Author Topic: Greehouses and related structures; plant propagation -- your expertise wanted  (Read 7485 times)

Trudie

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I want to start propagating my own plants so that I can grow unique varieties and feed my gardening habit in a mustachian way.  I've been an avid gardener for years but have not grown things from seed (other than what I direct seed).  I have had a few stops and starts with trying to grow my own stuff under fluorescent lighting.

I would love some advice on equipment/set ups that have actually worked for people in propogating their own plants.  I don't have sunny spots to do it now, so would need to create the right conditions in my basement work room.  In a few years when we FIRE I hope to be able to have some sort of greenhouse structure (but it's a dream).

Please share your pictures, videos (you tube links), book recommendations, personal experiences in this area if you've been successful at it.  Thanks.

iris lily

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30 yars of gardening here.

We did a grow light operation once, dcades ago, and the electric bill was staggering.

We have a greenhouse, dont use it. Its useful only for about 5 weeks here in St. louis, otherwise it is too hot.

DH has an advanced degree in vegetable production. His best earliness technique is home made cold frames. Livng in an urban core as we do, it is easy get old windows.

So I say, start with cold frames. And then oh yeah, pile every sunny window you have in your house with with seedlings and temder plants.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2016, 08:20:11 AM by iris lily »

ender

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So I say, start with cold frames. And then oh yeah, pile every sunny window you have in your house with with seedlings and temder plants.

Woah I had no idea you could do things like cold frame planting!

Cranky

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We have a big grow light set up in my classroom, and I'm kinda meh about it. Sometimes we get good results and sometimes we don't. (We grow plants to sell.)

I bought a covered "greenhouse" from Aldi's last year, specifically for starting seeds. I think it was about $20? It has worked well - my broccoli and lettuce are ready to move out into the garden in a week.

You do have to have a nice sunny outside spot for it, and we had to work out a way to anchor it, as it's quite lightweight.


Trudie

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We have a big grow light set up in my classroom, and I'm kinda meh about it. Sometimes we get good results and sometimes we don't. (We grow plants to sell.)

I bought a covered "greenhouse" from Aldi's last year, specifically for starting seeds. I think it was about $20? It has worked well - my broccoli and lettuce are ready to move out into the garden in a week.

You do have to have a nice sunny outside spot for it, and we had to work out a way to anchor it, as it's quite lightweight.

What's your location?  I'm in the upper midwest.  Zone 4.

Frugal Lizard

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I am longing to have my own greenhouse.  My neighbour has one 8x10 and I am the only one that uses it.  It is unheated and no electricity.  I have to open it up on sunny days and close it down at about 4pm or it gets too hot and then too cold. The automatic vents have not worked in years and I tried to find replacements but was unsuccessful and so far it has mostly been too cold to be needed. I had a pile of extra topsoil from a trench and a bunch of 10 gallon pots so I made a growing area.  I have cold hardy plants in there now and should be harvesting collards any day now.  A pot of parsley made it through the winter and it is ready.  If we get a couple of days of good sunshine I have to haul all the plants out because I can't keep it cool enough.  A fan might resolve this but no electricity.   
If I ever get my own greenhouse I am going to build it into the ground and have a water battery on the north wall as a heat sink.  I will plant into the ground so that there is some benefit to thermal mass of the earth.  I will have grow lights so that I can get things going sooner while our days are still short and have emergency heat if the temperature really drops and it is cloudy for a few days in a row.  I live beside a forest so it is most likely that I will never have a greenhouse - but I can still dream. 

lthenderson

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I will second building cold frames for starting veggies early in the season. They are super easy and cheap to build. Greenhouses are nice but more expensive to build. Also, to extend the usefulness of the greenhouse, you really need a fan hooked up to a thermostat that can bring in cooler outside air to keep things at a constant temperature during warmer sunnier periods. These are readily available as kits and aren't too expensive and can easily extend your season another month or two before it gets too hot.

FLBiker

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I also like cold frames and sunny windows.  I'm in FL, so a greenhouse would be pretty useless, but over the winter I start stuff early on our screen porch (w/ vinyl windows).

My single best piece of plant propagation wisdom -- tomatoes do very well from cuttings.  In my experience, this isn't very widely practiced, but I swear by it.  After a plant is nearing the end of it's run, I cut off 8 inches or so of "fresh" looking end growth, strip the bottom couple leaves, and plant it.  I tend to use a very unscientific mix of 1/3 mature compost, 1/3 perlite, 1/3 old soil.  I like to plant these seedlings in 4 inch pots (so I don't need to replant them immediately) and then plant them in 3-5 (or bigger) gallon pots w/ the same soil mix.  Last time I did this (February) I had 100% success!  In the past, I've lost ~25% of the cuttings.  I'm currently doing cherry tomatoes (supersweet 100) and mid-sized (patio).

Another plant that is great for the home garden (depending on where you live) and is dead easy to propagate is katuk.  It is my go to green.  Grows like crazy, easy to harvest, easy to propagate.  You need to be somewhere warm, though.  I'm in zone 9A.

I highly recommend looking into permaculture techniques.  I did a permaculture design certificate online through Oregon State University and it was great.

I also highly recommend looking into local extension offices.  Down here, we have IFAS, which offers workshops (w/ free goodies) on rain barrels, micro irrigation, composting, etc.

Cranky

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What's your location?  I'm in the upper midwest.  Zone 4.

I'm in NE Ohio. Some years, we're a 4, and some years we're a 5 (in practice, no matter what the chart says.)

But I'm using this to start seeds, and I don't want to start them too earlier, or it would still be too cold to plant the starts when they're ready to go.

It's a cool grey day here, and I just checked my seedlings - it's 75 degrees in the "greenhouse".

I do know several people who have built greenhouses from old windows, and there's a guy on the next street with a fair sized hoop house in his back yard. They are pretty serious gardeners and have chickens, too.

Trudie

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I highly recommend looking into permaculture techniques.  I did a permaculture design certificate online through Oregon State University and it was great.

I also highly recommend looking into local extension offices.  Down here, we have IFAS, which offers workshops (w/ free goodies) on rain barrels, micro irrigation, composting, etc.

I am a lapsed Master Gardener... I found some of the initial training useful and I'm a big user of the state extension service but have no intention of volunteering my time that way in the future.  My gardening interests have also changed.  When I first started I was really into landscape plants and mixed borders.  Now I'm much more interested in edibles, xeriscaping, and eliminating lawn!  Your permaculture certificate sounds interesting.  I went to their website but couldn't find much information.

I've been looking for MOOCs on horticulture on EdX and Coursera.  I am able to find courses on soil management and some ag courses, but not much hort stuff.

One of our community colleges has a decent horticulture certificate program, which I'm pondering when I ER.  Total cost would be about $4500.  I definitely learn better by doing, so I may do it.  I'm still quite interested in landscape design but don't have the get up and go to do massive landscape installations anymore.  Maybe I'll feel differently when I'm not a desk jockey anymore.

RetiredAt63

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I do a lot of seed starting, vegetables, flowers, and donations.  I made a plant stand out of metal baker's shelving and hanging shop lights.  It is not as pretty as a commercial plant stand, but it is not ugly, and it gets the job done.  The newer bulbs (T8?) are more efficient, give more light for the wattage.  My electricity use does jump, but compared to AC or a pool pump it is not much.  I do know that my seedlings grow more slowly when I have them in a cool area, so if you have a choice between a warmer place and a cooler place, go warmer.

The only thing I would do differently is get 4 bulb fixtures instead of 2 bulb fixtures.

Trudie

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I do a lot of seed starting, vegetables, flowers, and donations.  I made a plant stand out of metal baker's shelving and hanging shop lights.  It is not as pretty as a commercial plant stand, but it is not ugly, and it gets the job done.  The newer bulbs (T8?) are more efficient, give more light for the wattage.  My electricity use does jump, but compared to AC or a pool pump it is not much.  I do know that my seedlings grow more slowly when I have them in a cool area, so if you have a choice between a warmer place and a cooler place, go warmer.

The only thing I would do differently is get 4 bulb fixtures instead of 2 bulb fixtures.

What types of bulbs do you use?

RetiredAt63

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I got high Kelvin value bulbs (4' shop lights so 4' tubes), 6000-7500 I think.  I don't have the labels any more.  You want lots of red and blue wavelengths for happy plants.  On my old style plant stand I use one warm white and one cool white.

What was interesting was I hadn't realized there were new designs now, until I read the label on the shop lights and they called for a different bulb (narrow metal contacts instead of fat ones).

I do a lot of seed starting, vegetables, flowers, and donations.  I made a plant stand out of metal baker's shelving and hanging shop lights.  It is not as pretty as a commercial plant stand, but it is not ugly, and it gets the job done.  The newer bulbs (T8?) are more efficient, give more light for the wattage.  My electricity use does jump, but compared to AC or a pool pump it is not much.  I do know that my seedlings grow more slowly when I have them in a cool area, so if you have a choice between a warmer place and a cooler place, go warmer.

The only thing I would do differently is get 4 bulb fixtures instead of 2 bulb fixtures.

What types of bulbs do you use?

bognish

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I start seed in 1 gallon milk jugs. Slice them open a little over 3/4 of the way around about 2 inches from the bottom. Add some potting soil & seeds. Put outside in the sun in March. Works well for cool weather seeds. The ones from the milk jugs are over twice the size of direct sown seeds and ready to transplant this week or next.

I have old windows I have been meaning to build cold frames out of but seems like a lot of work and storage, for an only slightly better solution. Also my yard is likely to get a few really hot sunny days in the spring that could cook anything in an unvented cold frame or greenhouse. The milk jugs with the top off work just fine. Water about once a week. and I slightly bury them to regulate temperatures and keep them from blowing away.

iris lily

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I start seed in 1 gallon milk jugs. Slice them open a little over 3/4 of the way around about 2 inches from the bottom. Add some potting soil & seeds. Put outside in the sun in March. Works well for cool weather seeds. The ones from the milk jugs are over twice the size of direct sown seeds and ready to transplant this week or next.

I have old windows I have been meaning to build cold frames out of but seems like a lot of work and storage, for an only slightly better solution. Also my yard is likely to get a few really hot sunny days in the spring that could cook anything in an unvented cold frame or greenhouse. The milk jugs with the top off work just fine. Water about once a week. and I slightly bury them to regulate temperatures and keep them from blowing away.

DH vents his coldframes by just propping up,the glass on sticks. Its easy.

JZinCO

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I made a rudimentary greenhouse to overwinter plants. The frame is a box (6' long by 2.5' feet deep and 3' high). The top of the box is A-framed to shed snow. It was constructed with scrap 2x4 and painters' drop cloth. Most everything was top-killed but the roots stayed alive and noting froze inside.

I just wish I had a way to vent excess moisture without letting in cold air. Now that we are seeing above freezing temps, we are letting the doors open more often. Overall, not bad for $7 in materials. Next winter I might try adding a heat lamp on a timer.

Arktinkerer

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My single best piece of plant propagation wisdom -- tomatoes do very well from cuttings.  In my experience, this isn't very widely practiced, but I swear by it.  After a plant is nearing the end of it's run, I cut off 8 inches or so of "fresh" looking end growth, strip the bottom couple leaves, and plant it. 

Had an uncle who use to do that every year around the 4th of July for his second crop.  Then I talked to a local biologist.  He explained there is a temperature range at which tomatoes produce.  We tend to get one batch as the temp reaches that band, they stop when it gets too warm, and then they produce again until it gets too cold.

horsepoor

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I bought some t5 grow light fixtures with little ratchets this year from Hydro Crunch and have been very happy with them for starting all my veggie seedlings.  I mounted the 4' fixture to a 4' wide shop shelf I already had, and the 2' fixture has its own support frame and sits on a countertop.  Don't care for the frame though, and will also mount that fixture to the shelf next season.