2017 CSA Season Begins!

The days are getting longer and we're getting ready for spring! Seeds, seeds, seeds!

Seed orders have arrived and seedlings will soon be growing either in the greenhouse or under the indoor plant lights. We can't wait to get the growing season started!

Signups are now open for the 2017 CSA season! We're excited to be returning to Toronto with delivery shares after downsizing temporarily in 2016 to grow a baby. For our returning Toronto members there are a few changes from our 2015 season to allow for more options. Contact us if you have any questions.

We're also VERY excited to be heading to the Codrington Farmer's Market every Sunday 10 am - 2 pm from June through October. Local members can pick up their boxes at the market or contact us to make other arrangements. We will also have delicious farm fresh veggies available for anyone who drops by. Come check out our market stall!

Greenhouse Solar Heater

One season-extending upgrade I've added to the new seedling greenhouse is a solar heat absorber.  The idea is to replace part of the south wall with something that will primarily heat the inside air. I used a completely passive design - this system requires no power to run, other than direct solar heat gain from the sun. This basic design was popularized during the energy crisis in the 70s, so it is easy to find reference material to help design it. 

I started out by building the south knee wall "inside out" - that is, I tacked the plywood on to the inside of the framing, instead of the outside. This creates a cavity where the absorber will be built. In the picture below, you can see the cavity as well as some circular ducts I drilled out for cold air in (at the bottom) and warm air out (at the top).

Next, I added two layers of black aluminum window screen, separated  by a small spacer. It is held in place with an additional spacer strip. The screen is attached to the outside of the framing on the top, and to the inside below, so that the screen is actually held at an angle in the cavity. The purpose of the angled fastening is to force the air though the screen as it flows through the system. Cold air enters through the lower ducts (outside of the screen) and is forced back through the screen on its way up towards the upper ducts. Since the black window screen heats up when the sun shines on it, natural convection keeps the air flowing during the day. When the sun goes down, the convection shuts down and the collector acts much more like an insulated wall than like a window.

Finally, the cavity is glazed with corrugated pvc. I chose this material for a couple of reasons. FIrst of all, it is just about the cheapest solid glazing available. The corrugations create more turbulent flow in the absorber which is supposed to increase efficiency. Lastly, I was not sure about using the brittler, more expensive polycarbonate where it might be exposed to huge temperature variations. 

Here is the view from the inside. I've just covered the ducts with scraps of screening. Mainly this is to provide a backstop for the backdraft dampers, but I also felt like it might be necessary to keep the mice and other varmints out of the space.

And here is the system in action! The backdraft dampers are thin pieces of polyethylene plastic taped up above the ducts. At night (or on a very cloudy day), there is not enough airflow to push the plastic out so reverse flow is prevented (in which air would be cooled by the collector).

The day I took this photo was nice and sunny but with weak winter sun. Still, a steady stream of hot air pushed the dampers open. The temperature was probably in the 120 degree F range (although I didn't measure exactly). 

There are many more sophisticated designs out there, but I put this together without really adding any new pieces to the plan with the exception of window screen and glazing. I'm pretty happy with the results so far - we'll see how it does in the early spring when I really need the extra heat. Next up: a solution for how to store heat in the structure overnight.

Spring in the greenhouse

The new greenhouse (that we built at the end of last year) is a hub of activity these days.  I've got insulating row cover fabric clipped to the trellis wires for an extra sheltered seedling area at one end. The extra insulation has been just enough to get through the cold nights with no external heat source - for now this is 100% solar powered.

On the benches, onions and broccoli are growing along, oblivious to the snowy scene outside.

Onion seedlings

The benches are steadily filling up. For now, I'm keeping the heat lovers (like tomatoes) under lights in the basement, but they will make their way out eventually.

Moving in some new trays

Benches filling up with spinach, beets and turnips

The other side of the greenhouse (outside the seedling area) is already prepped for some in-ground crops that will get going in the first week of April. Even though I'm sure I will be sick of working up beds by late spring, for now it has been a treat working with real soil in the greenhouse while everything is frozen solid outside.

Full house

The tiny greenhouse is full...

Seedlings in the greenhouse

We're well into juggling season: moving trays of plants on a daily basis, freeing up a bit of space here and there. There are transplants in the field, some hardening off in the full sun and wind, some in the greenhouse, some in the basement. Some of those trays have enough plants to fill 100 feet of row in the garden - hard to envision now but no more surprising than the fact that each plant started from a tiny seed just a few weeks ago.

Sunshine afternoon

While there's still a hideous amount of snow on the ground, we can at least be grateful for warmer temperatures and more and more sunlight each day. Rose helps Eric get the growing seedlings out on the deck to bask in the sunshine until dusk.

Moving seedlings out for the day.

Onions in the greenhouse

It was two degrees outside today but the thermometer in the greenhouse hit twenty five with the end vents partially open. The onions have been moved in for now but they may need to take shelter in the basement if we get another deep freeze overnight this weekend. 

A little box of summer in the snow

Now if we could just get rid of this snow ...