Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sprouting seeds

The columbine seeds I planted in the new garden beds in the patio have sprouted, and some of the flower seeds in the greenhouse have newly sprouted, such as balsam, white cosmos, and sweet pea. I am having a slug problem in the greenhouse. We killed four in there yesterday evening! They have destroyed some broccoli and sunflower seedlings. I still haven't had a chance to test my drip system in the greenhouse. The weather was so dismal last week that there was no need to water. This week does not look much better. It's been rainy and in the 50s with more of same to come.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Rainy days

I am not sure what to expect for humidity inside my greenhouse when it's raining outside. Sunday, it rained so hard we set a record. The humidity was 91% in the greenhouse. Yesterday, there was a lot of condensation on the ceiling and it was 85% humidity even though it didn't rain. My husband turned the fan on. Today, even though it was raining, the humidity was 78%. The plants are getting bigger, so perhaps they are using some of the moisture in the air for growing. Anyway, I was pleased with today's percentage.

The zinnias are up already! I am excited because these are from seeds I save last fall. I have never done this with flowers before (only winter squash). Also, more tomatoes are up, this time Black Plum and Cherokee Purple. Meanwhile, my goji berry plant arrived in the mail, and my potatoes and onions are due tomorrow.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Drip system is complete!

I spent a sunny Tuesday installing the mister/foggers (one per flat) and a drizzly Saturday making the rest of the connections for the hanging baskets in the greenhouse and the flats on the second shelf below. I learned a couple of tricks along the way.

I attached the 1/2-inch mainline to the metal supports on the side of the greenhouse and used a plant hanger to arch it up over the tomatoes (toward the back).
Inserting the connector into the 1/4-inch tubing is a bit of a challenge. I learned to stick one end into a knot and then push with both hands to get the tubing over the connector. The knot held the tubing in place, freeing up my other hand. I got them all on, all the way. I also had a tough time getting the tubing going to the flats on the second shelf to bend the way I wanted them to, so I wrapped them in wire and then bent them into position. It worked moderately well.

For the hanging baskets, I ran 1/4-inch tubing from the mainline over to the baskets and used fogger/misters attached to a stake on each except the one above the fan. I don't want to spray the fan, so I used a dripper there. I haven't tested it yet since nothing needs water and it has been raining all weekend. In fact, I noticed that the self-operating vent does not quite close right now, so water drips in when it's raining and drowns one of my baskets. I slid the basket attachment up the ceiling so that the drips would miss it. The mister/fogger on the stake is angling upward now; I am hoping it will still do the job and not miss the basket entirely.

Today, I dug out a chicken light fixture to put my special grow light for the tomatoes in and hung it up. I not only have a cherry tomato up, but also a yellow tomato. There are also three others coming up in other places. I think they are in flats that had dirt in them last summer, so the tomatoes I had in the greenhouse all summer and fall must have dropped a few seeds here and there. Excellent!

My 24 tomato plants to be are bathed in the purple glow light. At 12 watts, it doesn't seem to be heating up.
Right behind and to the left of the Black Plum tag is the cherry tomato, and the golden tomato is to the left of the Ancho tag.
I put the light on a timer. It comes on at 2:30pm and goes off at 10:00 am. That way, it won't be on longer than 18 hours (recommended for the light), and the time that it is off is the brightest time in the sunroom and also when I will be watering. The timer I bought will do 20 on and off cycles. It would be a good one for the fan.I may switch it out with the one in the chicken barn because it apparently has two plugs I can program separately (i.e. one for the fan and one for the grow light).

The light has red and blue lights, so looking out at the greenhouse, it looks purple. Kind of pretty!
Besides the golden tomato being up, I have a teeny tiny impatiens up.

I don't even think you can see the little green seedling (the impatiens, it's to the right of the stake), but you can see the mister/fogger on a stake.
I noticed some slug damage on these little broccoli seedlings, so I put some organic bait out. I finally found the culprit, too. I think I see evidence of slug damage on the other side, too, so I'll have to put some over there, too.

For those of you unfamiliar with slug damage, the seedlings on the left should have leaves. Even the leaves of the one in front have bites taken out of them.
The daffodils we planted on a cold, rainy day in November burst open this week.

Wouldn't you know it? As soon as the daffodils start to bloom, the rain comes and weighs them down. I snapped this photo before the rain set in.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Humidity simplified

Today, I talked to Jay, a chemistry teacher in my building, about humidity. I explained what I was up to, growing vegetable and flower starts in my greenhouse. I learned a couple of basic points from him:

  1. Generally, I won't want my greenhouse to be more than 70 percent humidity.
  2. If it is too humid, a fan is best for exchanging the air.
  3. If a fan is not enough, or if I find it is raining endlessly, I should get a dehumidifier.
  4. If it's raining outside, humidity outside is 100 percent, so it won't do me any good to use the fan to exchange inside air for outside air.
  5. There are charts that will tell me relative humidity if I know the temperature and humidity. Update: I can only find charts where you know the temperature and the difference between the wet bulb and dry bulb temp. I don't think I'll be using a chart because I don't have such measurements.
  6. Regardless of temperature, the humidity will be within 10 degrees of the relative humidity.
  7. Only meteorologists are concerned with relative humidity. I will be just fine knowing the absolute humidity.
  8. I just need to get a feel for what my greenhouse feels like when the humidity is too high. Not only will I feel it, but I'll be able to see a good deal of condensation, not only on the glazing, but all surfaces.

It's raining right now, and it has been on and off since last night. Temperatures are warm--48 this morning and in the 50s today. One hundred percent humidity!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Humidity and the greenhouse: a tale of two variables

Moisture and temperature. That's what I somehow have to balance in my greenhouse.

I found out first-hand last year that humidity is important to control in the greenhouse. I am growing vegetables and flowers to transplant into the garden later this spring, so I need to find out what conditions are best for these plants.

Too much humidity
While there is no ideal humidity, you don’t want your plants to be too wet. Wet leaves can lead to fungi, such as Botrytis, or powdery mildew. When moisture builds up in the greenhouse, droplets form on the ceiling and drip down onto the leaves of plants. The splash can cause the fungus to spread to other plants, or it can hit the soil and splash up onto plants.

Botrytis blight on a peony leaf (
Powdery mildew on a squash leaf (
When the greenhouse heats up during a sunny early spring day, moisture evaporates and the warm air holds it. When the temperature falls at night, the air cools and the moisture condenses—back onto the leaves, soil, and greenhouse surfaces, causing drips from the ceiling. It is crucial to keep the plants dry from dusk to dawn.

Controlling humidity
Keeping the air moving during the day by way of vents and doors helps the suspended moisture leave the greenhouse. My greenhouse has one self-ventilating window in the ceiling, but one open window is not enough. You need to have moving air, so opening a door to create a cross breeze will help the moisture escape. However, if you want to keep the temperature up in your greenhouse (because inside it’s 80 degrees but outside it’s 45 degrees), opening the door is not a good option. That’s where a fan comes in. It will help move the air, especially if you point the fan toward the open vent from across the greenhouse. The other option is to keep your greenhouse warmer at night so that the temperature does not drop too much. This can get a bit expensive though.

My wall-mount oscillating fan
The self-opening vent in my greenhouse
Complicating matters is relative humidity, which differs depending on air temperature. The warmer the air, the more moisture it can hold. The higher the relative humidity, the higher the temperature at which condensation will occur.

Avoiding excess water
It is important that water does not puddle in the greenhouse during the day, which would then evaporate and cause unnecessary additional moisture. The amount of water plants get during the day needs to be just right and will depend on how hot it gets inside your greenhouse. You don’t want the top of the soil to dry out, for example, if you have just planted seeds. Also, it is better to water early in the day to allow plants to dry before evening.

Apparently it is best to alternate between venting and heating your greenhouse at least two to three times per hour in the morning and evening hours. For me, I have decided to only use the heater to prevent freezing temperatures, so I will likely see what kind of relative humidity drop I can achieve without dropping the overall temperature too much. In other words, I won’t be cranking the heater up just after using the fan. I will have the fan on a timer, turning it on low (the leaves should move slightly) and then off, on and then off, several times in the morning and the evening. I am thinking that I will only need to have the fan on for two or three minutes at a time to start, and then adjust as the weather varies.

The chart below indicates the temperature and relative humidity that is adequate to prevent fungal growth and/or disease:

A few questions remain:
  • My humidity gauge only gives me humidity and temperature, not relative humidity. How do I figure out the relative humidity?
  • If my temperature is 86 degrees and my relative humidity is 90%, is that good?

Today, I installed the foggers and misters in my greenhouse, as well as my fan. I preferred the foggers but used two misters and three foggers on each side. I tested their reach out today and ended up with way too much humidity in the greenhouse. I still have some finessing to do, but I am pleased with the layout. Details of the foggers/misters' spray radia, as well as pictures, will follow soon.

Seedling update: lots of basil up now! And one lonely cherry tomato. I have them in the highest, warmest spot in the greenhouse.

The basil is tiny but doing well.

One little tomato planted finally popped up (in back).

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Planting journal

One of the things I really like about blogging about my garden is that it is a place for me to keep track of what I have planted when--and then I can refer to it next year. And hopefully, somebody out there on the world wide web benefits, too!

Many new seedlings came up in the last week:
  • Sunflowers (Monday)
  • Lettuce (Monday)
  • Leeks in full force (Tuesday)
  • Peas (Tuesday)
  • Cilantro (Wednesday)
  • Celery (Thursday)
  • Turnips (Thursday)
  • Beans (Saturday)
  • Basil (Sunday)
The cosmos were the first seeds to come up, and they are getting their true leaves. Behind them are the leeks. I read about planting them in the garden today. Dig a five-inch trench and place them in it. Keep them trimmed to three inches to increase girth, and gradually add dirt as they go to increase the blanched area.
All of the peas popped up this week. It is not recommended to transplant them. so I am going to see how this goes. If not well I will direct sow again this spring.
It took a few weeks, but my two varieties of Cilantro finally came up. 
Whichever kind of lettuce I planted in the front is slow to germinate. The rest is coming upwell.
I had a hanging basket that I planted purple bush beans in last year. I saved the pot in the greeenhouse over the winter, and I discovered that there were some dried bean pods. I shelled them and planted them and if you look very closely, you'll see two beans sprouting!
The nasturtium seeds I save from last year are finally coming up, too, in addition to the ones I bought from Territorial Seeds.
I took time to save specifically the red nasturtium seeds, since they seem to be a little more rare. They are coming up, too (left side). They were a bit moldy so I was worried they wouldn't come up.
I am still waiting on
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Spinach
  • Impatiens
  • Most of the basil
The Brussels sprouts have not shown their faces yet, but the sunflowers in the background sure have.
I call these the mystery seeds. I found them in my dad's shop garage. My mom had saved them several years before but she didn't label them. I can't tell what they are, so I planted them and then placed the container next to the planting. There are more seeds in the container, so once I know what they are, I'll label them.
Today I planted lots of flowers:
  • White cosmos (from seeds I saved)
  • Aster
  • Coleus (both from seeds I saved and purchased)
  • Balsam
  • Oxalis
  • Browillia
  • Petunia
  • Zinnia (from seeds I saved)
Many of these plants are shade flowers, which I will use in the baskets and patio area. I have a deep shade spot right next to the deck.

When I opened the door to the greenhouse, the humidity was 39%; with the door closed, it was 55%.
My tasks on Tuesday (I have the day off to go to my physical therapist) are to install the watering system, direct-sow some flowers in a new patio bed, and install my fan. I need to figure out what the ideal humidity is for a greenhouse.

Until Tuesday,

NG Gardener

Monday, March 2, 2015

How to install a drip system in your greenhouse

I have always wanted a greenhouse to compliment my vegetable garden. Now that I have one, I am finding there are so many little details I had never thought of.

  • How big should the seed pots be?
  • What should I used to water the seeds so they don't wash away?
  • When should I plant what vegetables?
  • How warm does it need to stay at night to get the seeds to sprout?
  • How do I keep the seeds from rotting when it gets so humid in the greenhouse?
  • How do I keep the soil moist when temperatures can reach 100 degrees for a few hours in February?

Thankfully, my husband is helping me with the watering question.

Last year, he installed a drip system and had two tall misters, one for each side of the greenhouse. That didn't work out very well. The plants a foot or so away from the misters got really soaked, and those right under it and those too far away didn't get enough water. I had algae growing on the top of my soil and some seedlings would come up and then just disappear. I assumed they rotted.

We are going to try a couple of things this year. My husband found three options: an individual drip, a short mister, and a small fogger. My preference would be to have drips for the seed flats, but I don't see a way to water more than one pot at a time, and my flats hold six six-packs! That would be a ridiculous number of drips. Instead, I am thinking of trying some foggers for the hanging baskets and some short misters (two per flat?) for the flats. We'll be using half-inch hose that will loop around the greenhouse in a U-shape.

The individual drippers would be great but I'd have hoses snaking all over my greenhouse.
The flat on the left is more or less what I have. Lots of drippers!

The fogger attaches to a bendable-memory arm. I might use these on the hanging baskets I am starting impatiens in.

The mister is likely to be what I go with for most of the seed flats since it can mist about half the flat at once. Fortunately, these parts are inexpensive.

To combat the humidity, I will be installing a wall-mount oscillating fan. The problem I forsee is that the fan will simply blow the mist or fog away from the plant. That means I will have to have the fan on a timer as well as the water. I had already planned to have the water on a timer, but now I am going to have to time it so that the fan is on when the water is not. My thoughts now are

  • How soon after watering should I have the fan come on?
  • How long should the fan be on?
  • Does it need to be on at night?
  • Can I find a timer that allows me to turn the fan on and off multiple times?
  • What is the best time of day for the fan to be on? (i.e. the most humid time?)
  • What is the best time of day to water? 

So many details!

NG Gardener

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Beets, leeks, chard, cabbage, nasturtiums, and lettuce

Yesterday, two weeks after planting, the beets, leeks, chard, cabbage, lettuce and nasturtiums (one week for them) are up. Almost all the artichokes and cosmos are up. The seedlings are so tiny that I didn't bother to take photos. I will wait until things are a little bigger.

The weather continues to be sunny and mild during the day, though we've had frost most nights. Since the sunshine is to continue for the next two weeks, I decided to plant tomatoes, peppers, basil and impatiens yesterday. As planned, I mixed 10 percent worm castings in with my potting soil and sprinkled some lime over the top and worked it in. I planted more peppers today from seeds my mom and I had saved from eastern Washington (Lincoln). I also planted a bunch of flower seeds she had saved but didn't label. The seeds are probably pretty old, so I am not sure what to expect.

Meanwhile, I found a source for coleus, petunia, balsam, browallia and oxalis seeds: Rare Seeds/Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company:

They have a great assortment of heirloom vegetable seeds, so I have signed up to get their catalogue next year.

I brought an old oscillating fan out to my greenhouse to help with the humidity, but it doesn't work. I have ordered a new one from Amazon along with a humidity sensor. Meanwhile, in an effort to encourage the tomatoes to sprout, I have the heater on to 50 degrees F at night. I also covered the seed flats with a thin white cloth that covered (for shipping) a leather bench I bought. I hope this will help keep the soil moist the seeds can sprout.

Hopefully, I'll have pictures to share next weekend and happy news of newly sprouted seeds.

NG Gardener