Friday, May 23, 2008
The tomatoes in the hoop house are doing brilliantly. I have to chalk that up to good soil - properly balanced, and irrigation. Tomatoes are heavy feeders and they need a lot of calcium. Having the proper calcium balance in the soil makes a host of micro and macro nutrients available to your plants and goes a long way toward suppressing disease and pest problems. That was the first step in building the greenhouse beds. Compost was step two. It's GREAT! Irrigation was the third step. Tomatoes that don't get enough water tend to have more problems with pests, fruit cracking, and other annoying things. The first two things are easy. Get your soil tested (I like testing facilities that use the Albrecht method. You can find more info and some testing facilities through Acres or ATTRA), supplement as needed, and use lots of compost. The third thing, irrigation, seems to be a challenge in most small scale greenhouses. This year I am using clay drainage pipes, plugged on one end and kept full of water, as my irrigation. The capillary action in the soil draws water from the pipe as the soil moisture declines. This way the plants get all the water they need, the soil never gets over saturated, and I don't have to be in there guessing every day. So far the system has worked very well. We'll see how it does as the temp goes up, but so far I am only having to top up the pipes every other day. I am already designing a linked system with a float valve and a 100 gallon feeder tank that will need very little daily maintenance. I'll post drawings and pictures as that part of the system developed.