Tim Malacarne

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since Feb 06, 2012
South central Illinois, USA
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Recent posts by Tim Malacarne

We have a pit-style greenhouse or solar growhole... 8' X 16' on the inside, concrete walls 8" thick. Earth beds. We have found that lack of bottom heat severely limits what will grow in winter, even cool season crops. Without bottom heat, you can "hold" a crop, but you can't grow one. I bought a soil thermometer and measured soil temperatures. On a sunny winter day, snow on the ground maybe, it could easily be 70F in the greenhouse, but the soil temperature was around 40F, not enough for growth. Imagine sitting out there the top of you at 75F and from the waist down you are in ice water. You wouldn't grow either!

We have a workshop with a wood-fired stove. I rigged an old cast iron radiator in there and with buried insulated pipe, can pump warm water out to pipes laid in the greenhouse beds. Most days I fire the stove and the circulating water gets to 70F. That seems to be enough for plant growth out in the greenhouse.

We grow, so far, spinach, radishes, and different kinds of lettuce. This system is NOT cost-effective, but we like it. Good luck!
2 years ago
Nice work! We built a sort of earth-sheltered or pit coldframe. I found that, although it would heat up very nicely during a sunny day, the soil temperature was too low for the plants to really grow. It only held them, you might say. If it was sunny and 20 degrees (F) outside, it could still be 70 degrees (F) inside, but the cold soil was maybe 35 (F) and would rise a bit, but not enough for our lettuce, spinach, and radishes to grow. I have spent the last year building a system to add bottom heat, which I believe has got to help a lot. Welcome and good luck to you!
3 years ago
I bought a Komatsu D-21 Q6 on a farm equipment auction. Woulda been a better deal, but it had a frozen bearing in the steering clutches that, after about an hour of operation, left it pulling on just one track. A trip to the local dealer and me crossing his palm with a LOT of silver, yielded a decent machine, IMO, albeit more expensive that I'd of preferred. The stuff on auction sells, as-is/where-is and let the buyer beware... Even so, a person has to be half a mechanic otherwise the maintenance will eat you up... Just my 2 cents, good digging!
3 years ago
Sometimes, when the pile is dry and there's rain forecast, I'll arrange the pile to collect and hold water, otherwise it's best to shed water, although rain water really makes it cook! Good luck!
3 years ago
Steel pipe or plastic? Diameter?

I think I'd tie a rock on a string, see how deep.

I'm thinking a developed seep or spring.

Maybe trying pumping it with a submersible pump?
3 years ago
Re: bird poop on roof... I think there are fairly clever but simple methods to let a certain amount of water "wash" the roof, then after that it's diverted to your cistern.
3 years ago
I sowed a plot with winter wheat last Fall, even though I was afraid that when Spring came, the soil would be too wet for tilling, and the stuff would get out-of-hand. Imagine my surprise when, this Spring, it was far too wet to till and the stuff went wild, grew like weeds, and I had to work my tail off to get it cut and turned under. No more winter wheat for me, thanks...

I wonder if you grow anything over winter to eat? We have a type of Winter Lettuce, it's a heritage breed, breeds true, delicious and survives over winter, grows first in Spring. Oh, and we winter-over Bloomsdale spinach too. Sow now, work in lots of compost first, and sow on a hill you rake up. The more OM you can work in and the higher the hill, the better. Works very well, even in a cold winter... Good luck!
3 years ago

We're quite a bit further south, but we have a pit greenhouse along the lines of what you're proposing... I have found that in winter, it gets plenty warm in the greenhouse as far as air temperature, but the temperature in the soil beds hovers near freezing. It will climb through the day, though. I have insulated the beds recently, and added some PVC piping, so as to provide some bottom heat. My understanding is that we have enough light in winter to grow cool season crops, but not enough heat down in the root zone. My best advice would be for you to start small and take careful measurements of both air and soil temperatures. Our greenhouse will "hold" a crop in cold weather, but there's not much actual growing going on. Best of luck to you!
3 years ago

Dale you're missing out... Need to run some text with that photo. "I was cue ball bald until I started using fryer oil in my saw... Look at me now!"

Sorry.... Couldn't stop myself. I have an old Tecumseh engine original equipment on a Troy-Bilt tiller, well over 40 years old, really smokes and uses oil, I run canola oil in there about 50/50 with SAE 30. Sure smells good! Your used fry oil would work too. I bet the bio-diesel crowd has big filters a person could use... Been using canola in the saws too. Both saws are old, I don't think the canola hurts them.
3 years ago
One way enhance your garden is to plant stuff that can winter-over. I have some Winter Lettuce, it will die back and look awful over the winter, then sprout out in Spring, from the old stump. Dangedest thing you ever saw! Pretty red edges when it gets cold and matures...

Bloomsdale Long-Standing spinach same deal.

Start both about mid-August, let them grow a bit, take a few leaves mebbe, but leave undisturbed for winter. It'll sprout and grow real early.

Good luck!