. The leaves are big, and beautiful, with an added bonus: They bear fruit ! I have had them for nearly a year, and when they get to year 3, they should bear tiny bananas. I can’t wait.

Elderberries & Cherry Bush Clippings

Elderberries & Cherry Bush Clippings

I’ve posted pictures of some of my Propogating experiments. Here we can see some Elderberry clones, and a Cherry Bush clone. I really didn’t think the cherry bush would grow, and the steams seemed brittle, but the buds are trying to pop open. I’ve tried the cherries last summer, and they were a bit sour, but worth the effort.

Early Tomatoes

Early Tomatoes

Finally, I snapped a picture of my tomato plants. I’ve planted them WAY too early. Normal tomato seeds shouldn’t be planted until AT LEAST April, but I’m planning on growing them in buckets, either in the house, or in the Greenhouse, if it is warm enought.

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Making BioChar

February 24, 2010 1 comment
Prepping the Burn

Prepping the Burn

 I had been researching garden soil additives, when I read about BioChar. Basically, BioChar is made by the “pyrolysis of biomass”, or in other words, it’s what’s left when you cook wood. The idea is to heat the wood up, to the point where all of the internal gasses escape from the wood, and burn up. This leaves only the carbon portion of the wood left. The carbon is not released into the atmosphere, so it is also a good way to Sequester carbon, and help prevent Global Warming.

I read many articles online, as well as a few videos on YouTube, and finally settled on a single barrel design. The barrel was filled with sticks and old pieces of wood from around the farm, and I piled up fuel around the barrel. The photo above shows the barrel before it was sealed shut. Keep in mind that there must be holes in the barrel for the gasses to escape, or you will be in some trouble !

After a few hours, the fire was going pretty good, and the wood in the barrel was giving off flamable gases. The gases escape through the holes I made in the top of the barrel, as shown below.

Cooking the Biomass

Cooking the Biomass

 Watching the fire cook the barrel for the first time is amazing ! I didn’t expect the gases to push out of the barrel so fast, and the jet of flames was very cool. I was also a bit worried that the barrel would blow up !

When all was said and done, I was left with a small amount of BioChar, which will require Activating.

Finished BioChar

Finished BioChar

Biochar will soak up nutrients, and it may compete with garden plants if not properly applied to the soil. I have made several batches, but I’m not adding it to the garden till this fall, when I will be adding more manure.

Categories: How To's

It’s Getting Hot in Here….

February 21, 2010 Leave a comment
95 Degrees, In February !

95 Degrees, In February !

This photo reminds me of the song “It’s Getting Hot in Here” by Nelly. I was so amazed at the tempurature, I had to take a picture.  There is a problem though, If the greenhouse gets up to 95 Degrees in February, it’s ganna be HOT in June.  I may need to modify the roof construction to allow more heat to escape in daylight. I might add a trap door of sorts in the roof that can be opened in the morning, and closed at night.

There are currently two windows located near the peak, with one of them visible in the picture above. I have covered these openings with plywood for the winter, but I hope to install louvered windows, that open automatically when a fan is turned on. I have no idea where to purchase that sort of thing, so I may be constructing them myself.

You can also see the shelves that I built on Saturday. They are constructed out of scrap trim, and will be used to hold any plants that do not fit on the yellow water tables. I’ve made each shelf 14 inches tall, since the shelves in my grow room turned out to be too short last year. The shelves will hold plastic containers, and I will fill the base with water.

Hanging Flower Pots

February 21, 2010 Leave a comment

I had no plans for today, so when I woke up, I was unsure what to pass the time doing. I grabbed a seed catalog, and figured I would find some new vegetable to grow, but what I found was really ingenious. There was a small metal hook system for hanging up flower pots. While I thought this was a really neat idea, I wasn’t going to pay $5 for a piece of metal that was twisted and streched by a machine in who knows what country.  Surely I thought, I can make something similar. And so, I found my plan for the day.

Making a Stencil

Making a Stencil

I started tinkering with a flower pot, and drawing the silhouette on a thin piece of wood. I then used a skill saw to cut out a stencil. Sure enough, the stencil worked, and supported the wieght of the pot. I now had a new dilemma, the wood I was cutting would need some way to be fastened to the wall, which spawned a new idea. I could nail the thin piece of wood to the beams, and then hang the flower pot off the beam. This worked great, so I decided to find some better wood.

Cutting out the undesired part.

Cutting out the undesired part.

In the barn, I located a nice piece of untreated, and unstained trim. I decided to make the “hangers” 5 inches long, and about 2 inches wide. To make the cutting easier, I left all of the pieces together, and cut out the silhoutte. When I was done with that, I cut the pieces into there final size. I decided to make four of these hangers, and I nailed them to a beam in a zig-zag fashion, 7 inches apart vertically.

Hanging Flower Pots

Hanging Flower Pots

Now, comes the hard part. I need to pick out some flowers, or herbs that will look nice in the pots.

Rooting Cuttings, Part Two

February 16, 2010 Leave a comment
A Six Foot Tall Cutting

A Six Foot Tall Cutting

In an attempt to keep myself from being a gloomy grump this winter, I’ve been experimenting with Cuttings from various plants. My main focus has been trying to figure out a way to clone Fruit Trees. I’ve had some progress, and much failure, but without missteps, you may never taste success. I started my experiments with small cuttings, similar to cloning grapes; the results are promising at first, but the plants died from Desication, or the lack of water.

I have been trying a slightly different method, with longer cuttings, 3 ft or longer; as well as changing the method of “planting them”. With the original experiment, I simply poured miracle grow into a plastic tote, and stuck the clippings into the dirt. This time, I’ve used Peat Moss, with a bit of Miracle Grow, and I’ve packed the soil tightly to keep air bubbles out. I next placed the whole container in a bucket of water, which will automatically water the plant.

So after a few weeks, I have two clones that are doing well. I am hoping I finally get some plants, but if I don’t, I will keep trying with more and more sophisticated attempts….

A Detailed View.

A Detailed View.

Inside the Greenhouse

February 15, 2010 Leave a comment
Inside the Greenhouse, facing South West.

Inside the Greenhouse, facing South West.

I’ve had some questions about the inside area of the Greenhouse, so I thought I would post some pictures. The photo above was taken at night, in February, just after a mild snowstorm. The roof looks really neat after it snows, but as soon as the sun rises in the morning, it all melts off.

The yellow shelves are about by 4 ft by 7 ft each, large enough for me to lay down flat. They are meant to hold an inch of water, and I figure I can place over 1,000  plants on them alone. Three of them are visable in the picture above.

Testing the Design, during Construction

Testing the Design, during Construction

I was pretty sure this concept would work, so I didn’t make a prototype, I just built the tables, and tested the design when I was done. If I could change one thing, I would add a way to adjust the height of the tables. The tables should not be level, as I would like the water to drain out when needed. After I tested the concept, and the water did not leak out, I added a drain, and some plumbing.

Facing North-East

Facing North-East

On the North East side, I cut the shelf off half way across the width of the greenhouse to make a space to store my garden tools.

Around November, I hung up some Christmas lights, and soon found out they make the perfect night light. I keep them on all day and night, as they don’t use much power. I belive they give off just enought light to be seen by my Amish neighbors. The lights look really neat outside at night, when the colors shine through the snow.

I can’t wait to post a picture of the shelves covered in little plants….

Garden Planning

February 13, 2010 Leave a comment
Garden Planning

Garden Planning

As I continue to dig out from the recent snowfall, I’ve been passing the time indoors by planning this years garden. While writting this, I have 20 types of tomatoes, and 7 types of peppers. I have so many types because I’m trying to build a collection of non-hybrid plants. Hybrid plants are great, but the seeds can’t be saved from year to year, so in the long run, hybrids are no good for building a collection. 

Last year, I was given some Cheerokee Purple and Yellow Brandywine seeds, and the year before that, I started saving Red Lightning Seeds from Chinese Tomatoes. This year, I hope to save at least 15 varieties of seeds, including  the White Tomatoes seeds that I have ordered, but have not arrived yet.

With the folder on the left, I’m saving all of the information about each variety of plant; and on the odd shaped piece of wood below the folder, I have a garden map, all plotted out, with 1 inch equalling 10 feet (The actual Garden is 60 Feet by 250 + Feet.). Planning this all out reminds me of the game Farmville on Facebook, but in real life there are no lines, and only Mother Nature’s rules.

Categories: Tomatoes & Peppers, Tools