Construction · Gardening · Lazer Creek Apiary · Relaxing

Cattle Panel Greenhouse

Last weekend was all about curled hair and eye-liner as I gussied myself up to go to the school’s homecoming dance.   The DJ played a good mix of music, my students were all handsome / beautiful, and I had a whole lot of fun.   The students were very appreciative, and that made the evening even more special.   Of course, getting ready took up much of Saturday and recovering from a late night (anything after 9:30 is late these days) took care of Sunday — well that and the normal Sunday grading and lesson planning stuff.   I still hadn’t really recovered by Friday, and I was creaky and achey from sitting around too much all week, so I welcomed a day of walking, tractor driving, and construction yesterday.

Homeless plants
Plants on the move!

Apparently people buying houses in the city don’t appreciate beautiful flower beds that require lots of maintenance, so Hubby has been digging up and re-potting plants while simplifying our garden.    This is just a fragment of the things we need to overwinter and plant. We gave our greenhouse to a friend when we started getting the house ready to sell as we didn’t think it would survive a 300 mile trip, so we needed a new solution.  Hubby has been watching videos about greenhouses made from cattle panels — they are inexpensive, sturdy, and don’t take much time to build, so that became yesterday’s project.

Greenhouse 1
Planning size and location

He’d already done the math and knew what to buy, so, after a trip to Tractor Supply and Home Depot, all we had to do was put it together.   First we laid the boards out and then moved them a few times.  We’re both very visual people and just have to see whether we’re going to have enough room around anything we build.    Hubby then used the tractor to level the ground while keeping a slight slope to enable drainage.

The next step was to see just how much headroom Hubby would have.   With the original configuration of the foundation boards, he wouldn’t have been able to stand up and we’d have a lot of unusable space under the slope of the sides.   Reducing the width by just one foot made a much more usable and comfortable workspace.

 

Hubby cut the boards and created a nice, square foundation which we placed on top of heavy duty landscape fabric covered with gravel.    He hammered spikes into the ground to keep the foundation in place and then we started putting the cattle panels in.   We chose to overlap the panels by 4 inches to give a little more strength to the middle of the structure.    Cattle panels also have a section with smaller mesh at one end, and we made sure these were on the ends for stability.   We also made sure that the ribs that go across ended up on the inside to reduce friction on the plastic.    (That sounds so simple now, but it involved a lot fighting 12 foot lengths of panel!)

 

We secured the panels to each other with cable ties and covered the ends with plumbing insulation to protect the plastic.   Hubby then framed the supports and the door frame at either end and stapled the panels to the wood frame.   While he finished that up, I put the more delicate plants in the greenhouse with the least cold tolerant ones in the center.   We’ll plant some of them over Thanksgiving break, which will free up some room to get our shelves in and make the space usable for spring seedlings.

By this point, I was tired and hungry, so I abandoned Hubby and headed for the kitchen.   He managed to get the plastic over the frame without me — something I thought we were going to do this morning — and today he is finishing up the door.   He’s also decided that we need a window in the back — preferably an automatic one as today’s sunshine has turned our greenhouse into a sauna.

 

But for now, I have a place to keep the plants alive on frosty nights.   With the spring-fed creek on two sides of the property, we have frosts when the weather forecast predicts temperatures in the low 40s, and I’ve already had to scrape the windshield once this week.

As for the bees, I only saw about 30 yesterday, but today’s sunshine has them on the move again.   They are now taking an interest in the pollen substitute so I’ll be sure to keep the pollen feeders stocked.   I still have some pollen patties made with sugar syrup in the freezer, but I’ll save them for cooler weather as they tend to be beetle magnets.   I’ll also put a test syrup feeder out up by the greenhouse.  I don’t want to put one anywhere near the bee yard as I’m still seeing yellow jackets and hornets and don’t want to lure them into the apiary.   I think all the hives are able to defend themselves now that we’ve collapsed them down for winter, but European hornets might still be in the neighborhood and they won the battle with one strong hive this time last year.

It’s amazing how physical labor can make a mind and body feel so much better, but it does.   As teachers, we also don’t always see the results of our hard work for quite some time, so a project that we can actually finish in a weekend always does us good.   Even more than that — I just like working with Hubby!

Greenhouse 10
Finished Greenhouse

He just sent me one more greenhouse picture and the dog is so cute I just have to add it here before I go hit the books!

Life is good here on the farm, and I hope it is equally good where you’all are!

 

 

 

Gardening

32 Goldenraintree seedlings….

Harvesting and planting Goldenraintree seedlings worked far better than I thought, and the seedlings have thrived in the greenhouse.  Some are now 6 inches tall, while others just sprouted within the past few days.  As I didn’t anticipate so many of the seeds germinating, I put 2 – 3 seeds in each 1″ by 1″ compartment and ended up with zero to three seedlings in each tiny space.  I was reluctant to disturb them at this time of year, but roots were already shooting out of the bottom of the pots and leaves were competing for light.  I was really worried about the bare roots below the pot and the thin layer of soil between the roots and the environment as we do not yet know how the greenhouse will perform when temperatures really drop, so I decided to transplant them into bigger pots.

I thought my husband was a little crazy when he ordered flower pots in bulk at the end of summer, but I have now filled every 1 gallon pot! (Well, I still have one, 1-gallon pot, but it doesn’t count because it’s full of spider webs and therefore unusable until hubby evicts any squatters.)  I first used all the smaller pots I had lying around for my treelings, and the last few seedlings are sharing a pot with two neighbors.    If they all survive, we will have 32 beautiful trees to plant on our land.

The bag of garden soil I used was dry on top, but a smelly, swampy mess on the bottom.  I ended up pouring the bottom third into two large planters to dry out.   When I was potting day-lilies a few weeks ago, I read that adding hydrogen peroxide to water or even rinsing the root ball with the solution can prevent root rot and fungal infections.  As all of the daylilly transplants are doing well, I watered the seedlings with a weak solution to eliminate any problems that the questionable soil might carry.  While skimming the article linked above, I also learned that oxygen is released directly into the soil as the hydrogen peroxide breaks down, which encourages healthy root growth.

Everything is thriving in the greenhouse and the lowest temperatures are staying about 5 degrees above the overnight outdoor temperature.   We have a light plugged into a Thermocube that is supposed to automatically turn on when temperatures fall below 35 degrees, but has not yet turned on even when the thermometer recorded a low temperature of 33.8.  I re-positioned the cube yesterday to a location where cold air enters around the power cord, but where it is also not placed where it will get watered along with the plants.   If we don’t see it turn on before our next trip to the land, I’ll use a timer to just run the light every night.  A 60 watt bulb in a reflector kept the greenhouse at 45 degrees on a recent 32 degree night, and I don’t think we’ll have to worry about any 90 degree nights for a while, so that might be the safer solution.  Still…. I want to find out if the thermocube will kick in, especially as I recommended it to my brother-in-law as a way to keep temperatures above freezing in his well house.  Maybe I’ll put some ice cubes in a zip lock bag and see if I can get it to turn on that way…..

After a trip to the greenhouse in my pyjamas and winter coat, the bad news is that a bag of ice is not working.   More tests are required before I write-off the Thermocube as it received great reviews on Amazon, but I will hook up a timer until my doubts have been allayed.    The good news is that my transplanted seedlings are doing well.