Sunday, 8 April 2018

Whats with this weather

We in the 7th April and had snow on Friday and a high of 2 degrees Celsius expected today.  Frost last night froze the ground and everything is way slower than normal.

Th greenhouse is crammed full and by now I expected the plants to be bigger in the beds, but at lest the temps in there have not dropped below zero in a few weeks. The shelves are lined with seeings waiting for last frost, or for the cold hardy, till bed soil temperature gets to around 10 degrees Celsius. The two large pots in the middle of the floor are my ginger and turmeric pots and as you can see its a little crowded with the extra Ikea shelf and the pots. The kale and mustard in the beds is about 4 weeks old, but growing slowly with the soil temperature at arround 8 degrees. It generally hits the high teens to mid twenties still every afternoon, but nights it can drop down low single digits.

Although for things like tomatoes and peppers, I started them indoors and moved them out.  This year I have some interesting tree and shrub seeds that I am trying, and along with some squash etc, I planted them and left them to sprout when the temperature in the greenhouse naturally attains the right temperature for sprouting. This I hope will allow for any more weird unseasonal delays better than my own planning.

The second half of next week though, looks a little warmer in the forecast and the miracle of spring temps will hopefully allow me to move some of this out, and accelerate the growth inside it.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Its a wild life!

I have a few guests, that I never invited. The first is a cutiest little chipmunk. Well I have only seen one, but my neighbours saw a pair. Last summer I was surprised a how little fruit I got from berry bushes. As it turns out, chippy probably enjoyed it. Now I have holes in the raised beds and compost heap (must have wanted warmth). I love the little guy and its being years since I have seen one in the city, but this digging everywhere has to stop, never mind my berries and whatever.

Second guest is a Bunny. No not the Easter bunny.  Now I am not sure how much is chippy vs Bugs but I scared him a few times while working in the garden. He is beauty, all sleek and shinny and quite large. He is also dug in a burrow under the bath pond.

I love the fact that the local wild life is moving back. This is true permiculture and nothing shows it more than them moving in. The birds and squirrels first, but now bunnies and chippies. Its a small yard and I expected to share, but I think I am going to have relocate these guys/girls.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Xiaomi Aqara Intelligent Smart Home Temperature Humidity Sensor

So now that I have a greenhouse, how can I get warning if temperatures in there drop near freezing?  What if I wanted to have supplementary heat kick in if it nis getting close?

Enter the Xiaomi Aqara Intelligent Smart Home Temperature Humidity Sensor at Can$10 these little guys tell temperature, humidity and barometric pressure Paired with smarthome gateway, I can set alerts when temperature, humidity or barometric pressure hits certs levels (not got alerts for barometric working).

Whats more with a bit more effort, I could use a smart plug to turn on the heat or fan!

O bought 2 sensors and a gateway and after a week, I love it. One sensor is outside and the other inside the greenhouse. The afternoon spike were the heat in the greenhouse kicks in aside, I can now look at the past week temps for both. Generally its 8 degrees warmer in the greenhouse.

With this week being the first with positive nighttime temperatures, I moved some of my pepper and tomato plants to the greenhouse to make some space for new plantings.

Update: the sensor in the greenhouse stopped working, on investigation it was water / humidity issues and a period on the heater vent, had it back working in a day. I am hoping some careful positioning can address this. 

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Grow light test

Ok not a very fair test... But then its more about my obsession to grow different varieties than anything. This year, I planted 3 cells of each type of pepper and each type of Tomato seed I had (well maybe I skipped a few). I then pot these up once most show first set of true leaves into pots I hope to grow in till I plant them out.
192 watts of Shop lights

When I first started growing from seed in the basement, I started with 1 x 4' shop light and 2 x 20" x 10" trays under the cold white tubes. The next year I found shop lights on sale for $16 and bought 2 more. These I then attached to each other with a metal strip. 4 trays fit comfortably and I had 6 x 32watt a few inches above the plants on and Ikea stainless steal table. 192watts of growing power and my tomatoes and peppers loved them.
Here are 4 trays each with 18 dollar store  (larger ones fit 18 perfectly in a standard tray) square pots for 72 tomato and pepper plants. Whats unique this year is every one of those 72 plants is different variety of tomato or pepper. I hope I have the garden space. Because of the greenhouse, I started things a bit earlier this year in hopes of extending the season and usually these will just be started.
60 Watts LED Grow lights

So what happened to the other 2 plants if I planted 3 cells of each before potting up? Well another 4 trays is on a second table. This table has some new LED lights I bought on ebay from china for $20 a piece (sure he priced them wrong as they $40 on amazon.ca. I cant remember the claim, but they draw 30 watts each for a mega 60 watts or a third of the power the shop light. These "pink" lights don't distribute the light as well, and I have to move the plants around a bit to give them time in the "sweat spot". I only finished potting up this weekend and its still a bit early to tell, but there does not seem to be much of a notable difference.  A few more weeks should tell. Can one third of the power grow them just as well? Are LED's really that much better than 6500k cold white shop lights for seedlings?

The 3rd cell had  a few duds, and I have less than a 4 full trays, but these I have scattered about in windowsills and in the greenhouse. Its a bit cold for them to flourish, but the seem to be happy, although noticeably leggier.

7 weeks till I usually can consider planting out here in the city.

Update: 

After 3 weeks, the plants under the LED's are a little more stretched than those under the fluorescents. Both are lush and green, but the stems are thinner and the space between nodes a bit longer. Noticeably though, their are small unopened flowers on the LED plants - more than the fluorescents. Probably 1 addition 30 watt LED light would make them equal, but use less power (half) and more flowers (possibly earlier fruit?). At $20 the LEDs are clearly the way to go. At Amazon prices (twice if not on sale) perhaps not.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Blog Maintenance

Well, I have not being as active on my blog as I should and was doing a little reading and clean-up when I took a look at the stats. 13,173 hits!

Wow, I have no adds, only a couple other gardeners blogs that linked to me and no really never intended this to be a popular site. This was more for my own record and to share with a few remote friends and family the nutty endeavours of a amateur gardener here in Toronto Canada. Surprised given how few comments or questions I have had.

That said, I am humbled and perhaps should run the spell checker again if I could work out how to get it to check Canadian English. 

Greenhouse update

Wow, am I impressed with my little Ghetto greenhouse. Its early March and 2 degrees Celsius outdoors as our high today. The greenhouse automatic window is slightly open and its 26 degrees Celsius in side. I planted some kale, lettuce, mustard, peas and green onions in there and have even left one of my early mini tomato plants out there since I am short of space in my seeding area inside.  At -6c low last night, it recorded a low of only 2c and the plants are established and although small seem to be growing well.

More impressive is my test kale planting has actually sprouted and showing signs of growth.  Thats before I would usually plant kale indoors! This is a full month earlier than I hoped or expected. That said, this week coming has high of 4c degrees and a low of -9, a bit colder than the past week and we will see how well it does when the average temp is below 0 outside.

I spent some time this morning researching bluetooth temperature sensors to see if I could put one in the greenhouse and alert me if it gets close to freezing. This would give me confidence to move some frost sensitive plants out there. Then I realized I dont even own a heater to switch on if it did drop below zero... so perhaps I need to think this though a bit more.

With luck though, I should have a salad by the end of March a full month or more earlier than usual.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Seed Hunting

Its about mid December when the itch starts. Relentless research and googleing for seeds. What will 2018 harvest be? Soo many things I want to try, soo little space.

Every year I try have a theme. Tis year was tough. First, while down in Mexico, I came across a wall of seeds - lets just say I don't speak Spanish, so I landed up with a lot of seeds I needed to Google to find out later what they were. Peppers and herbs features well though.

Not only did my trip south gets me seeds, but then Tortillas were amazing. Now I grew up in a maize staple eating country, but watching the street vendors make fresh tortillas for my morning quesadilla, was enlightening. I could grow dent corn, I would love learning the process as ancient as it is. How much corn would the ancients grow? Hows that work in a square foot garden :-)

In the end I read a wonderful article on Kenyan farmers had more than doubled their harvest using pole beans. I had grew scarlet runner beans last year, plus my usual purple French bean and another I cant even remember its name. I liked the French purple as green beans - yes the purple as green, but I had never really had favorites.


So while I may grow some Mexican peppers and herbs and even some corn, this year I think I going to grow more beans. So I have
  • White runner
  • Cherokee trail of tears
  • Flagg
  • Kentucky wonder
  • Kahnawake Mohawk
  • True Cranberry
  • Rattlesnake
  • Blue Lake
  • Super Maconi
  • And something simply called Fava - oops not a pole bean
Together with last years, I think I have a lot of beans this year. Anything I missed? Whats your favourite bean to grow and eat. The plan is to try plant them similarly and compare their harvest. 


Ghetto Greenhouse

I have for some time wanted a greenhouse. Although I tried a few small glass or plastic cold frames, I wanted a doubled walled walk in to putter in. I also had a fig and a few plants that could overwinter in it. I had an old lean to shed on the side of the house, I was removing, when It struck me, although its on the west side of the house, it may work.

15 Minutes on Kijiji and I found some 6mm double walled polycarbonate panels and a hour later had them home. As it turned out, using the old shed frame and a bunch of panels was not as quick a job as I originally thought. The biggest challenge was sliding the panels into the plastic joiners, at perfect size to seal gaps on hand cut sheets. Lets not talk door or the roof vent! A small order online from china and I got a automatic vent opener, In the end 10' x 4' "shed" was a greenhouse...almost.

Once built, I added some built in raised beds and wire shelf and planted some kale, walking onions and a basil plant for fun. (too see when it died which turned out to be 4 weeks after the outside one). Finally a visit to Ikea for a couple HYLLIS shelving units up against the wall that can be removed in summer. ps HYLLIS shelves fit a 20x10 standard tray perfectly so that is 8 trays, plus 10' shelf and beds! Crammed - yes, but this could give me 2-4 weeks earlier start and 2-4 weeks longer season at the end.

OK that was a could, I am still not sure I have enough light. What is clear is that sharing the house wall offers thermal mass and keeps it warm roughly 4-5 degrees Celsius most of winter so far. What is more of a question though is do I have the knowledge to use it right, or will I kill my spring seedlings??? When exactly do I start planting now, if I have the ability to move some stuff out. Talk about a game changer! This was not what I expected when I first embarked on this quest. And so I find I have peppers planted with more than 12 weeks till last frost!