Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Garden blog

HPIM5292I have decided to move the garden portion of the blog over to a new blog, The Wet and Cold Northwest Gardener at though I will still make short mention over here of certain projects but a majority of the garden posts will be over there in more detail.


Building the Northeast box

HPIM5294So I finally got enough good weather to work on making the northeast box flat and better looking. As with all the other boxes, the previous owners had just laid down blocks on the grade, which meant that the beds slanted down moving and eroding the soil down hill. So I got to work making a tiered wall that would be level and also provide the 4×4 box shape that I need for the square foot garden.

The most important part is to get the first row perfectly level. Of course with a wall that goes up a slope you don’t want to waste a lot of bricks being under the dirt where no one would see them. So I would get one row perfectly level and have it end once the block was under the grade and then place on the second row and repeat until I reached the point where I could go completely around the box. One thing to keep in mind is the maximum height for these blocks usually are around 3 or 4 feet tall. To make sure that the wall was straight I used a string that gave me a guide that would be for the top row of blocks. 

HPIM5302Unfortunately the previous owners, in an attempt to hold up the archway, poured concrete around the base which blocked my blocks 2nd level so until I can borrow the rotary hammer from my father I am limited to just the bottom row.

This of course is still a work in progress, as I was only able to complete 50% of the wall before I had to move onto other projects so until this coming Saturday it will be incomplete. The soil that is currently in the box will be relocated to the south “swamp” box for the artichokes and pumpkins this year.

HPIM5316Here is a close up of the concrete. Actually when I was removing the old blocks they were the form and therefore, cemented to the concrete. Of course since they didn’t use bonding glue the concrete just chipped off the blocks after a few hits with the rotary hammer.

The greenhouse controller project

HPIM5289So one problem I had last year during the summer was during vacation there was no one to water the plants in the greenhouse for about a week and a half. That week also happened to be extremely warm and so it cooked all the plants inside and ruined most of the harvest. Not wanting the repeat that this year I dusted off my old Microchip ICD 2 device, pulled out my prototype boards, cleaned off my desk to give myself a work space and started putting together the pieces to have a internet enabled greenhouse controller.

HPIM5290I happened to have a PIC microcontroller and so I started working on a controller that would be able to water the plants is they get too dry, or vent out the greenhouse if it gets too warm and report the temperature, moisture and more through an Ethernet connection. One requirement that I have is that the controller needs to run off of solar energy and those panels can get voltage ranges that are over the limit for PIC microchips and especially for the PIC18LF14K22 microcontroller that I was using for the project. The solution was a large input voltage range step down voltage regulator that could take up to 60 VDC and step it down to 3.3VDC, which is what the microcontroller was expecting. This part is the middle left of the board with the giant capacitor.

HPIM5291So here is a picture where you can see the PIC in the middle, the Ethernet controller (right side) and the voltage regulator (bottom). Since the Microchip ICD 2 has too high a voltage on the Vpp supply to the chip and would damage the chip, I still need to put a voltage limiter on that output before hooking up any more of the wires.

As I continue to work on this project I’ll be posting more and more about the controller and the results of my testing. If you have any suggestions on what might be a good idea to add, please leave a comment below.


Plant Status February

So by the end of February we have all the pepper seeds planted and the the first set of celery sprouting with about a 40% germination rate after 2 weeks. Not bad for 4 year old seeds. Since it snowed and now has been raining I haven’t been able to plant outside yet, but hopefully this week I will get enough of a break to prepare the beds and get the directly sowed seeds into the ground. Since the celery has sprouted I need to bring in the lights.


The Winter Season Strikes Back

HPIM5258With the temperatures we have been having for the past month I was expecting that the ground would be quite workable to start the outdoor plantings this week as indicated on my garden plan. Also the weather forecast was such that this was suppose to be a mild week. Well winter weather decided to appear and the day I was going to plant seeds outdoors snow appeared. So the outdoor crops got delayed a week. However indoor plants that are to be planted (unlike my energy bill) do not care about the temperatures outdoors and so proceeds as planned. A later post about that and the progress of the indoor plants.


Able to plant?

HPIM5255So on Saturday I went out to the garden around 10 am hoping that I would be able to do a little weeding and preparation for the garden beds as I would be planting some plants on Monday. Well I went out and tapped the soil with my hand and knew that I wouldn’t be able to work that morning in the garden. It was as hard as a rock. However my children still enjoyed appearing as if they were working in the garden by pouring water on the plants, luckily this was in the morning and the sun was still rising so the plants would be alright once the temperature dropped that evening. So hopefully we will get some warm weather and the soil will be workable when I plant.


Finds of the Garden

HPIM5248Over winter I had left a few plants in the garden thinking that they might just go away, however the Brussels Sprouts and Collards just kept growing throughout the winter. As both of them are in the cabbage family depending on how cold your winters are (this last one got down to 15°F) you  might think of planting cabbages in fall. Another survivor were root/blub crops. HPIM5249I have all my onions (green bunching, Egyptian Top Set, large yellow), carrots and fennel that have all sent out their initial shoots for spring. Most of the carrots I actually brought in and we ate them as this would have been their second year which would cause them to go to seed. The ones I left were too small to eat so they might actually be still in their “first year”. We will just have to see come April. Luckily they are in the squares that won’t get filled until after April so they aren’t preventing anything from being blocked.