Greenhouse update – Phase 6: Move-in Day

I actually moved the plants into the greenhouse nearly a week ago, but I am just now getting to posting pictures of the interior with the plants moved in.

I bought three wonderful shelving units from Aldi (discount grocery store) for a sale price that is less than half their normal going price.  They come with 5 shelves each and I only need 3-4 shelves for each unit, since I have to allow room for the height of the plants.  That left me with extra shelves, which I used to combine two units out of three kits!  My remaining kit is on the opposite wall.

Two units of kitchen shelves, combined to make 3.
Two units of kitchen shelves, combined to make 3.

I configured the heights of the shelves to allow for special plants that have trellises attached or are taller and need more head room.

Looking left once you enter the door.
Looking left once you enter the door.

Then I spent a good deal of time on Friday and Saturday of last week, moving all my plants from the garage or inside the house into their new home in the greenhouse.

Looking ahead and to the left once you enter the door.
Looking ahead and to the left once you enter the door.

I still have quite a bit of rearranging to do and have not made the best use of my space.  There are still some shelves that are empty, while there are a couple of plants sitting on the floor.

Looking ahead and to the right once you enter the door.
Looking ahead and to the right once you enter the door.

I’m sure I will be moving plants around quite a bit until I feel that everything is settled in place.

Looking to the right once you enter the door.
Looking to the right once you enter the door.

I also plan to hang a metal rod (which I have on hand) under the house eave, which will allow me to hang some hanging baskets in my greenhouse.  I might also put some hooks on some of the rafters, to allow me to hang more plants over time.  But we’ll just see what types of plants I end up acquiring in the future!

View of the exterior of the greenhouse this morning.
View of the exterior of the greenhouse this morning.

See other phases of the project here:


 

Greenhouse update – First heater night

We are certainly feeling Fall here in Oklahoma.  A couple of cool fronts have sweeped through over the last week, moving the overnight lows into the 40s.
After getting the greenhouse roof in place and the door hung, I moved all of my plants into the greenhouse on Saturday and they spent their first night in their new home Saturday night, with an overnight low of 40 F.  My greenhouse stayed just below 60, with the heater kicking on and off during the night.  The next day I adjusted the thermostat to keep the greenhouse a little warmer, and the following night the temperature dropped to just about 53 and the heater kept the greenhouse between 61 and 62 all night.  Over the last two nights the heater has not had to come on and the greenhouse has stayed about 3 or 4 degrees warmer than the overnight low.
Temperature over the last 72 hours in my greenhouse
Temperature over the last 72 hours in my greenhouse (click for larger image)

The plot above shows a sawtooth pattern when the heater is kicking on and off.  You can see the night when my heater came on 12 different times over a 9 hour period.  The following two nights the temperature gradually decreased, but never low enough to trigger the heater.

I should state, that I am still not finished with the greenhouse.  The soffits are still open, so I have simply stuffed a couple towels in the gaping holes to keep air from leaking out of the eaves for the time being.  I should get the soffits attached later this week.

Also, I just finished the trim around the door and put weather stripping in place on Monday, which probably helped the greenhouse stay warmer over the last two nights.

I still haven’t had a big test with a freeze outside, but I feel pretty confident now that with the soffits in place, my heater will keep the interior right around 60 degrees, which will make my plants very happy.

Stay tuned for pictures of my finishing touches and the plants in place!

See other phases of the project here:


 

Greenhouse update – Phase 5: Polycarbonate

The greenhouse is coming along.  Unfortunately the cold weather came before I finished, so Christie and I spent about an hour last Friday night, hauling all of my plants into the garage.

The final component (besides the details) to the greenhouse construction is the fastening of the walls and roof.  The material I have chosen to use is triple-wall polycarbonate panels.  These panels come in 6′ by 24′ sheets.  Yes, you read that right: twenty-four feet long.  The double-wall polycarbonate comes in much more manageable sizes because it is more commonly used.  The triple-wall is generally delivered in big trucks to the site of the greenhouse and assembled by a crew.  It’s not commonly used for hobby greenhouses the size of mine.  When we picked up the panels at the greenhouse supply store in Oklahoma City, we had to take a circular saw with us and cut the polycarbonate on site so that it would fit in our trailer.

Then I made the mistake of unloading the polycarbonate in the backyard and letting it sit in the rain for a week.  The rain doesn’t hurt the polycarbonate, but I had not capped off the ends and prepared them for hanging, so the walls filled with water.  The water is not easy to remove, let me add.

We had to use a combination of hair dryer, leaf blower, heater and dehumidifier to remove the moisture in the walls.

Open end of polycarbonate panel, taped with clear breathable medical tape to allow water to run out the bottom end.
Open end of polycarbonate panel, taped with clear breathable medical tape to allow water to run out the bottom end.

Next we had to do the normal preparation for hanging the panels.  Before a panel is hung, you must first cap off the top of the panel with aluminum tape and then a u-shaped bracket of polycarbonate.  The bottom of the panel is capped off with porous tape (to allow condensation draining) and then another u-shaped bracket.

First panel being installed
First panel being installed. The film with labels was removed after the panel was attached.
Seam of two panels meeting at a stud. You can barely notice.
Seam of two panels meeting at a stud. You can barely notice.

After a couple of hours of work on both Saturday and Sunday, we had hung all of the walls and only had the roof left.  By that time we were pretty proficient in terms of taping and capping the panels.  The only difficulty with the roof was being able to reach over to screw the panels into the rafters.

Multiple panels fitting together over the door. You can see the aluminum tape used to cap the top sides of the panels.
Multiple panels fitting together over the door. You can see the aluminum tape used to cap the top sides of the panels.
View of greenhouse with all polycarbonate panels installed.
View of greenhouse with all polycarbonate panels installed. You can't really see the greenhouse roof from this angle, but trust me - it looks just like the walls.
View inside of the greenhouse through the doorway.
View inside of the greenhouse through the doorway.

There is still plenty of work to do in order for my greenhouse to be plant ready: caulking, finish the door installation, attach the soffits (which are currently open), stain any remaining unfinished wood.

In my next greenhouse update, I’ll take you inside to see the shelves that I have purchased!

See other phases of the project here:


 

Book Review: Flower Confidential

Have you ever wondered how far the flowers at your local florist shop traveled to reach your vase?  Have you ever wondered what their life is like or who brought them to flower?

There’s a new book available by Amy Stewart called Wicked Plants, which doesn’t tell you any of that.  Wicked Plants has been getting lots of publicity in the plant world lately, so I put my name on the hold list at the library.  While I was waiting on that book to become available, I looked into other books by Stewart, including Flower Confidential, which tells the story of the international flower producing market.  That book does answer all your questions about the cut flower industry.

Flower Confidential is an entertaining read, written in the same format as Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire.  The sections of the book are divided into Breeding, Selling and Growing.  Each chapter uses separate flowers from different parts of the world as illustrative examples of the flower industry.  Gerbera daisies, Roses, Tulips and Lilies are all used to tell about different facets of this unique industry.

I have to admit, the book had more information on the cut flower industry than I cared to know.  But it was the subject of the book, so I can’t fault Amy Stewart for that.  The parts I most enjoyed were sections describing the different growers with whom she visited and what their growing methods and interests were.

Some things I learned

The entire book was filled with information that I had never heard before, but a couple of little things struck me as particularly interesting.

When flower breeders began to try to force plants to bloom out of season, it was loosely determined that photoperiod determined when many different plants bloom.  Photoperiod is number of daylight hours available each day.  Most people would be content to know that this is important in determining when flowers would bloom.  Growers could either force plants to flower or hold them back by manipulating the hours of light available to their plants.  The manipulation could be done by using artificial lighting during dark hours and shades during the light hours, to make sure the desired photoperiod was met.  However, there were some horticulturalists that were a little more curious than the average grower who wondered, Is it really the number of daylight hours, or is it the number of dark hours? You might say that it doesn’t really matter, since the two are related.  However, the scientists were able to set up a completely controlled growing environment, in which they created different day lengths.  For example, in a covered building, they were able to simulated 26 or 30 hour days and varied the number of hours in which the plants received light.  They determined that the number of dark hours was the actual trigger that initiated the blooming process.  In other words, regardless of the time from one sunrise to the next sunrise, a plant requires a specific number of dark hours to initiate the blooming process.  If the length of the entire day varies, but the number of dark hours stays constant, the plant would still be triggered to bloom.  Cool, huh?

On a completely different note, I learned about a unique type of flower auction that is held in the Netherlands.  I didn’t know that flower auctions were even held in the Netherlands, but I was more surprised to hear about the format of these auctions.  A large round scale is available for each cut flower that is being put on auction.  Picture a produce scale from the grocery store, except that the value is displayed with a little digital light around the rim of the circle.  And the value is the cost per stem of a particular cut flower.  The top of the “clock” represents $1.00 and the bottom represents 50 cents.  For a value greater than $1, a different colored light is used to represent dollars, much like an hour hand on a clock.

But the clock itself is not what is so unique about this auction, in my mind.  These auctions are held in Aalsmeer in the second largest (by floorspace) building in the world!  But even that is not the unique factor I found so fascinating.  The unique factor here is that the flower auctions are descending-bid auctions.  That is, the auction starts off with a value that is much more than anyone would pay for the item, rather than much less.  Then, the “clock” device begins to tick downwards.  Everyone interested in the available flowers is anxiously watching the dial to see the light approach the value they are willing to bid.  But unlike other auctions, the first bid that is placed is the winner.  So you can decide ahead of time that you will buy this bundle of flowers if the price falls to $1.43 per stem.  You sit there watching and it gets down to $1.47, $1.46, $1.45 and DING!  Your price was too low.  Someone just snatched them up at $1.45!  Next time you might get a little more anxious as the price nears the value you had planned to bid.  This time you end up bidding on the flowers at $1.46 – just to be safe.

Amy Stewart pointed out that, while this form of auction seems very backwards to most people at first hearing, it is actually a lot like how most people make their normal purchasing decisions.  You see an item at the store that you are interested in buying, but you shop around until you find the price low enough that you are willing to purchase it.  Or you wait until later in the season, hoping the store will discount the price.  Either way, whether shopping around or waiting for a mark down, you run the risk of the items all being sold before a lower price is offered.  This is just how the descending-bid auction works.

So it doesn’t have much to do with plants, but I found it very interesting.  I hope you did, too.


 

Plant Find: Alocasia lauterbachiana

My wife and I took a short road trip on Sunday to visit a nearby church where one of my good friends is now the associate pastor.  On our way back home, we happened to pass one of my favorite local plant stores, TLC.  (No, really, I didn’t realize we were going to be driving right past it.)

Anyway, as you can guess, we stopped in to see what they had.  I kept mental notes of plants that were on my “want to buy” list and then, after seeing the whole store, decided to purchase one of them.  The plant I chose is an Alocasia which I had never seen before and was right up my alley.

Alocasia lauterbachiana
Alocasia lauterbachiana

Alocasias are one of the genera that are commonly called as “elephant ears.”  Well, some of them are.  I would be surprised if anyone called this particular plant an elephant ear!  Other genera that use the “elephant ear” common name are Colocasia and Xanthosoma – and maybe a couple of others.  Colocasia and Alocasia are often hard to tell apart, but I have recently heard some good ways to tell them apart.  Alocasias almost always have stems that attach to the edge of the leaves, while Colocasia stems usually attach in the middle of the leaf.  This leaf attachment is known as peltate.

close up of Alocasia lauterbachiana leaves
close up of Alocasia lauterbachiana leaves

Alocasia lauterbachiana has beautiful leaves that are dark green on top and purple underneath.  The leaves are quite long, slender and lance-shaped, pointing upwards and they are marginally-attached.  That is, the stem that holds the leaf attaches at the edge of the leaf.

While this is the more common way for Alocasia leaves to be attached, some Alocasias have peltate leaves like most of the Colocasias do.  Some notable peltate Alocasias are A. cuprea, A. clypeolata and A. rugosa.  I’m planning on posting soon on the anatomy of plants from the Aroid (Araceae) family.  There is quite a bit of vocabulary that is unique to this family.  My post would include vocabulary referring to leaf structure, parts of leaf, as well as the unique “blooms” of the Aroid family.

I have read that this plant is sort of sensitive and does not like to be repotted or moved around much.  I will be moving it into my greenhouse next week, assuming all goes well, and it should be content in its stable growing environment.