Sunday, January 4, 2015

Greenhouse 2014 - Wrap-up post for the year

Happy New Year!

The greenhouse  and aquaponic system were the dominating projects for my house this year, so I thought I would do a recap of the things I did and the lessons learned.
At the beginning of 2014 the greenhouse looked like this..
No roof - no solar - no fish - no plants


Lesson #1 - Catfish may be "tough" but they are also sensitive!
I found a great local supplier of all sorts of fish and bought 2 groups of 25 catfish for my tank. Unfortunately the first group died in 1 week due to being overfed and the water not having enough oxygen.
The 2nd group died in 24 hours because the tank water level got too high and they all jumped out.... mass suicide. 
I couldn't face going back to the fish farm for the rest of the year so I just bought a bunch of cheap goldfish who are now 5 to 6 inches long and super fat! I will try again early in 2015 with edible fish.
Goldfish I paid 25 cents a piece for are doing great!
Lesson #2 - Solar is harder than you think it will be or should be!
My solar kit that I bought from Amazon works really well, it is just that putting it all together with the batteries and the inverter and the timers and the pump and the airpump is a lot more difficult than you think.
I started off with 1 battery and a small inverter to power everything but that quickly got to 6 batteries because the storage overnight wasn't lasting long enough.Then the first inverter blew up and I to get another one. The 2nd inverter was much bigger but stopped working a couple of months ago.The whole thing is plugged into my house electricity via a long extension cable which is not what I want!
Turns out - the solar panel was the easiest part of the solar system!
Lesson # 3 - Building materials need to stand up to the climate
I spent so much money on the framing and solar system that I didn't have much left for the material to cover the house. Thankfully, I still had the thick plastic sheeting we used when we tried to build the hoop house. (The hoop house experiment was my first try at a greenhouse. Nick built it for me but it was too light for the winds that come up the hill.)
The plastic sheeting is great but it really didn't stand up to the intense sun and heat and wind.
Early in the year... it was fine as you can see from this shot in April.
April - all plastic in place on the roof and sides.
But by mid-summer the intense heat started to take it's toll on the plastic.
Tear in the roof plastic
So then when the stapling failed I used the blue tarps to cover the roof...do pretty much redneck roofing... 
Blue tarps covered the roof
Eventually, Dad and I were able to get the roof put up with a polycarbonate panel that worked really good.

Lesson #4 - Plants love this stuff! (Well almost all plants..)
I just lost the tomato plant last week when the first freeze hit on Dec 29th. I have kale and lettuce growing in there now, but with a lot less plants than during the summer because the fish don't eat as much when it is cold.
The leafy greens did fantastic, but the vining plants like melons or squash really didn't do anything. Since it was a drought and I had so many restrictions the only plants I grew this year were in the greenhouse and they did well. Although I think my first head of lettuce cost about $800....
Here are some late season plants... I mean bell peppers for Christmas are kind of amazing!



Next up for the greenhouse is to finish the sides with poly-carbonate and a door to replace the front ... and find someone to help with the solar!

Storm damage..

All in all, this has been a great project and I really will be using it this new year. I will try again with catfish and maybe a larger tank and try to find someone who can help with this solar issue...

Happy New Year!

Julie