Below is the story of the old greenhouse, it worked OK for a few years but it's better now, I'll get some new pic up soon. 1/24/10
Here are a couple pics of our circa 1920 garage-cum-greenhouse in it's original configuration
Below is the power set-up. The idea was to bring all the power for the farm into here so at some future time PV and the associated equpment, backup generator, transfer switches, batteries and such would all be in one place.
The pilot light switch is for power to the actual greenhouse section and the GFI as well. The pilot light has saved my seedlings a couple times when the gfi tripped from either stray line voltage or a passing short. You can get an extension cord with a gfi as well...
If you look hard you can also see that I have started building out the wall the equipment is hung on - that is the North wall and that little speck of wall has about R-40 insulation behind it.
This is the north half of the building looking west. When we were in CA, I did a lot of ornamental, small fruit and tree rooting and our greenhouse was as big as this whole building. At some point I'd like to replace the entire south roof with polycarbonate double ply and take that up again - but for now I just need a little space to start seedlings.
So this is the actual greenhouse portion. Only a 2-3ft path with the foil side of the rigid insulation facing south. there are 4 lamp sockets for general heat controlled by a line voltage t-stat in the old breaker box.
After the seeds get started and it warms some, I'll take the poly of the seed cabinet and fill all those racks.
And the seed cabinet, there is a heat mat under that pvc layer. I have a grid drawn on the pvc numbered and lettered A-E an 1-19. Each grid section fits one group of 20 - 3/4"soil blocks. The heat mat can fit 95 groups or 1,900 seeds in a 2x5ft area or some such. I can't fit (or use) that many 6-packs after they come out.
The full rows you can see are 3 x 5 x 20 seedlings each = 300 starts, plus the ones to the bottom left beside the 3 orange 6-pacs - the remainder of the tomatoes and peppers that were washed out. They have true leaves so I'll transplant them to 6-pacs next week after the big freeze that is coming tomorrow
Here I have a double deck bench setup built from treated 2x4s and chicken wire tops. As I mentioned above, a portion of the lower deck is sealed off and I have foam board on the benchtop, then a seed starting mat and then some of that vinyl paneling stuff on top of the mat. On the vinyl I drew a grid and labeled the squares a, b, c… 1, 2, 3… I use a little soil block maker (3/4”) and place one group of blocks in each square. Each square hold 20 soil blocks, there are 95 squares so in theory I could start almost 2,000 seeds.
The idea with soil blocks is they are supposed to Air-Prune themselves whereby the roots stop growing at the edge of the block so they don’t become root bound. That probably works in the larger soil blocks but not so well in the tiny size. However, the ability to quickly start a bunch of seed in a small thermostatically controlled space and virtually eliminate empty cells in the 6-packs is worthwhile.
Way back I bought a gross of 6-packs. I usually get 3 or 4 usings out of each one, except for what I sell. For larger and single plants to sell I use plastic drink cups with a hole drilled in the bottom 6 or 8 at a time. Also several neighbors save the containers they get from elsewhere. I like my tomatoes to have really long leggs so I can plant them a foot or more in the ground, for them I usually transplant them at least one more time so the don't get root-bound.
The mini-blind trick is also a good idea, I’ve used everything from ice-cream sticks to plexiglass scraps. Just be sure to use indelible ink, like a Sharpie.
I have used all kinds of soil mixes. Because the consistency of the soil block mix has to be just right to hold together I use the expensive store-bought stuff. Same goes for what I sell, the worst thing you could do is sell a pile of weed seeds along with your ‘maters!
Back in CA where the GH and gardens were my main hobby I did lots of rooting of shrubs, roses, grapes – you name it! I too enjoyed rooting rosemary and making little topiaries – lots of fun and cheap gifts besides! I also made a boxwood knot garden with over 150 plants – all from cuttings. Those dudes are like $6 each for a 1gal size! I experimented with all kinds of mixes from straight course sand to sand/pearilite to sand/pearlite/compost.
So anyway, typically I make a few soil blocks on the seed mat, place the seed, cover as req’d, and note the grid location (A/3, E/12, etc) and plant in a little notebook. In due time I transplant the soil block into a sixpack or cup and set it on the upper bench. If I did plant out the whole seed mat I would almost have enough room to transplant them to 6-packs.
Since we are still battling weeds big time, we have heavy woodchip mulch on the beds so I even started beans in the GH – of course not in soil blocks – just straight to 6-packs.
About now the GH starts getting unpredictable, it might be cloudy and then blazing and then rainy – all in one day. It is hard to keep things watered correctly. As well I only have the south wall and a portion of the roof open so summer sun isn’t very good. I hope to be able to get back into rooting as I have several small fruits and native fruit trees I want to propagate, I suppose I’ll have to do them in the open…