Tag Archives: Projects

Mini Greenhouse: Using Roofing Panels to Warm the Soil

Using Fiberglass Roofing Panels to Create a Mini Greenhouse, Extend the Season or Warm the Soil

A few weeks back we had a spell of warmer weather and I waited till the end of it to attempt a sowing of pole beans. A couple weeks after the fact I decided to look for the seed as nothing was coming up. I dug around and found…nothing. The soil didn’t look disturbed so I’m not thinking it was birds. I’m guessing it was just too cool and wet and the seed rotted. When the weather gods predicted another bout of warm weather I was on it. It occurred to me that I could possibly get a jump on sowing if I could warm the soil. Remembering a mini greenhouse I used in gardens past I made a trip to the lumber yard and came home with an 8′ long roofing panel. Once upon a time these used to be made out of fiberglass and perhaps you can still find them but any I’ve found locally have been PVC or ‘polycarbonate’. I’m hoping they will work as well (and last as long) as the fiberglass panels used to. I’ve used them to extend either end of the growing season when just a few degrees can make all the difference. My hope in using them this time is that they will help to warm the soil a few degrees so that the bush beans I plan to plant there will have a better shot at germinating should the weather cool again (a very real possibility around here).

Shopping List

  • 1 clear or semi clear roofing panel. 26″ wide and the length of your choice. Mine was 8′ long
  • 4 1″x2″x16″ stakes per panel
  • length of wire or twine to secure the panel

Preparation and Installation

  1. Cut a 1/4″ notch into each of the stakes, a few inches from the top. This will insure that the wire or twine stays put. I cut my panel into 2 4′ sections but they can also be left whole.
  2. Once you decide where you want your panel to sit, drive two of the stakes into the ground approximately 6-12″ in from each end of one side of the panel.
    Drive two more stakes in 12″ from the first two. If two panels are being installed next to each other you can use 2 less stakes as the middle stakes can secure both panels (see image).
  3. Gently fold the panel into an upside down U shape and set it between the two stakes.
  4. Tie string or wire, crossing over the panels. Thats all there is to it!

Garden Happenings

Harvest

2 large bags filled with lettuce, kale and spinach
The Palco spinach is showing signs that it is about to bolt which necessitated harvesting that 1′ wide bed. Since I wanted the space on either side of it I decided to harvest one of the beds of the Mild Mesclun mix that was ready. I also harvested the rest of the red and butter lettuce from the bed next to the peas. I ended up with two large bags of green goodness, one filled with lettuce and the other with spinach and kale. Way more than we will ever eat I decided to fill some 1 gallon bags for the local food bank. I ended up getting 8 1 gallon bags in total. 3 spinach, 2 kale and 4 lettuce. 8 to go to Helpline and 1 bag of spinach for us.

Sowing

It may be too warm but I sowed two short rows of Renee’s Farmer’s Market Blend lettuce in the shade of the peas.

On the balcony I started a pot of SMR-58 cukes, Astia zucchini and another attempt at “Italian Pesto basil. ALL of the batch I started inside this spring ended up dying. Not sure if it was a rot or ? Need to investigate that.

When Nothing Seems to Do the Trick: Home Grown Gardening Database

Record Keeping

I started this blog to help me keep track of what I planted when, what worked and what didn’t.  I’m not one for keeping notes on paper and at the time I started this I couldn’t find software that I liked that did what I wanted.  I recently looked again as it has been years since I last browsed the offerings. I did like an Android program called Garden Time.   I’m on a trial now and may end up purchasing it but it still isn’t exactly what I am after.   I auditioned a couple of other programs for the desktop rather than the phone and nothing really did what I wanted. I gave up and decided to build a web based version using a mySQL database.  I’ve put together tables for plant types, varieties, plantings etc.  I still have to build a harvest table.  In addition to the blog posts I take photos with my phone whenever I do anything so filling the entries should be fairly easy if I ever get the time to finish it.  I haven’t done any of the coding yet but have most of the variety table filled using a db tool called Navicat.   I’ve also downloaded and imported historical weather data.  Not garden specific but close enough to give me something to play with.  Eventually I’ll probably incorporate info in the tables with the blog somehow even though exactly what that will look like has yet to be determined.

Homade Birdbath Project

I was browsing the Net looking for a birdbath project and ran into this one. Basically you take a really large leaf (think elephant ears or something simliar), some sand and acrylic concrete patch and in the end you have a beautiful birdbath the shape of a leaf. I love this idea and do believe this is my next project.

Progress

Hauled home 4 buckets of clay (thank you T.) this afternoon. It was enough to finish the lower insulation layer on the oven. Weather permitting I should be able to start of the body of the oven next weekend.

I am really noticing a difference in comfort levels when mixing the mud with my bare feet in July as compared with Nov. My tootsies were pretty numb by the time I got done. brrrr

I planted a couple of small fig trees in the ground on the south side of the house this spring. Since the figs still in the containers have started dropping leaves I decided to check on the in ground figs today. I actually found a ripe fig on one. A ripe fig in Ky on Nov 1. That has to be a record for me. Once the inground trees go dormant I will build a little cage (they are only about 18″ tall) of chicken wire and fill it with leaves to help insulate them for the winter. I’ve never tried overwintering them outside before so I am not sure it will work.

Oven: Bottom Insulation

It has been a long time coming but the bottom layer of insulation is just about complete. Between school, not having enough beer bottles and the weather I hadn’t touched the oven in a number of weeks.

After finishing the foundation, I layed a 2×4 & 4×4 frame across the open foundation about 2/3 of the way up from the bottom. I had layed an extra row of bricks on each side to accept the wood frame. This left an open 15″ deep box. On top of this platform I placed a 1″ layer of the clay/wood shavings mix and starting laying the bottles so that they almost touch. I wasn’t able to get all of the bottles set as I ran out of clay. Everything I have read said that as long as I have enough insulation there shouldn’t be a problem with burn through. I’ve also seen a number of very old ovens built on wood platforms.

Once I get the rest of the clay/wood mix applied and the bottles in place I will let it dry before building the clay/sand pad that will accept the firebricks.

The Plan vs The Reality

I am notorious for planning more than I can possibly finish in a given amount of time. Since starting Grad School my spare time is almost non-existent and work on the oven has come to a halt. This long weekend would get me back on track I was sure.

The plan was to spend Sunday and Monday working on the oven. I had a wedding to go to on Saturday so that day was busy with other things. I ended up with company on Sunday which was not planned but was good. I hadn’t seen H. in a long time and it was nice to visit. I figured I could still get done what I had planned to today. I had already purchased the two angle irons and mortar that I needed and was up this morning bright and early when I realized it was raining. No problem. The radar showed that the storm should quickly pass. A couple of hours later than I had anticipated, I was out and ready to go. I got the half bag of mortar mixed and about half a dozen bricks in place when the rain resumed. I waited around about 20 minutes before I decided to call it a day. Oh well, perhaps next weekend.

Update: 5:00 pm

The rain passed and the sun came out. I decided to go back out and give it another try. I was able to get the other half of the mortar mixed and another row of brick set. The angle irons went in on this row along with the bricks to span the existing u shaped foundation.

Oven Progress

The oven is proceeding though much slower than I had hoped. This brick laying thing is work! The chemical burns have healed and the rubber gloves are working nicely. Last weekend T. helped me wash brick. They did need a cleaning as some of the used freebie brick I picked up had been a patio and had a nice layer of mud all over them. A quick rinse with a scrub brush and they were good to go.

Never having touched mortar I am pleased with my progress so far. I will never build a house of brick or win any awards but what I have so far is fairly straight and level. I have learned a lot as I have progressed. I found that laying out the brick dry in the order I want them then moving them off the wall in the same order helps to insure that I get the staggering joints I am aiming for, have the bricks I need and get things done quickly. I did mess up in a couple of places early on and had a running joint for 2 or 3 bricks in one area. By the time I noticed it I was not tearing out the two layers to get to the offending brick. For what I need I am pretty sure it will hold up fine. I also found that it is better to mix up half a bag of mortar at a time. That way, it by the time I get to the end of the mixed mortar it isn’t too dry. If I was able to work quicker it wouldn’t be as much of a problem but not really knowing what I am doing tends to drag things out a bit measureing, checking and leveling. I also like the little break I can take between batches.

When I finish the layer that I am on it will be time to put the angle iron in place (once I come up with some) and enclose the square foundation with a layer of brick. The dual brick outer walls on either side will end up holding the angle iron for the brick wall above that point and the wooden floor. Yes wood. I’ve done some reading and it seems that as long as I use enough insulation between the bottom of the oven and the wood floor I should be fine. The plan is to lay 4 4×4 pieces across the two inner walls and top with cut 2×4 boards. A 6 inch layer of insulation will go on top of this, followed by the dense oven floor made out of the same clay/sand mix that my oven bricks have been made of.

Tomorrow I am going to hunt up some angle iron if the weather is as nice as they say it should be. I would also like to get a batch of tomatoes canned in the morning.

How NOT to lay bricks

First thing this morning I was at Home Depot purchasing 4 bags of mortar. I know I will need more but the plan was not to keep any around to get wet and ruin. That was the plan, use the four bags this weekend. Yeah…

Fast forward a couple of hours. The first bag of mortar is mixed, a pile of bricks have been cleaned of the mud and traces of old mortar and I am ready to start. Thinks go pretty smoothly the first hour or so. I didn’t have as many bricks washed as I had needed so I did have to stop and get some more cleaned off. I had read where some people soak their bricks some to help the mortar cure more slowly so that is what I was doing. I was working on the second layer when I noticed that my fingers were starting to sting a little. I know better than to get my hands in the mortar as it is caustic. I thought I had been doing a good job of staying out of it but perhaps I was wrong. I took a short break, rinsed my hands and got back to business. I was very proud of the couple of bricks that I broke in half. It was much easier than I had thought it would be. Things were moving right along.

About this time I notice the clouds forming. No problem I thought. I had checked the weather and there was no call for rain all weekend. Starting to get the hang of things I was rolling now. The next thing I knew the sky opened and I half expected to see Noah and company any moment. I covered the brickwork with a sheet of plastic I had and then remembered the three bags of mortar still in the back of the truck. I raced to get them off the truck and covered and in the process fell off the back of the truck and rolled down the small incline by the driveway. I laughed all the way down such a sight I must have been. Only my pride was hurt and I was finally able to get the bags of mortar off the truck and covered, the lamp and shades in the truck that were to go to T’s office later and the windows rolled up just as the rain started to let up.

By the time I got back to work my fingers were really starting to hurt. I looked at them and they were looking pretty raw. Damn. I finished the rest of the first bag of mortar which got two full courses of brick down, cleaned everything up and came inside to clean up. Hopefully the pain and oozing will go away enough by tomorrow to allow me to start again, this time with some rubber gloves.

The thought crossed my mind today if I have taken on more than I can handle…Nahhh but I do have a much bigger appreciation for masons at this point in time.

Cement Pad

Last night saw the creation of the cement pad for the mud oven. I got quite a workout mixing 800 lbs of cement in the wheel barrow. After taking this photo I covered it with plastic to slow down the drying a bit. I will give it a week or so before I start laying the brick.

I also made another trip to get more clay. There are another 58 bricks drying in the sun. The others have dried very nicely and so far not one has cracked. I hope that is also the case once the oven is built and fired up.

82 Bricks and Lots of Gravel

Yesterday I found a local place that sold gravel that was also open on Sunday. No small miracle around here. Another truckload of gravel and the foundation hole is filled with some to spare for some inner fill later on.

After cleaning up the area, tools, and truck, I checked the clay/sand mix at about 4pm and found that it had dried out enough to make some more bricks. It was so late in the day they didn’t have time to dry enough to remove from the boards. They spent the night on the picnic table under a tree. They should be dry enough to cover by this evening in case the rain they are calling for tonight materializes.

by: kerry