Greenhouse Update: Starting Seeds & Controlling Greenhouse Temperatures

Seed starting is underway on our little urban homestead!

We had a year's worth of toilet paper and paper towel tubes to work with.  We cut the toilet paper tubes in half, and the paper towel tubes into quarters.  Then, we lined them up in trays and filled each with dirt (we made our own soil this year by blending some topsoil with our compost).  Finally, we planted one seed in each tube, and watered.

We also had some seed starting trays and inserts left over from previous years that we used.  We hope to stick with using toilet paper tubes in the future, rather than the plastic inserts.  The toilet paper tubes can be planted right in the ground and will decay with time; whereas the plastic inserts will end up in the landfill.

In other news, my husband is still working on a solar method of heating the greenhouse during these cold spring nights.  For now, we are using a kerosene heater:

He is hoping to have another, cleaner, heating method in place soon.  Once he's got it together, I will of course share some photographs.

This time of year is tricky for us.  The nights are cold in central Wisconsin, with lows in the 30s.  During the day, it is finally in the 50s, however, and with the sun shining, it can get hot quickly inside the greenhouse.  Luckily, my husband came up with a clever, automatic louver that opens when it gets too hot:

And here is a photo of the louver from the inside:

You can also see the exhaust fan he installed.  This will also turn on when the temperature gets too high. 

In addition to the louver and exhaust fan, we have a couple other defenses to control the temperature.  We have 60% black shade cloth to cover the roof on very hot days.  In addition, a portion of the roof is on hinges so that it can be opened to improve air circulation inside.

So now, we will continue to water and monitor our little seedlings inside the greenhouse, while we begin to work up the soil in our garden outside.  The dirt is finally drying up enough to be turned, and our chickens are loving this!  We have been allowing them to forage in the garden, and they are doing an excellent job scratching up and loosening the dirt for us:

They are eating a lot of the worms, but there seems to be no shortage.  Adding compost to the garden every year really seems to have increased the amount of earth worms in our garden.  The hens are also enjoying eating the weeds that are sprouting, as well as the small, gritty rocks that help them to digest their food.

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