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Tech has failed me

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Tech has failed me

Post  acara on 10/20/2010, 5:51 pm

Okay, when science/tech fail you ... 'expert opinion' is your best resource ....LOL

So now that I'm completely addicted to this SFG thing, I'm faced with some "new challenges".

I'm a big tomatoes fan, but I've always grown them in pots/containers, so planting year-round was never a problem as far as "frost-dates" were concerned ..... you just brought them inside for the 3-5 "hard frost" nights we have in Central, FL.

Now that I'm doing this in SFG fashion .... I can't simply "bring it in for the night".

So I've found all the frost-date calcs & "90/50/10-Tables"and have my risk-tables ..... no problem.

I ordered by seeds (a LOT of Tomato seeds Very Happy ) & got them in ...... no problem.

I've assembled my materials & have everything staged in the garage ...no problem.

Now I just need to figure out when to plant (trying not to have the house full of transplants for a couple of months) .......huge problem.

I made this table for the tomatoes I'm planning to grow & did all the research on germination/transplant/mauturity ... and I even got actual data from folks growing these varieties in my region.



I've run the average dates & even come up with Min/Max variation based on what 10-20 growers who blogged their data actually encountered. Then I formated the data to show me where my planting schedule crossed the anticipated frost dates (so I could try to avoid).

My problem is it's all come out about useless. The variation in growing times is giving me a 6-month spread in some cases (yeah ... like I can plan on that ...LOL). I've figured out where my "safe" start date is .... but I don't want the down-time for the next two months if I can help it & I don't want to decorate tomato transplants in lieu of a Christmas tree this year, due to my house being full of tomato plants.


Soooo ... the question(s) is/are .....

A) How do you guys who plant tomatoes year round in the South, endure or dodge the couple of frost dates on your SFG crops that are not frost-hardy ????

B) Can Tomatoes be effectively covered/protected on freeze nights, like citrus & strawberries can???

C) Am I just kidding myself that I can really grow tomatoes year round in an SFG box, without a greenhouse or dedicated indoor space?

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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  boffer on 10/20/2010, 7:56 pm

A few members have put their sfg boxes on wheels; could that work for you?

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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  middlemamma on 10/20/2010, 8:04 pm

Acara....:S maybe I am being TOO simplistic here...and I know NOTHING aboy FL...

I would think hoop covers and 6 mil plastic on those few days would work, throw in some water walls and maybe a few milk jugs painted black and filled with water so they warm during the day and help keep temps up in the hoop house during those few nights?

I dunno...just seems like those ideas would get you through...I know the plastic and hoops helped me tremendously this spring when I planted too early...got me through about 3 weeks I would have lost stuff otherwise. My low temps through that were 32-42.

I have only done this one year...and I live in a way colder climate...so I don't know if any of this would apply to you.

I share your love affair with tomatos though so I hope you get your year-round wish....God do I love a tomato sandwich. MMmmmmmm.
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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  elliephant on 10/20/2010, 8:21 pm

Wow! You've put a lot of work into trying to figure it out. I'm more of the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of person. I've got tomatoes growing and I'm going to try to cover them on freeze nights. If it works, great. If not...well, I'll start some more indoors. I am thinking about leaving my peppers in containers, though, so I can bring them in as needed. Not decided on that yet. Can't tell you if it'll work or not, as I've never tried Laughing Maybe after this winter we'll be able to tell each other what works!

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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  acara on 10/20/2010, 8:43 pm

boffer wrote:A few members have put their sfg boxes on wheels; could that work for you?


Unfortunately ...... only if I build them less than 35-1/2 wide (standard front door frame width) Very Happy Very Happy

Don't think the thought didnt cross my mind ..... I suspect SWMBO would not appprove though.



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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  acara on 10/20/2010, 10:29 pm

Anyone use one of those flameless Coleman LP ceramic-element heaters in a hoop-house (the ones they use in camping tents) ???


Wondering if that would work for a couple of nights?
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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  acara on 10/20/2010, 10:33 pm

middlemamma wrote:
throw in some water walls

Water wall ??? Not familiar with that ??

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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  CarolynPhillips on 10/20/2010, 10:56 pm

I guess it depends on how big your toms are when it is time for you to protect them.

I have installed a large cage around tomato plants before---about 3 ft wide== and covered it with comforters or sleeping bags during the night while no one is looking for just a few nights and it worked great.

If all you are goin to heat is a small hoop house---nothing big==nothing fancy-- a small portable electric heater works great. I know you have your appearance to consider ---But , I once made a temporary greenhouse and covered it during the night with a tarp and heated with an electric heater. then I uncovered it each morning----like clock work.
the temporary greenhouse was about 3 feet high, 8 feet wide and 15 ft long. The point is the 15 amp heater did great with temps around 12 degrees in a big space like that and would of handled a bigger space. So IF you are figuring out what to heat with---just wanted you to know it does not have to be Fuel heated.
I have heated a 12x40 greenhouse with 6 ft head space with one of those Infa Red thingys? that you connect to a small propane tank that you use on gas grills. But I had plenty of over head space so nothing caught on fire.
I know none of this has helped you but ---I tend to get carried away blabbering


Walls of Water, they are plastic round --bags so to speak with open bottom and open top---with pockets that you fill with water. But they are only good for short young plants in early spring when you set plants out a little too early. Parks Seed has them.
Walls of Water is what Gordon Graham used to grow the largest tomato in the world on record. Strange weird Lucky story........but he somehow constructed a Wall of Water on top of another Wall of Water in order to get an extra early start (temps at 9*F) on the tomato plant that did eventually and unknowingly grew==( until one day he was surprised)== his world record. (Delicious)
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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  sceleste54 on 10/20/2010, 11:26 pm

Outdoor Christmas lights under shower curtains clothespinned together.....

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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  Old Hippie on 10/21/2010, 12:00 am

acara wrote:
A) How do you guys who plant tomatoes year round in the South, endure or dodge the couple of frost dates on your SFG crops that are not frost-hardy ????

B) Can Tomatoes be effectively covered/protected on freeze nights, like citrus & strawberries can???

C) Am I just kidding myself that I can really grow tomatoes year round in an SFG box, without a greenhouse or dedicated indoor space?


I extend my growing season for my tomatoes here by at least a month in the fall by covering the plants on the coldest nights. Most people here rip up their tomato plants in the first or second week of Sept. I was able to keep mine in the ground until a week ago by watching the forecast and covering them with frost blanket on the nights we were expecting frost. We actually only had about 10 or 12 days in that extra month that I was able to squeak out of my growing season. It was worth it to me. Next year I intend to have a better setup that will be more efficient and look better besides but if I can do it here in a Zone 3b I don't see why you couldn't do it in Florida. I am with you 100%. It would be so worth it to have tomatoes all year round. MMMMMMmmmmmmm.


Gk
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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  LaFee on 10/21/2010, 1:43 am

Acara, I know I'm the voice from a long way away...but I lived in your neck of the woods for 25 years.

Frost in Wesley Chapel will *usually* come sometime between mid-January and mid-February. Watch Paul D on channel 13 -- my experience was he almost always has the best weather.

Here's the central Florida high-tech way to cover your plants....ready?

First, water them well -- you want your plants to be as hydrated as possible before the cold. Don't even think about giving them an ice jacket -- not only will Hills Co Water be on you, but houses don't have the delivery system necessary (pressure and volume) to do what the strawberry and orange growers do.

Go down to Salvation Army and get yourself some ugly old cotton sheets. Drape them over your plants.

Ugly? Youbetcha. But your house will look exactly like everybody else's. We used to laugh at the yards full of "sheet popsicles" (fruit trees wrapped in a sheet like a giant lollypop) when it got cold.

If it's going to rain (which it usually does when it gets cold) you can throw a tarp OVER the sheet. But don't, don't, don't ever put plastic directly over your plants. It will trap moisture underneath it, and your plants will be frostbitten really badly anywhere that the plastic touches them.

Anchor the edges with whatever is heavy enough to do the job -- along with rain, it's usually windy when it gets cold, too. If it's going to be really cold, a second sheet or a light blanket adds a little extra...and if they're talking breaking records, then a string of old-fashioned Christmas lights will keep them even better. (Now *that* is bizarre to see -- a neighborhood full of sheet popsicles that are all illuminated....weird.)

Then make sure you go out and uncover them the next morning as soon as it warms up a bit -- the sun is still really warm, even in the winter, and it will heat everything up nicely.

A hoop house is even better, but sheets will save things for several hours below freezing.

You could also buy a frost fleece designed for gardens -- I've been pretty impressed at how much frost they'll keep away, even here where it *really* lays down some frost (my neighbors were scraping their windshields this morning).

That should keep you through all but the most disgusting cold -- you might lose a shoot or two at the very top, but the plant will be fine.

Oh...and fight the urge to trim off all the frozen stuff the next morning. Let it be, and let the plant heal. When it's dried out and the plant looks to be coming around, THEN prune it back to below the damage. (The dead stuff also works well to take the damage and hold the sheets away from the rest of the plant in another round of frost if you have another cold spell.)


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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  acara on 10/21/2010, 6:29 am

Thanks everyone ....


I know about the "plant snuggees" (Blankets/clothespins), the water & know not to let the plastic touch the plants....... but I also know that what works on "lawn stuff" kills Orchids & other ornamentals and didn't know if tomatoes were similar (I always just brought the 5 or 6 pots in when it got close to freezing.

I've actually gotten fairly lazy in the past few years & now I just take my "delicates" and drive them down to my parents house (2 hours South) when we go down for Thanksgiving dinner & they winter over in the orchid-house my dad has built.

Unfortunately he's as bad with veggies as he is amazing with exotics/ornamentals ..... and he's "old-school" & uses a lot of stuff that I wouldn't want on my food (probably banned now). Last time I looked in his plant chemical locker I was tempted to call in a HAZMAT team affraid


The larger scale (number of plants) and having them in a fixed box definately changes the game. Also having some special varieties & growing from seeds means hat I've got "more skin in the game" ....... theses aren't $3.00 transplants where I can just go down to Home Depot and replace them all with more transplants tomorrow ...LOL

I've definately got some more investigating/planning to do.

Thanks again for the help though.
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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  LaFee on 10/21/2010, 7:57 am

sheesh...speaking tech having failed me -- I had a post almost finished, when the site refreshed and ate it!

Anyway...where was I?

Oh yes -- your orchids and things are a LOT less hardy than most tomatoes, and should be kept protected over the winter (bromeliads are a tough bunch - they'll survive just fine, with just some frostbite on the ends of the leaves unless it gets crazy cold).

I know you can't make a 1:1 comparison between commercial and residental plantings, but I know that the commercial guys in south Hillsborough (thus Big Boys and Better Boys and related cultivars) sit out in the middle of big open fields with no covering and no sprinklers...and only remember a couple of exceptionally hard freezes that did significant damage. (this doesn't apply to the Everglades tomatoes, as I'm not familiar with them AT all)

I seem to recall that your SFG is also up against the side of the house and somewhat under the eaves -- this will really help protect things, as that block and stucco wall will radiate a surprising amount of heat back on your SFG.

I never tried it, but I also have a friend who hauls a couple big buckets of hot water out to her garden and puts it under the sheets...as that water sheds heat, it keeps the atmosphere under the sheets warm enough to keep things from freezing.

Hope that helps!

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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  ander217 on 10/21/2010, 8:05 am

LaFee wrote:Acara, I know I'm the voice from a long way away...but I lived in your neck of the woods for 25 years.

Frost in Wesley Chapel will *usually* come sometime between mid-January and mid-February. Watch Paul D on channel 13 -- my experience was he almost always has the best weather.

Here's the central Florida high-tech way to cover your plants....ready?

First, water them well -- you want your plants to be as hydrated as possible before the cold. Don't even think about giving them an ice jacket -- not only will Hills Co Water be on you, but houses don't have the delivery system necessary (pressure and volume) to do what the strawberry and orange growers do.

Go down to Salvation Army and get yourself some ugly old cotton sheets. Drape them over your plants.

Ugly? Youbetcha. But your house will look exactly like everybody else's. We used to laugh at the yards full of "sheet popsicles" (fruit trees wrapped in a sheet like a giant lollypop) when it got cold.

If it's going to rain (which it usually does when it gets cold) you can throw a tarp OVER the sheet. But don't, don't, don't ever put plastic directly over your plants. It will trap moisture underneath it, and your plants will be frostbitten really badly anywhere that the plastic touches them.

Anchor the edges with whatever is heavy enough to do the job -- along with rain, it's usually windy when it gets cold, too. If it's going to be really cold, a second sheet or a light blanket adds a little extra...and if they're talking breaking records, then a string of old-fashioned Christmas lights will keep them even better. (Now *that* is bizarre to see -- a neighborhood full of sheet popsicles that are all illuminated....weird.)

Then make sure you go out and uncover them the next morning as soon as it warms up a bit -- the sun is still really warm, even in the winter, and it will heat everything up nicely.

A hoop house is even better, but sheets will save things for several hours below freezing.

You could also buy a frost fleece designed for gardens -- I've been pretty impressed at how much frost they'll keep away, even here where it *really* lays down some frost (my neighbors were scraping their windshields this morning).

That should keep you through all but the most disgusting cold -- you might lose a shoot or two at the very top, but the plant will be fine.

Oh...and fight the urge to trim off all the frozen stuff the next morning. Let it be, and let the plant heal. When it's dried out and the plant looks to be coming around, THEN prune it back to below the damage. (The dead stuff also works well to take the damage and hold the sheets away from the rest of the plant in another round of frost if you have another cold spell.)


Wow. You know your stuff, lady. I'm impressed. I'm going to try some of your ideas to extend my tomato season here in Missouri. Thanks.
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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  Blackrose on 10/21/2010, 8:38 am

ander217 wrote:
LaFee wrote:Acara, I know I'm the voice from a long way away...but I lived in your neck of the woods for 25 years.

Frost in Wesley Chapel will *usually* come sometime between mid-January and mid-February. Watch Paul D on channel 13 -- my experience was he almost always has the best weather.

Here's the central Florida high-tech way to cover your plants....ready?

First, water them well -- you want your plants to be as hydrated as possible before the cold. Don't even think about giving them an ice jacket -- not only will Hills Co Water be on you, but houses don't have the delivery system necessary (pressure and volume) to do what the strawberry and orange growers do.

Go down to Salvation Army and get yourself some ugly old cotton sheets. Drape them over your plants.

Ugly? Youbetcha. But your house will look exactly like everybody else's. We used to laugh at the yards full of "sheet popsicles" (fruit trees wrapped in a sheet like a giant lollypop) when it got cold.

If it's going to rain (which it usually does when it gets cold) you can throw a tarp OVER the sheet. But don't, don't, don't ever put plastic directly over your plants. It will trap moisture underneath it, and your plants will be frostbitten really badly anywhere that the plastic touches them.

Anchor the edges with whatever is heavy enough to do the job -- along with rain, it's usually windy when it gets cold, too. If it's going to be really cold, a second sheet or a light blanket adds a little extra...and if they're talking breaking records, then a string of old-fashioned Christmas lights will keep them even better. (Now *that* is bizarre to see -- a neighborhood full of sheet popsicles that are all illuminated....weird.)

Then make sure you go out and uncover them the next morning as soon as it warms up a bit -- the sun is still really warm, even in the winter, and it will heat everything up nicely.

A hoop house is even better, but sheets will save things for several hours below freezing.

You could also buy a frost fleece designed for gardens -- I've been pretty impressed at how much frost they'll keep away, even here where it *really* lays down some frost (my neighbors were scraping their windshields this morning).

That should keep you through all but the most disgusting cold -- you might lose a shoot or two at the very top, but the plant will be fine.

Oh...and fight the urge to trim off all the frozen stuff the next morning. Let it be, and let the plant heal. When it's dried out and the plant looks to be coming around, THEN prune it back to below the damage. (The dead stuff also works well to take the damage and hold the sheets away from the rest of the plant in another round of frost if you have another cold spell.)


Wow. You know your stuff, lady. I'm impressed. I'm going to try some of your ideas to extend my tomato season here in Missouri. Thanks.

+1

I will be saving this post to help me extend my heirloom tomato growing season next year. Wow!! Thanks LaFee! you rock
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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  acara on 10/21/2010, 9:31 am

LaFee wrote:sheesh...speaking tech having failed me -- I had a post almost finished, when the site refreshed and ate it!

Anyway...where was I?

Oh yes -- your orchids and things are a LOT less hardy than most tomatoes, and should be kept protected over the winter (bromeliads are a tough bunch - they'll survive just fine, with just some frostbite on the ends of the leaves unless it gets crazy cold).

I know you can't make a 1:1 comparison between commercial and residental plantings, but I know that the commercial guys in south Hillsborough (thus Big Boys and Better Boys and related cultivars) sit out in the middle of big open fields with no covering and no sprinklers...and only remember a couple of exceptionally hard freezes that did significant damage. (this doesn't apply to the Everglades tomatoes, as I'm not familiar with them AT all)

I seem to recall that your SFG is also up against the side of the house and somewhat under the eaves -- this will really help protect things, as that block and stucco wall will radiate a surprising amount of heat back on your SFG.

I never tried it, but I also have a friend who hauls a couple big buckets of hot water out to her garden and puts it under the sheets...as that water sheds heat, it keeps the atmosphere under the sheets warm enough to keep things from freezing.

Hope that helps!

Agreed ...commercial/residential techniques don't always cross over well ......

Ive already rulled out bringing in the empty 55 gallon drums, setting up a perimeter around the SFG and burning tires & used motor through the night to keep the plants warm, like the citrus guys do down here.

Enviromental concerns aside ..... the HOA would probably want me to paint the oil drums white prior to use & mulch/landscape around them Razz Razz Razz
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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  boffer on 10/21/2010, 10:17 am

acara,

Since you be de engineer around here...Razz

Can you put together the numbers to support the practice of putting hot water jugs in an enclosure to prevent freezing?

If you round off numbers and minimize variables, that would be fine. (ignoring heat loss through the barrier, etc) Let's say the water started at 120* F, the recommended water heater setting for safety purposes. Use a gallon of water or a cubic foot of water, whatever is easiest. Metrics is OK, too.

I've tried the black 55 gal barrel idea, and in my climate, the main thing they were good for in the garden was acting as a tall plant stand!
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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  acara on 10/21/2010, 10:23 am

boffer wrote:acara,

Since you be de engineer around here...Razz

Can you put together the numbers to support the practice of putting hot water jugs in an enclosure to prevent freezing?

If you round off numbers and minimize variables, that would be fine. (ignoring heat loss through the barrier, etc) Let's say the water started at 120* F, the recommended water heater setting for safety purposes. Use a gallon of water or a cubic foot of water, whatever is easiest. Metrics is OK, too.

I've tried the black 55 gal barrel idea, and in my climate, the main thing they were good for in the garden was acting as a tall plant stand!

Yep .... I'm actually in the office today .. but I'll crunch the numbers tonight as soon as I get home.

I'll just need the anticipate lowest temp (heat transfer rate is predicated on the "delta")

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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  LaFee on 10/21/2010, 12:49 pm

Boffer, a hard freeze in Florida might get to 27-28 Fahrenheit, if that low...and the cold fronts don't usually last for more than a few days, if that long.

My personal record was 16F in my backyard -- that was back in 1989, and very little survived that one. Hundreds of acres of frozen veggies were plowed under, and hundreds of acres of citrus trees were killed and were cleared to make room for houses :S

So all you need is something to take the edge off for a few hours...after that the sun comes up and the warmth returns.

There's NO WAY that would work in a cooler climate...and it didn't work last year, when Florida had almost a full month of frost every night (my sister in the Panhandle had to brush snow off of her windshield).

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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  acara on 10/21/2010, 1:22 pm

The last two years (back to back hard freezes) are what drove me to put everything in pots this year.

I lost a 75' run of hibiscus hedge that was 8' tall .... which was bad ...... but having to spend 3 weekends with a pickaxe, removing the roots & replacing the LV wiring and irrigation that I tore up in the process, was the straw that broke the camels back (and nearly broke mine).

I don't put anything directly in the ground anymore.

p.s. I'm sure this sounds like complete snivelling/whining to anyone outside a tropical region ...LOL
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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  acara on 10/21/2010, 2:52 pm

Okay Boffer ... here is your *ugly* calc (did it long-hand at lunch) ...

Assuming ..

* Closed container (open container increases rate 4x...... with no air flow across top)
* Standard 55 gal drum, galvanized, 1/8" wall thickness
* No circulation, sitting upright
* Assuming entire content starts at 120F (you run really fast dont you and can carry 459 lbs of water in 1 trip...LOL)
* Heat transfer rate out of barrel = heat transfer rate into plant/soil = heat transfer rate out of plant/soil
* Barrel is not in contact with plant/soil, but within 24" (radiant energy transfer through "air" decreases by a factor of 10 for every 24" of travel through air).
* No external source maintaining/contributing to heating

At 32F ambient, your water in the barrel cools by 46F every hour
At 16F ambient, your water in the barrel cools by 54F every hour
At 0F ambient, your water in the barrel cools by 63F every hour

Even if you adjust the rate for declining temp/time ..... at 32F ambient, your done in just over 5 hours with that 55 gallon drum

As far as the 1 gallon jugs go ....... the science doesn't seem to support it ... at least during night.

Now painted black, closed container, close proximity, during daytime hours with sunlight on them as a heat source ..... probably a whole different ball game. I think that might help some.



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acara - just confirming what you said

Post  GloriaG on 10/21/2010, 3:33 pm

acara,

I just wanted to make sure I understood what you said.

Given the same air volume and insulation in a plastic hoop house - Multiple 1-gallon plastic milk jugs closed - painted black - and warmed by the sun are more effective than a larger 55-gallon drum?

Does that lead to the assumption that gallon jugs evenly spaced throughout the hoop house or setup in rows will be more effective than if they are "banked" - because as the jugs give off heat they warm the airspace more evenly causing less thermal movement and therefore less heat loss to the jugs?

Thanks,
Gloria

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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  acara on 10/21/2010, 5:21 pm

Just to clarify ...... most folks probably just should to ignore what I posted Very Happy

I answered a very specific question, where Boffer gave me a very specific set of criteria & he excluded a whole lot of variables (which you absolutely can't ignore in most cases).


Based on the number crunching (which rarely mirrors real life ... LOL), one could assume ...


A) Using water filled containers during the day, or at night if there is an independent heat source may be effective, maybe even wonderfully effective.

B) Sitting out a single hot water bottle between 1 gallon and 55 gallons, during the night, with no external heat/temperature maintenence source to prevent frost damages, is most likely not effective for more than 1 to 5 hours (depending on size).

C) Heating the water "more", prior to putting it outside, doesn't necessisarily do anything for you (other than increase the rate that the water temperature cools).

Hopefully that came out that way ....



Last edited by acara on 10/21/2010, 5:37 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  acara on 10/21/2010, 5:32 pm

GloriaG wrote:acara,

I just wanted to make sure I understood what you said.

Given the same air volume and insulation in a plastic hoop house - Multiple 1-gallon plastic milk jugs closed - painted black - and warmed by the sun are more effective than a larger 55-gallon drum?

Does that lead to the assumption that gallon jugs evenly spaced throughout the hoop house or setup in rows will be more effective than if they are "banked" - because as the jugs give off heat they warm the airspace more evenly causing less thermal movement and therefore less heat loss to the jugs?

Thanks,
Gloria

Hey Gloria ..
Just to give you a specific answer ....

Yes, I think the 1 gallon milk jugs painted black are much more effective during the daytime, than a 55 gallon drum filled with 120 degree water is at night.

But that's not much of an "apples-to-apples" comparison & probably not helpful.

If your asking me if I think multiple smaller containers would be a more effective heating method in a hoop house than one centralized source, then I would say absolutely yes, as long as your greenhouse is bigger than 24" from the outside edge of the heat source/sink).

Key concept is that the effectiveness of radiative heat through "air" is severely affected by proximity.

If the "energy rating"of the heat is "100" at the source, it would be "10" when it traveled more than two-feet away and only a "1" at four feet away.


Did I answer your question???
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Re: Tech has failed me

Post  boffer on 10/21/2010, 8:38 pm

Thank you.
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Re: Tech has failed me

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