January 30, 2013

Wintergreens has a new look!

In the past few days I've been changing the way the wintergreens blog looks.  I took a screen shot below for those of you who get updates in your email.  Let me know what you think, or if there is something missing you would like to see!
Thanks ~ Claire

January 28, 2013

What I'm eating today ~ 1/28

Winter is all about eating lots of soup.  Especially when you constantly feel like you might be getting sick.  Most soups benefit from a few leafy greens.  I add a chopped handful (or two) in just a few minutes before serving so they have time to cook, but are still vibrant green.  Above is chicken soup with spinach, but nearly anything would work.  Tat soi, pak choi, vitamin green, swiss chard, or kale would be especially good.

January 25, 2013

First seedlings of the new year

It is a happy day when seeds start to sprout.  I planted these just ten days ago!  I don't know what the brassicas above are, then are labeled "bottom of the box" because I found them at the bottom of my seed box.  They might be tokyo bekana.

Defender lettuce is starting to sprout too, but only in the warmer greenhouse. 

January 23, 2013

Post freezing temperature

What happens to mizuna when it's exposed to below freezing temperatures? Not all of it survives.

January 22, 2013

Two very cold greenhouses

Last Friday I went to check on the greens and see if they needed to be watered.  In the winter they don't need much water, so I don't go in as often.  When I went in the greens looked wilty - wilty? Even though it was below freezing outside?  Closer inspection showed the media was frozen on top and the greens were not wilted, but frozen.  Here's what happened in a temperature timeline:

January 20, 2013

New spinach variety

Source: Johnny's Seeds

I chose organic Corvair spinach to replace Space as the primary spinach variety for measuring growth rate.  See if you can guess why based on the High Mowing description:

"High level of downy mildew resistance. Smooth, oval leaves are medium to dark-green and upright for easy harvesting by hand or harvester. High yield potential and widely adapted for spring or fall productions." 

How many races of downy mildew is it resistant to? 11! Hopefully won't have to worry about downy mildew this year.  I also have some other varieties to try out including, emu and red cardinal.

January 18, 2013

Fall fuel use

While sifting through all the growth rate data I collected last fall, one thing I'm looking at is fuel use, and if using more fuel to speed up growth rate is cost effective. 

The greenhouses are heated by a furnace that blows hot air out (left).  They have a meter on them (right) that shows how many hours the blower has actually been blowing air out.  I record the number twice a week.  Since the meter is continuous I adjust the numbers to reflect the number of hours it was on for my particular experiment.  Oh-so-conveniently, the furnace uses one gallon of fuel every hour, so I also convert "hours" to "gallons."

The above chart shows total fuel use in each greenhouse.  Greenhouse one is heated to a 40 degree (F) minima and greenhouse two is heated to a 50 degree minima.  This doesn't mean that each greenhouse is at a constant temperature, it means the temperature will not fall below the given set point.  You can see this created a big difference in how much fuel was used. 

Since 'gallons of fuel' is a bit arbitrary to the non-greenhouse owner, lets attach monetary values (everyone understands dollar signs). So,

Greenhouse 1: 108gal x 3$/gal = $324
Greenhouse 2: 264gal x 3$/gal = $792

That is a big difference!  But is it economically worth it to heat the greenhouse to a higher temperature?  Will that make greens grow faster?  Or is it just throwing money down the drain?   That's what I'm working on figuring out (but haven't done so yet!).

* As usual, this data pertains only to our greenhouses this fall.  It is not complete and should not be used elsewhere.  If you are looking for data pertaining to winter greens growth, fuel use and temperature you'll just have to wait until I'm done with my thesis! *

January 16, 2013

Spring planning

Under a layer of snow everything seems to be sleeping, even the greenhouses. Inside I've seeded the new years first planting of lettuce and mizuna. Cold winter temperatures mean it won't be ready to harvest for at least a month - maybe longer. Until then I'm busy planning and writing.

January 11, 2013

How to analyze growth rate

I know you are agog with curiosity wondering how I am using the quadratic equation.  By using it I feel like I am fulfilling every math teachers dream.  This post will be a bit math heavy - just think of it as a way to ward off dementia.  Plus, this is the whole point of what I am doing, so it's pretty important.
First, the data I'm using is from mizuna planted on September 18th.  Second, remember that I measure growth rate by measuring leaf length of the greens twice a week.  The above chart shows those measures condensed over time.  Each vertical line of dots is one day.  You can see what a range of leaf lengths there are in plants sown on the same day and that as leaf length increases with time.
 To clarify that plants grow I added a linear trendline (in red).  Every line is described by an equation.  So, this line is described as:  Leaf length (cm) = -4.02 + 0.64*DAS.  It's nice and neat, and if only I could just stay here.
But, no, it's time to add a quadratic curve (in green). Quadratic equations are curvy, which is why the equations describing them are more complex and involve squared values.  See: 
Leaf length (cm) = -3.41 + 0.64*DAS - 0.02*(DAS-21.49)2

 The quadratic line fits the data better than the linear line (just trust me), so that's what I should use.
Finally, we've gotten to the point - how to use these equations!  (If you've made it this far I commend you.)  I've determined that the best size for baby salad greens is between 6 and 12 cm (purple dotted lines on the chart above).  Using the linear and quadratic equations I can figure out how many days it takes for mizuna to reach these sizes.  Just looking at the chart, it takes mizuna about 16 days to reach 6cm and about 24 days for it to reach 12cm.  I'd say that is enough for a Friday morning right?  

January 9, 2013

The herb garden

 Left over herbs from last fall have sweetened dramatically with the cold weather.  Have you ever had sweet cilantro?  I hadn't until yesterday.  It still tastes like cilantro, but is not sharp.  The dill is fresh tasting, like freshly cut grass or clean laundry.

Remember the low tunnels from last year?  I won't be looking at germination again this year, but I've set one up to jump start germination and growth of greens.  Despite the low temperatures, the greenhouses are warm - as long as the sun is out.  

January 7, 2013

What I'm eating today ~ 1/7

Last week I commented on not knowing what to do without any salad greens in the house.  In truth, we have bags of frozen spinach that were harvested before downy mildew took over and are not totally bereft of green things to eat.  I've also watered the nearly-dried-out greens that were left to fend for themselves in the greenhouses during Christmas break.  So, soon I'll be back in business.

In the meantime, I'm wrestling with the quadratic equation.  If you haven't thought about this since high school (like me!) it looks like this:  Ax2 + Bx + C = Y  or this:   X = (-B +/- √(-B – 4AC)) /(2A).  I'm using it to look at all the growth rate data from the fall.  So far it's a bit headache-inducing, but makes me glad I've hung onto my TI-83.  (For anyone older than me I think you used slide rules to do algebra?  Wikipedia describes slide rules as 'mechanical analog computers,' which sounds like a term that would get you shoved into a locker). 

January 4, 2013

What I learned this week

1. According to nationofchange.org:
"The nutritional value of foods is at risk, with the amount of nutrients found in fruits and vegetables having diminished greatly over the years. One apple today may carry half the amount of nutrients as an apple produced 50 years ago."
2.  Obesity is the most common reason for ineligibility to join the army.

3.  We don't have any salad greens, and I don't know what to do.

4.  Kyoto is a brassica offered through Johnny's that is: "Similar to standard mizuna, but the attractive, finely-divided leaves are bulkier and less deeply cut."  Sounds good to me!

January 2, 2013

New Years

Happy new years!  For the next few weeks the greenhouses are empty of greens.  (For those of you in New England you'll notice the picture below definitely was not taken this week!  I cleaned out the greenhouses before Christmas.)  I'll start planting again mid-January.  In the meantime I am moving numbers around, analyzing them and planning for the upcoming season.  The big question is what variety of spinach should I use to avoid downy mildew?