Our new Cedar Alton Greenhouse – 2007


We have finally settled into our new house, and we have a brand new Alton greenhouse which we have used for the first time this season.

This being so I thought it was about time I told you a little about what we have done with the greenhouse, The greenhouse itself is 18 feet by 10 feet in size and contains a partition two thirds of the way in. This is so that we can attempt to keep the small section at the end heating during winter to hopefully carry on growing some plants.

While the rest of the greenhouse is used to over winter our other plants. I have currently removed the partition door to allow easy access to all areas of the greenhouse during summer.

The greenhouse took 3 of us approximately 1 and a half days to build, It all went suprisingly smoothly. Partly due to the well constructed Alton panels.

As you can see on the picture the greenhouse has 3 automatic opening vents, These were  an extra cost to have but save lots of time as you just set the temperature on the back and they automatically push the vents open and close when necessary without any intervention, They work by having a piston type mechanism with fluid which expands when the temperature increases therefore pushing the vent open. They even close automatically when the wind gets too much. (Not quite sure how they do this).

The greenhouse also contains 6 side vents which can be manually opened, Some thought has been put into the design of these as they can be opened from the outside which is great as I don’t need to interfere with the plants to open and shut these.

I have even got a system inside the house configured which tells me via speakers whether I need to open any of these vents in the morning. For more details about this check out my automation page.

To add to the natural ventilation I have installed two fans, One in each of the partitions. These are run most of the day as long as the temperature is not too low.

They also run sometimes during the night to make sure the air still moves during the night to avoid any mold or deseases which can occur on the plants due to stale air. These are controlled via a PC I have setup for automated things around my greenhouse and within our house.

You can also see in the photo the greenhouse lights I have installed.

I have also made up electrical outlets in each corner of the greenhouse, These are all weather proof ones which are ideal for the greenhouse environment. At each corner I have a timed connection available and constant power. This allows me to connect any pumps I require to run continuosly or timed for different types of Hydroponic configurations I might want to try.

My plan in this greenhouse is to have several permanent hydroponic systems and a little extra space for playing and designing other systems. I chosen to use Nutriculture systems as they are actually built not too far away from myself and also they quite often have good discounts available.

Currently I have two large NFT tanks setup in the main greenhouse partition, One is mostly going to be used for tomatoes and the other mostly for cucumbers. Although this year we have had too many cucumbers to cope with so I’ll probably be changing this next year.

The tanks themselves are Nutriculture GT901 gro tanks, Each of these are approximately 83 inches long and hold a tank volume of 80 Litres. As they are quite large they can stay running for quite a while before needing to be topped up.

The photo to the right shows the left hand GT901 tank at the start of the season, At the back you can see the electrical outlets and timer I am using. Also to the right of the picture you can see one of my aeroponic propagators, I will be putting more information about this propagator on the web site shortly.

These gro tanks come as a kit including pump etc to get going straight away, The pump has even been redesigned slightly to include an air intake, This allows you to add extra air/oxygen into the nutrient solution by simply adjusting a control attached to the pump.

As well as these two tanks I have setup 3 other tanks inside the hot partition, I am using these to grow various types of peppers including sweet ones, jalapenos and various types of chilli peppers.

Unfortunately I think I have planted too many plants inside each of the tanks this year as they are quite a bit overcrowded as you can see from the photo’s. Which doesn’t help to allow the Peppers to ripen.

The tanks which I am using here are all Nutriculture gro tanks again, The first one is an old 205 gro tank which I have been using since I started hydroponic growing and you can see it on my other previous web pages. I also have a small new GT205i gro tank and also a slightly larger GT424 tank.

The left hand side of the hot partition showing the GT205i, You can just see my old 205 gro tank on the bottom right.

The right hand side of the partition showing the slightly larget GT424 tank on the right and the old 205 gro tank on the left, The GT424 is growing a mix of chilli and jalapenos.

The final system which I have been playing with in the greenhouse is a self made NFT system which consists of 4 pieces of guttering which have a nutrient solution fed into them at the top which then feed back into the tank at the bottom to start the cycle again.

My intention was to fill the guttering with clay pebbles as a medium and then sit strawberry plants into this medium.

Unfortunately I was a little too careful not to place the crown of the plant deep into the medium and did not place the plants roots deep enough into the medium to allow the plants to soak up the nutrients.

This made the plants very week and during a spate of high temperature they pretty much died. I did manage to keep alive one plant though which I potted on and grew in a normal pot. I carried on using the system though to give a bit more space to a couple of my chilli pepper plants which quite happily grew on.

 All of these systems/tanks contain a float level switch which interfaces to a computer I have which notifies me about any tanks which are running out of nutrients.

Each tank also contains a float valve which automatically tops up the tanks with nutrient from a water butt I have outside the greenhouse,

This allows me to leave the system for a couple of weeks if I go on holiday.
The picture to the left shows the end of one of the tanks, At the top of the picture you can see the small float valve which is used to automatically topup the tank when the nutrient is low.

At the bottom of the picture you can see the level floating level switch fastened with a blue fastenener.

You can also see the extra pump adjuster on the left which is used to adjust the amount of air added to the nutrients through the pump.

The water butt itself is filled with Nutrients and also contains a level measurement device which I have made which allows me to look on my computer to see how much nutrients is left in the water butt to within a few gallons.

Notice all the pipes at the bottom for each of the different tanks.

Also at the top right you can see where I have fitted guttering to the greenhouse which allows any rainwater to be directed to either the water butt or to fill up a bog pond we have build at the bottom of the garden.

 

The doors and vents all have sensors which know when they are open or shut, These are connected to a PC so I can check to make sure the vents are opening and shutting at the correct temperature and also to see if I have left the door open. To see a live current status of the automation within the greenhouse check out my current status page.

I have 4 temperature sensors installed, Two in the hot partition and two in the cold partition. I also have two humidity sensors.

These allow me to monitor the temperature and adjust the fans etc. automatically, The status of all these sensors can be displayed on a small LCD unit which I have made which is fed from the PC and allows me to display anything I want inside the greenhouse.

It also has several keys available to adjust values etc. I’m still working on what I’m going to use this LCD unit for but at the moment it’s ideal for a quick view of the greenhouse temperatures and levels.

In previous years I have been fed up with the amount of stringing up and staking I have had to do during the season to handle the growth of the plants, This year I decided to make an effort to make this easier. I started by fastening metal bars to both sides of the greenhouse these have holes all the way down allowing me to string across wherever I felt like.

After several sections of twine breaking during the season and bringing large tomato plants to the ground I have now started using insulated wire cable for all the stringing so that it should never break.

From the beginning of the season I have been using things called Yo Yo – Plant Supports, these are nice little things which you hook around a plants stem and have the purpose of automatically recoiling when the plants start growing. I have found these to work well on small plants which have not grown too tall but when the plant is quite heavy they are too much for the Plant Supports.

What I have done at this stage is put a little cut in the Yo Yo Support reel and inserted a little bit of small cane.

This basically stops the support from rotating and then it can hold a lot of weight. Unfortunately then you do have to manually recoil the support each time the plant grows.

I have also purchased several of these supports from different companies and received different quality supports each time so it’s worth checking what they are like from the supplier first.

The yellow thing you can see hanging from the strings in one of the photo’s above is a sticky trap, The purpose of this is to attract insects such as whitefly and give you a quick indication of any impending insect infestations. For some reason this year we don’t appear to have had many insect pest problems apart from slugs.

I hope you enjoyed having a look around the greenhouse this year and get some ideas to try for yourself, I’ll end the tour with a few more photo’s taken during the season.

It’s like a jungle in there.

A weird type of Tomato I’m growing which actually consists of many small tomatoes which are fused into one.

One of the chilli plants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to check out my Inside Growing page to see how I have made an indoor flood and drain system for me to use on my windowsill, Or check out live greenhouse photos at the Live Photos section.

 

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One thought on “Our new Cedar Alton Greenhouse – 2007

  1. Pingback: The NFT (Nutrient Film Technology) Strawberry Tank | Paul's Hydroponic and NFT Growing blog

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