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Tilting Hoop House Essential Upgrade

vidalista 20 mg buy When I moved to my new home a few years ago I left my Harbour Freight 10×12 greenhouse and the nearly four extra months of growing season (two months on each side) that it provided – a not insignificant boost here in Ottawa given our frost free timeline is generally accepted as the end of May until towards the end of September.

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prothiaden 75 price Heavy duty corner brackets installed on the hoop house

promethazine hydrochloride price So after making due with row covers and some very low tunnels last year I put in some medium hoop houses, that were hinged to open from the base.  These worked pretty well – being able to grow taller crops and hold more than the single row hoops but were still a bargain cost and time wise compared to higher walk in hoops.

Heavy duty angle bracket

sporanox need prescription Heavy duty angle bracket

adaferin gel cost The base of these was made from 2×6 lumber – which provided strength and weight to keep things anchored down… but unfortunately in the process of opening and closing them the screwed together corners began to pull apart.

colecalciferol calcium carbonate price I tried reinforcing with 4×4 blocks but the forces were too much for that solution to last long.  So now I’ve gone and built some extra heavy duty corner brackets from some flat steel bent up in the hydraulic press and some U steel to provide further reinforcement.  With these bolted in place the frames are rock solid and should offer a great long lasting solution – even better, the cost to fabricate these at home was a fraction of what it would have cost to buy them would have been.  That’s the advantage of having some solid tools… now it’s time to get everything into the ground!

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DIY Seed Start Heat Mat

flunil 20 price Bottom heat can give your seed starting a real helping hand – particularly for some crops such as peppers.  For a home scale operation that usually means using one of the flexible rubber mats with the heating loop imbedded into it that slips under your seed starting trays.  I’ve been using this method for over a decade and it really does make a major difference for some heat loving plants – BUT, I’ve found that these tend to wear out and I end up having to replace them every few years.

The Seed Start Heat Mat in position and active

p force pills uk The Seed Start Heat Mat in position and active

flonase in canada Given these are fairly expensive when my last one gave up the ghost last year I decided to come up with something better and longer lasting than simply to order another and continue the cycle.

cost of lopid Here’s what I came up with – a STC1000 digital temperature controller – 110volt model (under $10 on ebay from china ) and a 250W 110V cartridge heater ($5) form the basis of the system.

mestinon tablet price Both the cartridge heater and the thermocouple for the temperature controller fit into holes drilled in a 3/4″ thick block of scrap aluminum that is then lag bolted through a 3/16″ thick piece of aluminum plate to a 2X3 piece of lumber.  The aluminum plate is long enough to fit two grow trays while allowing a gap for the heater at the center.

Heat mat under construction

aczone canada Heat mat under construction

The temperature controller is housed in a 3D printed box that is mounted on the top of the 2×3 with the cords all held nicely in place by a strap at the back of the wood piece.

The whole assembly is supported by some scrap 1″ thick pieces of pine left from building beehives over the usual trays on my growlight assembly.

I used a couple of additional sheets of aluminum to spread out the heat more evenly under the grow trays.

In operation I set the temperature of the aluminum block and by trial and error move it up until the temperature of water placed in my grow trays hits the desired temperature for the seedlings I am producing.  If you were using a much thicker block of aluminum you could set the temperature much more in line with the desired setting – but with this setup the temperature of the block ends up being considerably higher than you would normally want in order to see the necessary amount of heat generated to be distributed through the aluminum plates.

Peppers started with the DIY  Heat Mat

Peppers started with the DIY Heat Mat

 

It’s not a perfect system, but for about $20 and some scrap I have a solid bottom heat source for seed starting that should last decades and allow me to produce loads of heat loving seed starts at home – paying back the investment in less than a year compared to buying transplants at the garden center.

 

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Sweet Sorghum in Canada

Sweet Sorghum - Dale on the Left and Simon on the right.  Dale is 3 weeks ahead.

Sweet Sorghum – Dale on the Left and Simon on the right. Dale is 3 weeks ahead.

I’ve been growing varieties of sweet sorghum for more than 20 years.  Now sweet sorghum or even grain sorghum for that matter isn’t a typical crop for Canada let alone Eastern Ontario.

But, the description in the Peter’s Seeds and Research catalog for Northern Sugarcane tickled my fancy enough to order and trial it.  I should be honest and say that the threshold to tickle my aggie interest is pretty low – but this sounded like a really cool plant, and indeed it was.

It grew well, and later towards the end of that company’s life Tim Peter’s was kind enough to send me a sample of the John Coffer refined Dale variety in spite of it no longer being listed in his catalog.   I’ve since obtained a host of different varieties to trial including a number from the USDA ARS seed bank – which included some pretty cool varieties from India with high sucrose contents – which would allow regular crystalline sugar production and not only liquid syrup yield.    I also received a few varieties most graciously from Morris Bitzer from the University of Kentucky including Simon which is supposed to be 21 days earlier to harvest than the regular Dale variety.

Now, I’ve never had an issue having any of the varieties of sorghum I have tried reaching maturity save for a few varieties which are daylight sensitive and grew wonderfully but never headed out.  The successes include Dale, Sugar Drip, Mennonite, and a bunch of ARS varieties.  But,  given how much earlier Simon is supposed to be I wondered if a cross might be in order… not only to allow for a hedging of agronomic bets, but also in order to allow for a staggering of harvest dates for processing.  So I’m interested in trying a cross between my John Coffer Dale and Morris’s Simon.

Sweet Sorghum planted out

Sweet Sorghum planted out

Anyway,  this year I decided I wanted to boost my seed stock and plant enough that the syrup harvest wasn’t just sucking on the stalks.  So I started the seed in trays – the Dale three weeks ahead of the Simon in the hopes that i might be able to overlap their flowering period – and committed to building three 4’X8′ raised beds along the back hedge.  It’s not the best of spots, not receiving full sunlight but will have to do.

Those were completed this past weekend so I transplanted the sorghum along with a bunch of AC Sierra Sunflowers fronting the beds.  Now Sierra is a cool variety in itself.  It is an open pollinated dwarf oilseed sunflower that was bred to allow farmers to harvest the crop without needing special headers on their combines.  That lowering of the capital risk bar created markets for oilseed sunflower whose development led to a transition to more productive hybrid varieties.  But for smaller scale production, I still think open pollinated varieties where seed can be kept and evolved to better suit local conditions has a lot of allure.  but I digress.

Anyway,  this year my goal is to grow out a significant quantity of Dale and Simon seed, try my hand at making a cross and also build a small sorghum press.

The Little Wonder Sorghum Mill - Inspiration for the impending build

The Little Wonder Sorghum Mill – Inspiration for the impending build

Why build a press?  Well for starters sorghum syrup isn’t a typical Canadian product – that would be maple syrup – nor is it even a northern US product meaning a fairly long trip south would be necessary to get to where Sweet Sorghum was more common.  Don’t overlook the “was” in that last sentence either – sorghum mills aren’t like one of my letterpresses or machine tools which were common and still viable commercially into the 1970s, and hence are today “obsolete” but not yet rare, sorghum presses fell out of fashion long long ago.   Moreover, I’d really like to get the three roller horizontal units rather than a vertical roller one more suited to having the mule on the walking pole, and those especially the smaller ones that are still around appear to be in very high demand.

Fortunately I happen to have a whack load of metal working tools that are always eager to be put to work – funny how that function stacking works out eh?.  So much like with the homestead grain mill build it looks like I will be engineering a modern rendition of the small end of the commercial horizontal mills over the course of the summer.  With the sorghum in the ground I’ve got to get moving… (of course there are always a few projects vying for attention but the need to be ready for a harvest is a pretty good incentive to set a solid pace).  Stay tuned…

 

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Rooted grape cuttings leafing out

The grape cuttings I started rooting earlier are coming along nicely and have leafed out.  While I have not yanked on them to check they appear to have rooted nicely so I haven’t bothered to trim the leaves to reduce transpiration as I have done when I’ve been rooting cuttings outdoors.

Rooted Grape Cuttings leafing out

Rooted Grape Cuttings leafing out

I’m rather pleased since going the cuttings route has allowed me to get varieties I would be hard pressed to find otherwise and it’s saved me a load of money.  The cuttings were $1 each rather than $7 to $10 if I’d been buying stock from a local nursery.

Along one side of my yard the previous owners planted some cedars up against the fence.  They add a nice bit of green and an additional bit of privacy to the yard.  BUT, I can’t eat cedars so I am planning to remove them and put in grapes trained vertically.

What really got me primed was the fassadengruen website from Germany which shows step by step how to train the grapes in this fashion.  It looks much easier than the other methods – and frankly the grapes I’ve grown in the past haven’t been very well trained – and should allow me to grow and edible privacy screen!

The quality of cuttings I received from Burt Dunn was excellent.  Thanks Burt!

 

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Grape Propagation

The rush of spring continues.  A few weeks ago I started rooting a bunch of grape cuttings I’d ordered.  The grape propagation process is simple enough.  Make sure you get good sized sections of last years vine while they are dormant.  The sections should have at least three buds.  You can store them wrapped in a damp cloth in your fridge for a couple of months if necessary.

When you are ready to start rooting them, make a fresh cut on the base of the vine segment (buds face up), dip the base in water to get the rooting hormone to stick then dip in in your container of rooting hormone.

Push a hole in your damp potting medium with a pencil so that you can insert the base of the vine into the medium.

That’s it.  If you have bottom heat great use it.  If not, that’s ok too.  The most important thing here is that even if the base is being warmed the air should be cool so that you delay having the buds break for as long as possible.  As soon as that happens you’ll need to bring them into the light but before then then don’t need it.

While I started the process for the new varieties of vines I purchased a few weeks ago, I decided I wanted to clone the Beta grapes that were growing at my folks place and took the opportunity to do a video showing just how easy the process for rooting grapes is.

Give it a try, if not this year then make sure you take the few minutes to get it done next year.

Grape propagation

A closeup of grapes being rooted, note the buds