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Saturday, January 3, 2009

In Pursuit of a Greener Greenhouse

I am determined to have an off-the-grid ecological sound greenhouse. My friends in the horticulture industry tell me it can't be done. They are right to a large degree; the output from my endeavor will never match the yields they get with their full-powered pest-free hot houses. Lucky for me I am not trying to support a family or a business. Yet.

There are commercial growers out there that are trying to change the equation. Many use non toxic methods to control pests. Some use solar energy to power fans, hot water to heat benches, even oil or wood burners to heat air. I take my inspiration from them.

My greenhouse is a cobbled together affair. I’ve successfully pieced it together after salvaging it from my cousin’s property. There have been many times where I had to fabricate solutions in order to get it erected. It’s been a good problem solving exercise. I’m not too proud to admit that the neighbors got an earful on those occasions where things weren’t falling into place. Luckily young children don’t live near.

Today I took the first step toward my greener greenhouse, I installed louver openers. I know, kind of anticlimactic, but let me tell you the features of my 1st solar powered endeavor. I got it from Charley’s Greenhouse & Garden. Charley’s is a local company, well, what passes for local in the Northwest – they are in Mount Vernon, Washington. For years I have spent hours pouring over their catalog and now stalk them on-line. I saw the Sesam Liberty Louver Openers appear a few years ago and considered buying them to operate cold-frame lids. They are made in Denmark. The trick to them is a slender black canister that is filled with wax. When the wax heats it moves a piston that pushes the louvers open. It is supposed to open at temperatures ranging from 60° F to 77°. They suggest you buy the 5-blade louver window to go with it for $119. As you can see, I stuck with my rusty hand me down. The opener is designed for side mounted operation. Of course, my louvers have center mounted mechanisms. Once again I had to find a solution. A trip to Jerry’s hardware in Springfield yielded a threaded bar, some locking washers and properly fitting nuts. Hopefully it will work. It’s a sunny day out today. Maybe it will get hot enough for some action! Isn’t that all a girl really wishes for anyway?

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