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Greenhouse irrigation

13-Jul-2016

My greenhouse has slabs on the floor, so I grow in pots. The larger the pots- the better, but they still need frequent watering. In the middle of summer this can be more frequent that I have time to do! Add in the times we end up in hospital with no notice for a few days at a time- and the plants could quite easily get fried!

So I put in an irrigation system, this consists of a water butt with a battery operated timer on is that opens a solenoid to water to drip-waterers. It is just a timer- so no moisture checking- it will water whether the plants need watering or not. Also no notice if the water butt runs dry or anything.

I use 4mm micro irrigation pipe (someone gave me some tangled up old cheap irrigation kits that included this- it was brittle but dipping in hot water makes it pliable again), some adjustable drippers- some of my pots are higher than others and without adjustable drippers the lower pots would get the majority of the water.



I also use ollas- porous terracotta pots buried up to their neck in the soil that release water into the soil very slowly.



The water butt is filled manually- it isn't attached to a roof or anything for automatic filling when it rains. One day I may fix this- put the water butt is higher up than the greenhouse roof. At the moment I run a hose from my other rain-filled water cistern and manually fill the greenhouse water butt up every few months.

Since fitting this it hasn't stopped raining, so I haven't yet tested if it can withstand a sunny British Summer- I have proved that it can survive a standard summer!

Hydroponics

08-Jul-2016

Allegedly chillis grow very well as hydroponic plants. Hydroponics manufacturers would have you believe that everything grows better hydroponically, which I don't necessarily believe- but I have it on good authority that chillis quite like it.

My 'new' greenhouse is on slabs- with crops grown in pots on the south and west facing side. The other side is beside a fence, so rather dark. I've put up some greenhouse staging to raise the plants up so they stand a chance of getting some light once the tomatoes are fully grown, and set up hydroponics as these raised plants are now above the level my gravity-fed irrigation can handle.

Firstly there was no electricity at the greenhouse, however my Partner is an electrician- so that was easily fixed. I got some plastic boxes to hold the media- they're just old ikea storage boxes. Black or dark coloured boxes would probably have been better, but I was trying not to spend money. I used top-hat grommets and push-fit hose barbs to join the boxes together in a chain.

Drill a hole in the bottom of each box to be the water feed. Drill the holes slightly bigger than the minimum size needed for the top hat grommet, because the plastic is quite brittle and I didn't want it to break when I pushed the barbed fittings in.



Three of the boxes have T fittings, and one (the end one) has an elbow fitting. All the fittings are connected with semi flexible pipe.



I then drilled similar holes in the sides of the boxes near the top, as an overflow. Again three T fittings, and an elbow fitting for the end one.





Flip upside down and position on the greenhouse staging. I put my plants in clay pebbles, in net pots so they were easy to move around (in case this didn't work!).



To stop pebbles falling into the water inlet I used bits of pvc pipe with random holes drilled in. These are higher than the media bed depth, and just go over the inlet- held in place by the weight of the pebbles.

And to stop pebbles going into the overflow I glued tea strainers over the openings, as you can see they weren't quite as 'stainless steel' as they claimed and have rusted- maybe use plastic ones next time. The pebbles should go above the overflow- so the surface doesn't get wet, this is to discourage slugs and algae and things.



The system was connected up to my reservoir- which is a black 25L container on the floor of the greenhouse. My pump is a 12V submersible pump. Electricity was connected up- inside a waterproof box made of a tupperware tub and some cable glands). The pump is on a timer and comes on 3 times a day for 4 minutes- enough to floor all the boxes up to the overflow. When turned off the boxes then drain.

Now.. nutrients... lots of companies sell lots of nutrients...I figure I'll just try using some seaweed extract I already have, or maybe compost tea. Having to buy nutrients in a bottle seems to miss the point a bit. They also seem incredibly complex- with different bottles required to initiate flowering and things.

Plants are growing fast!

Airfield Anarchy 2016, aka: I'm tired.

02-Jul-2016

My Partner got his back surgery last week! At very short notice, which was good as it meant he didn't have time to worry about it. All went well, and hopefully his condition will now improve.

Then I had a week of looking after him as he couldn't bend at all. I didn't realise how tiring being a carer could be! I'd make a useless nurse, I struggled to get his DVT socks on!

Then, after having been cooped up in the house for a week, I went out to Airfield Anarchy. This is a muddy obstacle course race that both me and the Mr signed up for a year ago, obviously he couldn't go- but he was well enough that I could go! On the Saturday me and some friends did a 5km obstacle course race, closely followed by a 10km one. Then, because I'm utterly mad, I drove all the way back on the Sunday to do the 10 mile one.

At the end of each race they gave you a coors light. I don't even like lager, but it is very refreshing in such a situation.


Obstacles involved Take-Off, a giant inflatable slide- which I managed all 3 times round!


The Dunker- ducking under telegraph poles in muddy water- the water is pretty foul, and after torrential rain on Saturday night the poles were submerged.


Muddy trenches.


And 'Boom'- a 150m urban warrier obstacles of walls (which I admit I didn't manage on the last go), monkey bars (which I tried- but fell off every time), cargo nets and a foam slide.


The event itself involved a music festival and camping- which I didn't have anything to do with- having to go home to look after the invalid. There was quite a few stalls, and some bands were apparently vaguely famous.

We signed up for this event immediately after the previous years event- in July 2015. At some point the terms and conditions changed to charge you for camping, and to charge you even more for caravans (it had all been included in 2015). Fine, the event was larger and they needed to cover more costs- but they never emailled and told us that they had changed the terms and conditions and costs after we had booked- we just got there and had to pay! Several parties refused and camped in the field next door! They'd emailled us plenty of times trying to sell merchandise- but didn't bother with a significant change in camping arrangements. And over email they admitted to changing the rules after we had booked!

Showers were completely inadequate. They were inadequate last year, and this year had twice as many runners- so it isn't as if they didn't know they would be completely overwhelmed. There were 8 showers per sex, so you had hour and a half queues to use a cold trickle of a shower. I 'showered' under a drinking water tap with a bucket, twice, no queue and more water pressure than the actual showers.

This years seemed a lot less charity-centered than 2015. Last year there were loads of ex-forces teams running, including Raymund Casson who did the 75K of the course in full body armour (edit: I've just found that he did 100K this year, I just didn't see him! Raymond Casson), and Team Legless. No sign of the RAF benevolent fund on the tshirts this year, but they did have a stall.

So the run was excellent- good obstacles, plenty of marshals. The medals were amazing:


And the tshirts pretty cool. I however won't be back next year- partly because I'm having a year off racing to take up a hobby with the Patient- and partly because the response to them changing the t&c's was abysmal. I would recommend the race though!

I ache somewhat today.