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The Beginning of a food forest

What would you do if I told you that you could have a production system that is low maintenance high productivity and sustainable? Go on think about your garden and your inputs (fertilizer, seed, gas) then how much you get out and how much work you have to put in to make it happen. What is a food forest?

Seems pretty daunting! When I was young I was told “Everything worth having is worth working for”. Excluding the poor English it is a good idea. Think about it. You want your education you have to put in the effort. You want a good relationship once more work for it. You want a nice house and a nice job them with luck and hard work you can have it but I would argue that you can probably achieve it with hard work and making your own luck (by being sensitive to your limits including budget and time etc etc). That all being said you have to work for what you want.

Every project has a start but in order for you to know where you need to start you need to know where you want to finish. In this case we decided we wanted to do a wood chip food forest that would contain fruit trees, perennial veggies and berries. We do not anticipate that this will have any annuals in it. So the first thing is to source some wood chips. Luckily I saw a tree trimmer working on some power lines and asked him if they would be willing to dump their chipped branches on our property. They agreed.

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Depending on your space you may be able to get multiple drops. We expect to have a need for all of the chips so we asked them to just dump when they were in the area on our land. They have agreed but only dropped one load so far. Total cost was $0. They were appreciative of a local and convenient drop space.

I was mentioning that if you want something you have to work for it in order for it to have value. The first step is getting the sourcing because that will dictate what you can do. Second step is to decide what you want to grow. The next step is decide if you have enough space (the answer is yes but you may need to scale your dream appropriately). Then look at local rules and laws. Thankfully we are in a rural agricultural area so there are no issues. Then finally you can get started on putting your wood chips down. We will be fencing the area off so the deer and the antelope (okay not really) and bunnies will not come through and cause issues for our young plants and trees.

We are planning on having multiple fruit trees. Pink Lady apples are a favorite for me. We found a supplier that says they will work in zone 5B. We also have to be concerned with chill hours. Which are the number hours that the tree will be exposed to temperatures between 45 and 32 degrees. chill_hours_map

We are in an area with between 1200 and 1400 hours. This could be difficult for some species. However the larger concern is the hardiness zone.

We will also have granny smith apples as a pollinator for the pink lady, Two or three cherry trees, a fig (Chicago fig should do okay here), Plum and peach. In the under-story will expect to grow straw berries, asparagus, Grapes, and other berries.

The work will not be so much in weeding since the wood chips act as a mulch. The work comes in maintenance, pruning, harvesting, fencing, adding wood chips as the previous ones break down.

There is a good amount of work that this will require but fresh perennial fruits for many years to come is just to much of a good deal to pass up.

 

We will keep you posted as this happens. We also will have bees to help our local indigenous pollinators.

KEEP checking back. Also comment if you have questions or suggestions.

 

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Aquaponics

I have been wanting to do a blog about this  topic since Natalie and I decided we needed to blog. You see in a previous life I worked as a fish facility manager. Once a week there was a farmers market downstairs and outside of our building. I never connected those dots.

When we moved to Iowa I came across a group Coalition to support Iowa Farmers. This group was actively providing educational resources and support for aquaculture in Iowa. They even hosted a conference in 2016 and another in 2017 on the topic. The conference was very informative and the networking was pretty good as well.

I also started paying attention to Practical Farmers of Iowa and looking at the regulatory picture for farms in general, livestock farms, vegetable farms, and organic farms. In a previous blog I mentioned going to events sponsored by these organizations. However there is no organization in Iowa that combines aquaculture and vegetable production. There are a couple of farms that do it.

So why combine them? As I see it you have the ability to produce ( with appropriate planning) enough high quality, organic, nutrient dense and healthy food on a smaller scale and with less environmental impact then traditional row farming. How?

The excrement from the fish becomes the fertilizer for the plants. The plants provide filtration and nutrient removal for the fish.  The end result is a cyclical relationship that poses unique challenges but also uses less resources then growing conventionally.

What do I mean when I say less resources? There are tanks and fish food and water and space. When compared to conventional farming aquaponics uses 85 to 90% less water than growing in ground. The reason is filtration and re circulation. The water from the fish is used to hydrate and to convey nutrients to plants which use very little water when you consider how much water is lost in conventional irrigation. Drip irrigation is more water efficient then overhead or flooding but still less efficient than aquaponics.  You do not need fertilizer as fish waste is converted to fertilizer by microbial action (fish waste is high in ammonia), which is converted to nitrites and then nitrates which are taken up by plants. The ammonia and nitrites are not fish safe so removing them is essential to growing fish. It is an example of one groups waste being another groups raw materials.

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The nature of aquaponics allows you to grow things closer as nutrient competition is removed from the equation and if designed appropriately light and ventilation is adequately addressed. You can grow more plants in a square foot of space than you can in the ground conventionally. Tanks are a cost but are more of a fixed expense than a recurring one. If they become recurring you need to really think about why your fish tanks are being abused so much. Water is an issue as it has to be of appropriate composition and temperature for both fish and plants.

Now that you have plants growing and you have your fish. As you harvest plants you can also cycle your fish and have a more healthy protein source. Tilapia is common but any fish can work as long as it is fresh water and it will grow at a temp appropriate for the plants you want to grow. I have heard people growing colder weather plants with cooler water fish successfully.

We will be constructing a small pilot aquaponics system in the future so stay tuned for that. This blog post is really just a primer for that post.

 

Doug

 

Think globally act locally

Many years ago I was in my first year in college.  There was an organization on campus that called it’s self “Web of Life”. They were our local eco group. I found it interesting to attend a meeting or two and see what they were all about. I had little or no experience with environmental activism or even environmental issues. This was the fall of 95 and while I was an environmental science student I really had no background in environmental issues. I was very interested in understanding how the environment worked. I am still learning but I can see how interconnected things really are.  I knew that we had some serious issues in this country but I did not know what they really were and what could be done to solve them. I loved nature and it really bothered me when people littered and dumped waste.

Fast forward to 2005 and I was sitting in a interview for a research lab at Washington University in St. Louis. That lab had posters on the wall about recycling tip boxes and cardboard.  I was brought back to the newness of my first semester in college and how I was so excited to learn and do great things. Turns out I got the job and for the next 8 years at Washington University we did great things. The more important lesson I learned was that a group of small dedicated individuals can in fact change the world. I learned how far environmental concerns had come and how industry and academics were coming together to find solutions.

Yesterday I went to a field day hosted by Iowa organic association. The topic was chicken meat processing on the farm. Murray McMurray hatchery then hosted a demonstration on processing meat birds. The presentation and discussion were excellent. The networking was amazing and the organization was well represented. What does this have to do with anything?

Well since we have begun this journey we have realized how difficult it is to do these things without support. Whether it be regulatory assistance, education, networking, or numerous other aspects of agriculture that I never even considered. I have found that every state does have resources available, and people that are extremely willing and wanting to help.  One of the first places that I have found to help in so many aspects of a country transition is your local county extension, since we are in Iowa, Iowa State Extension. They even have other aspects like small acreage, local foods, soil testing, water testing etc etc. If they do not know the regulations they can help put you in contact with those that help.

If you are interested in livestock in Iowa you should get in touch with Coalition to support farmers. If your interested in organics then Iowa organic association is a great resource and if your interested in a pretty amazing farmer community and resource Practical Farmers which have provided field days, networking, education, farminars, webinars, and many others. I will be writing more about the coalition and practical farmers in the future.

Doug

 

Chicken part 2

So we have built the brooder and we have built our tractor. We need some chickens. Well guess what came 3/15/17? yep 26 birds from the hatchery. 1 is a bonus heritage breed so we will have to see what we got when it gets older. You can see that one in the mass of chickens it appears as a open spot in all the chicken yellow. In reality it is just a dark colored chick.

We got them all set up and a few notes that I feel I need to share. They were super thirsty. I was suprised at all the water they were drinking they really really really seemed like they needed it. So the whole pushing the beak in the water when I unboxed them seemed to really get them in the mood to drink.

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I also used some paper with some food on it as was suggested so they can find it easier. Seemed to really excite them as well. Right after the picture was taken they swarmed all over the paper after the food.

We will be removing the food every night before bed and replacing it in the morning. The insert made this suggestion for the first several weeks in the brooder as they grow so quickly that it really does cause a significant amount of stress on their bodies.

It is exciting to see these guys settleing in. They have found the warm plate (I had to push a couple under for them to figure it out for after that they took a nap and warmed up a bit. Now they come out get a drink get some food and head back under. I guess it does more closely resemble a Hen tending to the brood in that regard.

We will keep you posted as things continue to develop.

 

Doug

 

Chicken Brooder

Brooder is a fun word. I have become more enamored with words. There are specific meanings to specific word and while many words are similar each word has a meaning. Affect and Effect, Their, There, They’re you get the point.

A chicken brooder is a house for chicks. Usually having either a Hen or heat source, bedding, food and water. They can literally be anything. Some people use metal watering troughs, sheds, wagons, boxes etc etc.

When considering chick brooders there are a couple of things we kept in mind. 1 being cost. We are not sure if chicks are a long term project for us so we did not want to get to extravagant. Not that any of the images above are extravagant.

2. Space. We have 5 acres outside and a three car garage plus two barns. All of those spaces only the garage is climate controlled in the winter and close enough to the house to check on the birds regularly. This puts the space that the brooder takes up at a premium. So we wanted something we can tuck away when not in use.

3. Functionality. Cheap and Compact are great things but it has to actually do the job. We want the chicks to be safe (should a predator get in the garage). We want them to be warm and comfy we we went to a variation on the “Panel” brooder.

We started with a sheet of 3/4 inch plywood. Cut into 4 equal sized panels.

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Then we cut two 3/4 inch sections half way down each panel using a 3/4 inch chisel to remove the cut out section.

This leaves you with 4 panels with two sections cut out half way down the panels that can be interlocked to create a box.

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Now we have the basic brooder. You can simply put some wood shavings/bedding in the box or you can add some other items. We made a lid to go on it and with wholes and 1/2 inch hardware cloth covering the openings

We elected to go with Premier 1 supply chick heater plate. There are a couple of reasons for this choice. The obvious concern is heat source on wood shavings. A heat lamp tends to dry out the wood shavings making combustion easier. A heat plate applies heat downward onto the chicks more efficiently thus using less electricity as a lamps heat is a by product of the light. Resulting in less energy per unit of heat then a lamp. There is also the space that is being heated. The heat plate applies it more directly to the chicks then a heat lamp but also the plate is sized to the brood size we expect to have so the plate only heats the chicks under it while they are in contact with the plate. Setting the plate low enough will help prevent the chicks from piling on one another.

I did add a lamp for some light as per suggestion from Murray McMurray Hatchery. So the chicks will not pile up on one another and suffocate their brood-mates. Which would run contrary to what we wish to achieve.

 

Doug

Chicken Tractor Build

Previously, I posted that we were building a chicken tractor. After a discussion with my mother I realized that some people do not know what this is conceptually. So I am going to help explain what a tractor is? why you use one and some of the other reasons we decided to go with it.

In the easiest terms a chicken tractor is a moveable chicken coop. It provides the farmer with the ability to protect the birds while providing them a pasture to graze on. The chickens with scratch, pick at bugs and grass, and fertilize a section of a field with min work by you. If you leave them in a space to long they can and will take it to bare ground. We plan on moving it daily. This will allow fertilization but also some level of pest management. We have a grasshopper problem and chickens enjoy grubs.

 

They can take on many different shapes and sizes.  They have some general commonalities. They all have open bottoms allowing chickens access to the ground.  They also provide some level of protection from predators. They generally house water and grit and additional food. They also provide some level of weather protection ours will have a tarp.

We elected to go with a tractor of this design for a couple of reasons. 1 being lower costs, 2 it is easily transportable, 3 provides forage for the chickens, 4 allows for reduced costs of raising and housing chickens. There are many many many more. Lets just say that if you are starting out with meat chickens (like we are) you prolly want to keep the investment down as low as possible.

The tractor build was pretty straight forward. First we built a frame. We then built a mirrored frame. 20180304_092545

Plus two end frames Then used all four frames to create a box. Then added some bracing.

 

Now you have a basic open floored box with the sides and tops pretty well braced. Next we stained it and added a lid.  We also built two PVC grain silos to feed the chickens.

 

Then we covered the whole tractor in 1/4 inch hardware cloth. Why not chicken wire? Well this is galvanized stainless steel and is more durable plus has the benefit of a smaller mesh size which we hope will provide additional protection for the chickens.

 

We added a pull rope. The finished internal dimensions are 10 ft x4 ft by 30 inches high. We have the ability to add a roost bar should we wish to do that we also have two shelves for grit and water in the front. It pulls relatively easily across grass. All in all we expect chickens to do well in it.

 

Doug

Chicken Part 1

So you have a bit of space and you have decided that you want to be a bit more healthy. Protein is important. There are many sources of protein in the veggie world. You could eat only vegetables and get enough protein if you select properly. In our American diet though meat or meat products is how we get our over abundance of protein be it from Milk, Eggs, Beef, Chicken, etc etc.  Since we have some space and the costs are not insurmountable for chicken and you have options with chicken that is where we are heading first.

You need to decide if you want meat or eggs. There are some varieties of chicken that produce meat and eggs decently but once you slaughter no more eggs so keep that in mind. Older birds are also tougher and generally are cooked differently then younger. If you go to the store and buy chicken for meat most times those are young birds. Eggs are a longer term investment in both care and infrastructure. You need to recognize that those birds can produce for 1-3 years on average and do not start until around 16 to 20 weeks old. Meat birds can be slaughtered between 6-16 weeks old depending on variety.

Are you going to keep them in a chicken coop? Are you going to use a chicken tractor? Are you going to let them free range? In our area we have a large number or predators from coyote to barn cats to eagles and owls. So our birds need to be secure. We are using a variation of Joel Salatin style tractor. You can see what his look like here. We will have a blog post when ours is finished as well as a chick brooder. Since they will be ready to slaughter in less than 16 weeks we elected to make a cheaper tractor for our first go at it.

Now you need to select the kind of birds you want. I would suggest a local hatchery. We are in Iowa and there is one just a couple of hours away that has a pretty good reputation. We could also get birds at a variety farm stores, tractor supply, country living etc etc. We elected to order from Murray MacMurray Hatchery. They have a guide to help selecting a variety you will like. We went with Jumbo Cornish Cross Rock which is most common found in grocery stores from my understanding. Since Natalie is not a huge meat eater we wanted to keep it somewhat familiar. They do have a plethora of choices that you can choose from.

Doug

 

How did we get here?

When I was in ST. Louis I worked in a research lab. Every week in the summer we had a farmers market downstairs. I LOVED doing my grocery shopping downstairs. I had a CSA I was a member of. There was a guy who sold the best Yogurt. FYI the best yogurt is windcrest dairy out of Trenton Illinois. Yea I am biased because it is soooooo good. Great people as well. Anyway. I would get enough yogurt for a week and my csa and had no need to really go to the grocery store. I would go to Soulard or my own small garden on occasion if I needed something more but most of my needs were covered.

Then we moved to Iowa. The land of farms with no food to eat. It was amazing how spoiled I had become. You never even think about it. Just go to the grocery store and pick up something which is trucked in from elsewhere. We did not have space to start with but the town we lived in had Community Garden space. You could really rent a plot for the season and it was cheap like $35 for a 20×50 plot. Now think about how much you could grow on something that size? You do not have that space or a community plot near? While we never used this service I did come close two seasons but one we were traveling a lot that summer and the second I was just to “busy”. In reality I did not want to bother with it cause I was still pouting about not having my CSA and Soulard and home garden.

Aerogardens are a good alternative. We bought one for our apt. We could produce about 2 salads a week using all the pods. That was not so bad and to have super fresh salads was awesome. I am not a huge iceburg lettuce fan so the aerogarden was a pretty good option. The down side was the lights were on for 17 hrs and while LED so little energy used it was bit of a light pollution issue in our kitchen at 3 am and bright as day in there.

So we bought our 5 acres. You can see the plot on a previous post. So we started a small 50×100 garden our first year. The sweet corn was pancaked by winds. We did get some but it was all laying down. Our squash did awesome. We had butternut, spaghetti, pie pumpkins, zucchini, summer squash. Our tomatoes did well enough to enjoy and even can some sauce.

The second season our squash did well again but trying a new technique we had significantly reduced yields. Our tomato produced okay but the green house gravel issue reduced those yields and pests got all of our corn. We did get black beans, garlic, potato, and wheat. We have expanded each year with the hopes to eventually provide our own food and sell at market the overage.  We have also begun looking at the legal aspect of farm production for sale. Including training on FSMA (Food Saftey Modernization Act).  Slowly we are meeting fellow producers and learning the market streams and how it all works. We have attended several conferences that I will post about in the future.

In a nut shell that is how we got here.

Wheat

Wheat is often demonized in our current culture because it contains gluten. This protein interacts in numerous ways and causes some people some serious illness. Some people think they are allergic but not really and some think that removing it helps you to loose weight. Current culture is built upon the need for grain. We use it such things has beer, bread, flour, cereal, chemicals, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals the list goes on and on and on.  We have it as a part of our national anthem. What did you think amber waves of grain referred to?  This post will be about none of that. Okay maybe a bit about the waving grain. This is about growing and processing wheat. We have grown winter wheat 2 seasons now. The first was a lot of work and a lot of fun. The second is ongoing and is looking fine. We will see when it starts to grow in the spring.

So what is winter wheat? Simply put it is wheat that is planted in the fall allowed to grow (establish roots) then is dies back in the winter. There is a window of planting and if your winter is too cold it will be winter killed. If it is too dry it will die and if there are too many birds you will not get any thing out. To combat this last one many farmers use what is called a seed drill to plant their wheat. We broadcast  seed it by hand. Cause it is fun and drills are expensive and well we are a bit frugal at Sifs Harvest. Did I mention it is fun?

Now the winter wheat is planted. You wait. you can irrigate of course but why worry about it. It is a grass and unless it is really dry ( we have averaged about .25 to.5 inches of rain per week and the ground is thawing now and is significantly water logged no need to worry about lack of moisture. If all goes well you get something like this below.

In the spring right before it turns brown and ripe you can imagine how that would appeal to someone writing about the greatness of our country right? I mean corn and beans are chumps when it comes to waving in the wind. Yea take that corn and beans.

ANYWAY….. Where was I? Right, WHEAT! It is kind of mesmerizing. The above is not even close to how gorgeous it will become. Sort of like that person you meet is kind of attractive but the more you get to know them they get more and more attractive. That is wheat.

So your wheat is turning straw colored and you have checked for dryness and have decided that it is time to harvest it.You have options oh yes you do. You can DIY a hedge trimmer and cut your stalks and bundle them. You can get a Scythe and cut your stalks and bundle them. You can pull them out by hand and bundle them. You can even use machines to do all the work but on small scale it might not be worth it. I use a Scythe. I will be putting another blog together on the scythe in the future so stay tuned.

So you have the wheat cut and shocks made (bundles of cut wheat are called shocks). What now? well you have options again. You could take the shocks and smack them on the inside of a clean bucket. You could also put them in a pillow case and smack them on the ground. You can cut off the berries and use a DIY thresher.

DIY Thresher Video

If you have small enough scale and if you have time you can do the DIY thresher and it will work pretty good. Just remember to winnow it well. (blow chaff away from seed). You can also use food processors and the like. However if you have more wheat then time and you can cut it and store it relatively easy. You can keep it whole and use a small scale threshing machine. Remember to save your wheat stalks for straw. We use ours for fire starting and for mulching the garlic. Which will be coming as well.

Back to land store Wheat thresher

Tube video of it in action

This makes threshing so much easier. You can order similar from over seas but with import tax and with shipping and timing you will spend about the same and this is foot powered. It can be modified if you have the know how to run with a motor but for what we paid I can honestly say this cut the work significantly.

So  now you have threshed wheat berries. You simply pass them through an air current a fan of wind outside. The chaff and debris is lighter then the seed and they blow away the seed drops down and you have purified your mix. You may need to do it a couple of time.

What now? well you can use that wheat to make your own wheat sprouts. You can grind them in flour. You can even use them whole in soups and what not. We grind ours into flour using the kitchen aide. If we were doing any larger amounts I would get a grain mill.

Now you have flour and you can rule the world! At the very least make tasty bread. Winter wheat has a higher gluten content you can grow spring wheat varieties and then mill it finely for a more pastry flour type.

Now something cute that happened in our wheat field last year. It really is amazing on the uses for wheat. I never suspected that it was a resource for birds to nest in. Just as a reminder food is food and if you can eat it so can they or make their home in your food.20170625_135534

Doug

Green house Build

We have decided we can use a green house. We also have looked at various types and thought about what works best for our area, our budget and our experince level. The end result is a small greenhouse that we can build relatively cheap. We can use it to produce some t hings for market but also the more important is that we can use it to learn how to work in a green house and what sorts of things are important. Eventually we will be looking at a very large greenhouse for year round production of various types so we need to understand the systems in a way that can only be done by working with them.anna

The source for our green house.  The Plans include supply list.

There are many things that we liked about this green house. You can see that it has sturdy wood construction. We knew we could build it with a couple of people in a weekend. We also knew that it was low cost and that we can adapt it to suit our needs. One of the changes that we did was install anchors, a second door, removed the metal skirt and replaced with clear plastic, added two vents and insulated the gaps.

We decided that we absolutely had to make sure this was adequately anchored. We built anchors that were inexpensive and durable. We made them with J bolts, concrete and cinder blocks.

As you can see this created a block that was weighed down and secured with concrete but also attachable to the sill plate for the structure. This would also actually raise the structure off the ground and reduce the need for pressure treated or cedar lumber thus reducing costs again.

These blocks were then placed into pre dug holes. There are many lessons learned. If you have tough soil use a auger to drill the holes with a shovel to finalize it. It really did make a huge amount of difference in our ability to dig the holes we needed.

The anchoring of the structure is crucial but also leveling at this point. We wanted to make sure that we were square and level to help long term with the building process. We also decided to use some assembly line ideas and mass produce sections when we could.

 

Now the basic structure is coming together and the ribs are assembled.

Once you have the items assembled it goes together relatively quick. As with most construction projects when you place the plastic panels on the structure it really starts to have a rigidity to it. One of the changes we made was auto vents that were boxed out between the ribs and a automatic vent opener was attached. We also added store bought screen doors that made installing doors much easier.

The above image is of the completed greenhouse with plastic wrapped compost ready for planting. The second image is after we realized that we had a hard gravel pack 2-3 inches below the surface I manually removed the dirt screened it and placed the rocks around the perimeter. We also have learned the the vent needs something to keep it from being ripped open during a wind event.

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The finished product. We grew a tomato and peppers last season in it. The gravel caused so many problems that is why I dug it up and removed them. We also had some pest issues which placing the gravel around the outside perimeter should fix. We did not have issues with lack of pollination but were prepared to pollinate by hand.

Hope this was helpful

Doug

Site Selection for green houses

Green houses/ hoop houses are becoming more and more common. You can even qualify for grants to help purchase a hoop house from the government. You have to check with your local NRCS contact EQUIP program and your local extension. I am going to focus on why we chose to build one. Why we chose to build it the way we did and some of the issues we have discovered. In the first year.

To begin with we looked at where we live (south eastern Iowa) so we can have pretty cold and windy conditions. On average we are around a 4 with gusts in the 6/7 range. This would preclude us from being interested in anything that was not anchored well. This would also cause us to consider not having a large vertical face.

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As you can see below we have a .25 mile lane and lots of open spaces around our little oasis. The openness allows for a great unobstructed growing day. However the lack of wind protection is a concern not only for the green house but for growing and living spaces in general. Being surrounded by mono culture crop land we thought may actually increase pest pressure in a PORT affect. Whereby our space can provide habitat for pests that is not available in the surrounding area which could affect our plants both in and outside of the green house.

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Do you need a green house to grow veggies and other produce in our area? The answer is a resounding NO! But, you can grow more longer and higher yields with a protected environment. Elliot Coleman has shown that with appropriate planning you can grow 4 seasons in Maine. Which is further north then we are. As a matter of fact you should take a moment and look at your latitude. We are at 41.3 degrees which is at the same level as Spain, turkey, Greece, Italy (Sardinia) to name a couple. Wiki 41st Parallel Which all have a history of long growing seasons. So without adding lights we can count on being able to produce year round. The concern becomes temperature. We can expect significant more cold then Sardinia for example. However that can be negated with both heated and unheated green houses without additional lighting.

Knowing that we are cold enough to have concerns for year round growing and knowing that we need to be concerned about the materials and shape of any growing structure we utilize. So what are the options for green houses?

The first is a very commonly found at your big box stores. It is made of thin plastic or metal. The panels are  thin and prone to breaking. It is not anchored to the ground. Nor will it hold up to any sort of long term usage you will have minor damage after the first year of regular use in our environment.

The second is a basic hoop house. It most likely has dirt floors and this version does not look to have roll up sides or direct ventilation. Dirt floors are useful for growing a larger variety of produce. Concrete floors allow you to manage weeds and pests easier. It allows for a cleaner work area and with the addition of tables may make for a more ergonomic growing. The main downside to concrete floors is increased costs and increased reliance on artificial media to grow in. NRCS does not allow (as far as I have found) concrete floors in our area you must grow in or on the bare ground. The roof is rounded which helps with shedding rain water but could be problematic in a heavy snow event.

The third is a commercial hoop house. This has roll up sides that allow for more ventilation. A Cathedral roof allows for more snow shedding then a more rounded shape. The floors may or may not be dirt and the structure can be heated or not. This size would allow 4 seasons of production on a market scale.

The forth is a fully commercial greenhouse and as you can see is actually multiple smaller structures joined together. It is most certainly heated and is more certainly concrete floors. The cost of the structure would require it to be built and utilized year round producing high value products that can be grown in various media and technologies think Hydroponic tomato or lettuce.

The fifth is a geodesic dome. Most commercial and hobbyist stay away from it for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is the wasted space. There is a lot of vertical space that cannot be used unless you are growing something like trees. The roundness also prohibits you from “stacking” the structures as you can see in number 4. They are efficient in energy usage and resource allocation.

The sixth is a walpini which is what I consider the artisan greenhouse. These are site specific as if you are not careful you can shade your growing area out for most of the year if you are to far north. They have a high thermal mass being most buried and therefore are extremely energy efficient. They are not for the hobbyist as they are labor intensive to construct.

I added the last two so you can see that there are many options to choose from when you picking what you need. So we know that we need something that can be anchored. We want to grow in ground of the cost savings and the ease of technologies for dirt working. We also want it to be structurally robust so no film we want clearn panels. So we decided to take a modify a design similar to the 1st one.

The next blog will show you what we did and describe why we did some of the things we did. Till then…

Doug