Dan Miano

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since Jan 29, 2017
Denver, CO
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Recent posts by Dan Miano

Kyle Neath wrote:Hey Dan! I think you picked a great forum. I also added it to the soil forum as that seems relevant too, I hope that helps.

As per your question, what you're dealing with sounds very similar to most suburban plots: growing on fill dirt. I've seen no end of successes in this context, so with enough effort and time I'm sure you can grow plenty of vegetables. If possible, I would suggest trying to save the topsoil from excavation and replacing the top layer with that topsoil. That would be the best of circumstances, but even if you can't there are many options. My personal suggestion would be to look into importing compost and mixing it into the top layer of the woofati (or just layering the compost on top too). Otherwise you can chase slower paths: growing cover crops, holding animals, compost/mushroom teas, etc. The goal will be to increase the organic matter and soil life in the bermed soil.

Thanks Kyle,

That’s very reassuring to hear others have had lots of success with this.  I read that roots typically don’t go deeper than 2 or 3 feet down so I was concerned how plants grow deeper. It sounds loke if I bring life and organic matter to the soil I should have success.
5 months ago

S Bengi wrote:As a general rule, I would just add
1) water management (water bucket/irrigation pipe/sump pump)
2) soil life (compost/worm tea/mushroom slurries)
3) carbon (compost/woodchip/straw)
4) mineral (rock dust/azomite/compost/etc)

But even if you didn't do any of those things your plants will still survive, but why just survive when you can thrive, you already did so much work already just complete the process.

Thanks for the advice.  I definitely want them to thrive so it sounds like I'll be breeding life into the Wofati ground soil!  I've been getting some experience making various compost teas and making soil mixes.  
5 months ago

I'm not sure if this is the correct place for this question since it pertains to soil fertility, so please let me know if I should move it.  

I may have an opportunity to construct an earth sheltered greenhouse on south facing sloped land (about 20-30 degrees) in the front range in Colorado at around 6000 ft elevation.  I'm curious how well vegetables will grow in soil that has been excavated down 4 or 5 feet.  I'm curious if anyone has experience growing in this condition.  Is it mostly/completely dependent on the soil composition and environment?  This is a new concept for me so I'm not even sure I know what questions to ask.

5 months ago

Joshua Parke wrote:
After I run it I empty the brew into a larger barrel and then fill the brewer with fresh water and use a brush to scrub the inside, then dump that into the barrel so I can get as much of the sediment out of it as possible.  I scrub it with a brush and fresh water after I finish with it, and run hydrogen peroxide in it as well just for good measure, but I don't fill it up all the way for the final scrub/cleaning.  And I don't use the hydrogen peroxide water with the finished compost tea.  The hydrogen peroxide will break down to water and oxygen, or something like that, so I'll use it to water with later.  I keep the air pump on until all the water is drained.

Joshua,  I love your brewer! I made one out of a 5 gallon water cooler tank but I'd like to modify it to add some of your brewer's designs.  I have a question on cleaning. So you clean after every use? Is there an issue leaving the sediment on the walls if the brewer is completely drained and dry? Is bad stuff growing?
11 months ago
The greenhouse is running nicely now that I have the Arduino functioning as the temp controller.  I need to open the door part way during the day to remove some heat.  In the morning when the temps are in the mid 20's F the greenhouse is in the mid to high 40s, so it is maintaining a decent temperature overnight.  I added some pepper plants and a basil plant from my indoor garden to see how plants like it in here.  The next step will be to add an electric actuator to the upper window, parts are on the way!

Does anybody have suggestions for a simple humidifier? It gets pretty dry inside during the day.  I'm not looking to connect to house plumbing, I'm thinking of something with a 5-10 gallon reservoir.
11 months ago

Mike Phillipps wrote:Sorry for the late comment.  
Dan, your math looks right.
My analysis is indicating that the water tank shouldn't be insulated because it's better to have the added thermal mass of the soil and groundwater if any.  

I was surprised to discover that thermal diffusion in still-water or wet soil is actually *lower* than dry soil!  So in theory having wet soil is better than dry soil because it actually *decreases* the rate at which heat diffuses away, although only if the water isn't flowing through the soil in the particular time-frame of interest.  

The soil temperature is pretty cold in the winter, so if I didn't insulate around the tanks I assumed I would lose a lot of heat to the soil. Water temps are going to be in the 80s and soil temp is between 30s and 40s in the winter.  Does that make sense?

I just made some progress on the temperature controller!  I wanted to control the system beyond just running it when the temperature goes above 85F or below 40F since the water temperature may get too warm to cool the greenhouse or too cold to heat it.  I assembled an Arduino Uno, 2 temperature sensors and a relay.

Currently the logic operates as follows:
Turn on air blower and water pump:  IF greenhouse temp >85F and (greenhouse temp - water temp) >15 degrees
Turn on air blower and water pump:  IF greenhouse temp <50F AND (water temp - greenhouse temp) < 15 degrees

The last thing to do would be to add an operation to open a vent or turn on an exhaust fan if the temps get too hot, maybe around 90F
1 year ago

Thanks for the info.  Sorry for taking so long, I've been pretty busy.  I just paid $2 per sq ft for 5mm solexx at a local garden store.  It is pretty costly if you're on a budget. I only used it on the upper section where I wanted to be able to cut it and also keep the window lightweight so it can be opened as a vent.  I was just at a Home and Garden show and spoke to a greenhouse builder who said he uses an Italian made triple wall polycarbonate that has a 2.5R value and 80% light transmission. I did not ask him how much it costs. His company is Heirluum Greenhouse, he said he has a website but I can't find it.

I just visited a friend's 12' diameter geodesic greenhouse the other day and was blown away! It's passive, I think 800 gallons. He has kale, strawberries and a few other veggies doing really well.  I like that the water tank is tall and doesn't take up much room.  I think it was $10k. Part of me is wishing I would have made a simple system like this but I'm way too far to turn back now.  I included a few pics.

I had friends over last weekend and made some significant progress on the greenhouse and getting it sealed up. We got the door installed and sealed, most of the interior panels on to cover the foam and installed the upper solexx vent window(screwed down until I need ventilation near summer) Without the system running I recorded temps on a partly sunny day at 36 outside/ 117 inside!  Yesterday I attempted to run the system and discovered 3 burst spots on the 180 degree bends on the heat exchanger.  I'm guessing I forgot to blow the water out of it and it froze and burst.  Obviously using water creates a problem here so I'm thinking about a solution. I really like using water because its cheap and if I have to empty the tanks I can just water my lawn with it.  I'm wondering if I can insulate the heat exchanger to protect it.  When the system is running it should never get below freezing inside but there's definitely a risk if the water pump or air blower fails.  

1 year ago
finished side walls and side glass windows. Purchased Solexx to make the upper glazing panels that will open with hinges.

1 year ago

Nick Kitchener wrote:I only just found this thread so this is possibly too late...

Did you run some math regarding thermal uptake of the water mass vs thermal loss of the greenhouse? It usually works out that you can't efficiently transfer enough heat from a hot greenhouse to the water during the day to completely offset the thermal loss by the greenhouse at night. Remember that not all days are cloudless...

What happens is that the system "runs down" to equilibrium over about a week or so. Here is a video explaining what goes on:


Thanks for the link. It's all going to come down to how the system is designed(insulation,size of thermal mass,etc.), the external temps and sun exposure, and the temps you are trying to achieve in the greenhouse.  I'm banking on Colorado's 300 days of sun to help it work. I agree, if we get numerous cloudy days in a row I'll probably need some backup heat.  I'm basing the design off of a very similar greenhouse by Russell Benoy, the link is in my original post.  He detailed his build and results with extreme detail.  
Also, if you factor in an insulating curtain over the glazing this reduces the heat loss dramatically. I posted some calculations on heat loss for my system with and without a curtain in this thread. I predict that without a curtain the temps will occasionally get down too low in the winter, but with a curtain it should work all year.
1 year ago

David Maxwell wrote:From what I have read, the main heat loss in small-scale greenhouses occurs at the edges of the curtain, which needs to be sealed.  So, multiple smaller curtains suffer from the problem of multiple edges. Hence a single wide blanket is preferable..  
How best to seal the edges?  Neatest way I have seen is to fasten magnetic tape to the sides of the curtain, and build ledges along the outer walls to support the edges, also equipped wth magnetic tape.  The two magnetic tapes will automatically align themselves, avoiding the issue of the roll getting off-centre.  The long section of curtain is supported by wire cable stretched parallel with the joists, (metal clothesline has been suggested).  The designs I have seen urge the incorporation of  weights to maintain an equal tension on the wires so they don't sag as the temperature rises, but I am not convinced an 8 ft. length of wire is going to change in length that much.  Have any of you any experience here?

Thanks David!  Magnetic strips sound great.  A friend told me his father uses them with insulating curtains in his mountain home and I was intrigued but never asked more about them, and I wasn't sure if they were homemade curtains.  My past experiences with adhesive magnetic strips have always been failures so I've had a general bias against them, but after you mentioning them now I'm interested in looking into them further.  I like that they solve both the alignment and sealing issues at the same time.  
 If you have anymore info on them, or a link to a build with magnetic curtains please share.  
1 year ago