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P.O. Box 164
Carpio, N.D. 58725
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Marv's Blog
A "cool" greenhouse
Written by Marv Baker   
Friday, 11 November 2011

Shortly after the last blog entry was written, four new, 2000-gallon water bladders arrived and they were quickly installed in the greenhouse. I built an adapter for one of our irrigation pumps, hooked it up and it took all of about a half hour to fill those bladders once I got them situated in place.

That really isn't the point of this blog entry, however. It's only a starting point. The intrigue has come since that time.

I've been keeping daily logs of the temperature inside and out of the greenhouse. And yes, I can tell everyone in cyberspace that the passive-solar idea is working. I'm a little concerned though as it's going to get much colder in North Dakota before spring.

For instance, we have dropped to 18 degrees a couple of times at night but it hasn't froze inside the greenhouse. On those two nights, the temperature dropped to 33 degrees and stayed there. And typically as I'm gathering statistics, it remains about 10 degrees warmer under the top. That means when the temperature drops to 20 below zero, it's going to be quite cold in the greenhouse.

The idea here first is to see how long we can go into the year without artificial heat or light. And when you consider we had our first frost on 13 Sept., we are now two full months beyond that at no extra cost to the farm. Also in that consideration is the fact that I have tomatoes, okra, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, rutabagas and cucumbers growing at the present time.

The other key here is light, or the lack thereof. It doesn't take rocket science to notice that the growth of the plants has really slowed down. I was hoping to have some fresh cabbage for Thanksgiving but I'm not sure we're going to make it. The heads are really slow to form.

I think the most interesting thing I've noticed thus far is a tomato variety called Moskvich. Six plants took frost damage before I had the water bladders installed but because they contained unripe fruit, I didn't remove them from the greenhouse. It is now three weeks later, in waning sunlight, and those plants are producing ripe fruit. In fact, they are producing fruit. Yesterday when I checked for any frost, I noticed two new, green tomatoes. Moskvich is a very hardy tomato as the literature in the catalogs describe it.

It's inevitable that we will need artificial heat soon. Our plants are only experimental but each of those bladders costs $309 so if we lost one or more of them, it would be a big hit as we can expect at least one night of 36 below zero in this part of North Dakota each winter. 

Still, I'm encourged by what is happening. We're losing daylight and heat fast each day, but each day the plants continue to grow, albeit a slow growth. The short-term summary is that we can certainly extend our season two months now at no additional cost. 

Does that mean we can begin our season two months early, which would be March 1? I'm pretty confident we can.

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