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Entries in greenhouse (8)


Get them greenhouse rodents

Someone asked how we deal with seasonal rodents in the greenhouse and the answer is a pretty simple system actually. It's nothing more than a cheap mousetrap, a big nail and a section of old drain pipe.
Simply find the runways where the voles, moles and /or mice travel. Place a big nail through a hole drilled in a mouse trap and press the trap into the middle of their highway. Load the trap and don't worry about any bait. Then place a section of cut pipe or old gutter over the runway and trap so it looks like a dark tunnel. That's it. Check your traps twice a day and before you know it - there won't be anything left to trap!


034 Greenhouse gardening and soil fertility, growing livestock feed on your farm, preventing Botulism when canning vegetables on the homestead

A update light week on the farm with:

  • No poultry pens to move,
  • Normal weather for a change on the farm,
  • Turkeys and layers doing well,
  • Pigs have their first weigh in.

In the Veggie Patch we talk:

  • Greenhouse soil fertility and design,
  • Low tunnel greenhouses you can build,
  • End of garden season discounts.
In the Coopcast Community:
  • On a listeners suggestion Andy is trying Oral Ivy.
  • Sheree asked about growing grain for chickens and supplementing them with veggies/greens from the garden.
  • Brice suggested we invest in some livestock guardian dogs.
In this weeks Farm U we learn about Botulism and canning vegetables.
The bacteria lives in all soils and we talk about terms relating to it and defeating it when canning:
  • Spores
  • Anaerobe
  • Soil
  • Pressure and temp
  • pH


Mouse control in a greenhouse

The plastic trap in a mouse runwayThis time of year controlling mice and the occasional mole or vole in the greenhouse is kinda like chess to me.  I’m not very good at chess mind you…  I’m too much of a rush in and get ‘er done kind of guy for chess.

In the greenhouse I have tried various rodent control measures.  The best one is our Border Terrier Watson…  but he’s not overly appreciative of the plants we are trying to grow in there - so he’s more the apocalyptic approach to rodent management - no rodents, no veggies left eitherer.

Because of his interest (and the chickens as well) in chowing on rodents, poison isn’t a favorite for me either…  although it usually does work pretty well the high humidity in the greenhouse makes it a challenge as it clump, glumps and smears all over.

So, a couple of years ago I learned about the concept of putting a simple old mousetrap in the runway you see in the picture (that worn path top to bottom) and let the mouse (critterer) that’s cruising along that path step on the trap.  It’s a great process - fast and effective…  but in the greenhouse with that high humidity I found the standard wooden traps were warping, molding and falling apart in a very short time frame.  That’s why I was so happy to discoverer these plastic versions of the mouse trap (see - you CAN build a better mouse trap!)  They work about the same as the old wooden ones but are easierer to load without smashing your finger tips and they don’t rot.  They just work.

Just cock the trap, set on a mouse runway and empty the bounty the next day.  Hey mice - check mate. 



Greenhouse inflator fan

Where the air hose brings air to the blower

Winter is one of those times around the farm where you discover those things you thought you did… but didn’t.  In the case of the greenhouse everything has been humming along just fine since last spring when we completed the construction…  the only thing I think we didn’t do was drill one small hole in the end to provide a fresh air supply to the inflator.

Our hoophouse / hightunnel / greenhouse hybrid is just that - a hybrid.  We designed the structure and bent the hoops ourself and don’t heat the structure…  but we also had to make things more robust than just a standard hoop house because of the stormy winds we get.  So, we opted to use a greenhouse inflator.

The inflator / blower

The inflator is a small fan that is supposed to draw air from outside the structure and inflate the space between 2 layers of plastic (like a ziplock bag).  The plastic is then taunt and the wind can’t grab and rip it off.  The added benefit of this kind of structure is the fact that the layer of air acts as a really good insulator helping to keep the passive solar heat the structure gains during the day from just disappearing so quickly at night.  The results have been great - when it’s 10F outside in the morning the inside of the hoop is still just above freezing.

So, back to the point here…  when we built the greenhouse I never put the inflator air source outside like I should have.  It worked fine (the structure isn’t exactly air tight) but it was pulling in very humid greenhouse air.  I don’t know if that would ultimately matter but I do know the installation instructions said to pull in fresh outside air to inflate the layers of plastic.  And who am I to not follow instructions?!

Where the fresh air comes in for the inflator

So with a 1 1/4” hole saw bit I poked a hole in the T-111 siding and mounted the inflator air source out there.  Who knows if it will ever matter…  but I guess NOW I can say “the greenhouse is done”!

Well, at least until I find something else that didn’t get finished.


Building a High Tunnel Hoop House / Green House : Part 3

Plastic Plastic cover ready!

We finally had enough of a break in the wind and weather around here to do the last of the work on the hoop house / high tunnel.  That "last of the work" would be to install the plastic.  A quick search of the web on how to install greenhouse plastic didn't really offer a lot of suggestions or help.  Further more we knew we were going to be inflating the two layers of plastic with a greenhouse inflation blower...  and that too isn't well documented out there.  So - here's the tools, techniques and lessons we learned in the last phase of constructing this greenhouse.

Wiggle wire Wiggle wire

First, we decided that the easiest way to attach the plastic was using a wiggle wire system like most commercial greenhouses.  The wiggle wire is a bent piece of stainless steel wire that fits inside a specially designed aluminum channel - the wire presses and pulls on the plastic and the channel follows the contour of the greenhouse.  The idea is to basically close the plastic over the structure on 4 sides kinda like a big 4 sided Ziplock bag then pump air into the space between the plastic to create a layer of insulation and keep the plastic taunt so the wind can't grab a hold of it and rip it off.  Pretty simple system that goes together pretty fast.  time will tell how it handles the winds we get up here!

How do you get plastic on a greenhouse?

Pull and hold The long side

That question was one we couldn't get a really good answer on.  We waited for a calm day (no wind) and then pulled the plastic layers over the hoops.  The inner layer is a infrared reflective layer to keep the heat in at night and the outer layer is typical greenhouse plastic.  Once it's draped over the structure we picked a corner and started working from there.  The general approach is to close things up like a plastic bag...  starting at one side and working our way around.  By doing things like that the plastic can shift and slide as we pull on it and we can minimize wrinkles in the final layout.  So, we started on one of the longest sides by installing the wiggle wire the entire length.

From there we then went up along the end hoop.  The only place s the plastic is attached is on the long bottoms and then along the contour of the end hoop (again - so the entire greenhouse can be inflated).  The process works best with at least 2 people, we could have easily used a third.  One person pulls on the plastic to ensure it's tight and the other person installs the wiggle wire.  (Kelli will tell you the worst job is the hand cramps you get for pulling so hard on something as slippery as plastic - I might tell you the worst job is mashing your fingertips over and over with the wiggle wire in the channels...  honestly, neither job is horrible - but also not something you look forward to repeating!)

Installing inflator Inflator - go!

With the plastic secured along almost the entire greenhouse, we left the corner where the inflator gets installed un attached just enough so I could worm my way in-between the 2 layers of plastic and cut a hole through the inner layer.  In this picture you can see the white dot looking thing - that's the diffuser that the inflator motor blows through.  It sites between the 2 layers of plastic and keeps the space pressurized.  One thing I decided to do as an added precaution was to place a piece of 4" wide greenhouse tape over the spot where I cut the hole.  That should help keep this area for developing any stress tears over time as the wind punishes the structure.

Inflated Yup - it's inflated.

After the inflator fan was installed we finished installing the last of the wiggle wire in that corner and trimmed off the excess plastic.  We then fired up the fan and let the greenhouse puff up.  It was an impressive site to see as the wrinkles all disappeared and the plastic shell became a component of the structural support for the building.  Very impressive design.  We have noticed that our blower seems to be a little "over active" and we have ordered a control switch to dial in the perfect amount of "inflation".

All in all without a final tally of the receipts the project came in a little more than we thought it would (don't they all) BUT the structure is a LOT more substantial than we expected and are pretty optimistic that it will sustain the big winds we get.  Total price tag including all the mistakes and the bender we will have for years : around $1500.  So given it's size, that's like $4.46 a square foot of protected, sun warmed space (not to bad) We also learned a TON in doing this, knowledge that would have been REALLY expensive to acquire on a full fledged kit.  Actually - after we finished it we both looked at the space next to it where the bales of hay sit and discussed how long the next one will be.  :)  The last thing we have left to do is attach the last little rolled up plastic that is along the hooped ends to the faces.  It's a small job (just not done).

We also learned several things we would differently next time.  Big doors on both ends.  Translucent panels on the ends.  Grade the area where it will be constructed first (building this OVER the low tunnel was stupid and caused things to be much more difficult than they needed to be).  Install water hydrant inside the house for easy water access.  I'm sure there will be other lessons learned too - but in the end - we are REALLY, REALLY happy with our homemade greenhouse! (for a few more pictures visit our Flickr Photostream)

The plants that have been moved inside the new greenhouse seem to like it - but they are not very vocal anyhow...  Stay tuned for a tour of the inside...

Done Our first homemade greenhouse